December 17th, 2008
07:12 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama’s choice of evangelical leader sparks outrage

Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.
Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.

(CNN) - Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.

Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.

But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances - including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.

"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.

People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.

"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."

Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.

Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."

"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

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soundoff (524 Responses)
  1. AMERICA the UNITED

    This is why I love Obama.... Not a yes man........just pragmatic.

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  2. Necie

    Oh Shut Up Already!!!! Gay/Straight/Black/White Green or Polkadot. STOP being so freakin sensitive. I'm surprised I don't see addiitonal stupid remarks like Obama should have gotten a Black Minister.

    I'm a Christian and I am not offended. You people need to check yourself and get a life. Stop being so D@mn hypocritical!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  3. Charlie in Maine

    At the heart of it what is wrong with the Christian right? That's correctt they are close-minded. Let's not make the same mistake they do. Let's show we can listen to others and respect them even if we don't agree on everything. Obama has made it clear he is a Christian but not a close-minded one.

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  4. Mike, Albany

    Whether you want to admit it or not, eight years of Bush has many people in the mindset of "Either you're with us or you're against us". This was a particularly distasteful characteristic of Bush's presidency. I'm glad to see Obama taking a much broader viewpoint that allows individuals who do not necessarily agree with him to have their voice. I don't agree with Warren on all points, but I think his heart is basically in the right place. Mostly, I'm happy to see a glimmer of enlightenment in the administration-to-be after eight years of Bush's dark ages.

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  5. Whodat

    So let me get this straight, if Obama doesn't cow-tow to gays, he's a bad President? I get it now.

    So I guess everyone who objects to kids watching gay pride parades with half nake adults with peacock features sticking in their rear ends down main street with kids watching are evil Americans right?

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  6. relax

    Good grief, people. It's just the invocation. He hasn't been asked to replace Biden as VP or anything.

    December 17, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  7. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    To J.P.:

    Before you can make a claim about "50 million dead," you have to define "alive" in some biologically consistent way and without reference to your religious superstitions.

    December 17, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. Tony

    We should all chill. No body is God. Remember the story of the prostitute by the river.God said, "who among us that's without sin should throw the first stone".Did anybody had the gaut to cast the first stone. We all have our individual opinions and that;s what makes the world unique. If we all think alike, the world will be boring. Please leave Obama alone.If you do not like his choices, 2012 will be your chance to run for President and goodluck!

    December 17, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  9. LMC in Seattle

    I am disappointed in this choice, but after all the grief Obama suffered because of his past minister, I can understand him going for a "safe" choice. As people have said, he represents our entire country, so I can't expect him to play to my expectations all of the time.

    December 17, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  10. Obama 2012

    People, please, can't you see what is going on. Obama chose Rev. Warren because he was so against Obama being president. This will be a flip-flop on Rev. Warren's side. His followers will be upset with him because Obama was everything that he was against. Now, Obama will be getting the last laugh!!

    And, to you "Lauren" the Obama Kool-Aid I and others have been drinking is even better and sweeter than before. My cup runneth over–sweetheart!!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  11. leVodge

    So what people get over it!

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  12. Jennifer, San Francisco

    I thought this past November 4th showed an indication that the country was trying to be finished with the divisiveness in politics. That the election of Barack Obama reflected a desire of the American people to look beyond the things on which we disagree, and come together on those things on which we can agree. I definitely do not agree with Rick Warren's views on gay marriage or any number of other issues, just as it is clear that Obama does not. But the great thing about our President-elect is that he doesn't shun and disregard those with whom he disagrees. He doesn't call them parasites on society or any other derogatory thing. He sits at the table with them, listens to them and tries to come together in spite of those differences, on things that matter. I think the rest of us can take a lesson from that. If all those taking issue with this were on the other side, they would appreciate a seat at the table, they wouldn't be condemning it. It's not a huge leap to believe that when it comes to Obama advancing LGBT issues, Rick Warren won't be there. But the fact that Rick Warren has a place at the table doesn't mean that Obama doesn't care about LGBT issues; it shows that he cares about the AIDS, global poverty and other human rights issues, on which he and Warren can agree.

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. jl2008

    Why do we need to bring religion into this at all? I don't have anything against the guy but it's so stupid to uphold any particular religion in our diverse culture.

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  14. Robert

    "The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

    Fine. Find common ground with him. But don't give him the publicity. Contrary to a previous poster, He is not in the mainstream. Conservative philosophy never has been.

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  15. Frann Altman in CA

    I would rather see President-elect Obama have a group of religious leaders, not one, participate in the invocation for inauguration. This is really where it's important to see community joined together.

    President elect Obama, please call me, we need to talk. This is a decision you might need to reconstruct.

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  16. Rick

    Wonderful choice. Rick Warren represents the complexities involved with religion today. I have long been a staunch Democrat but Warren's "Purpose Driven Church" put me in touch with my faith. I think having Warren handle the invocation says that we don't always have to agree on everything but when it comes to our nation we are one.

    December 17, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Former Republican Army Wife

    Blah Blah Blah. It's his party. You don't like it, don't come. Obama owes nobody anything. Gays and lesbians didn't elect him. Liberals didn't elect him. Democrats didn't elect him. We ALL elected him. I like Warren. A lot of people like Warren. If he chose someone else than the Warren supporters would be upset. People need to get over it. It is Barak Obamas inaugaration! He can choose the bible he uses, he can choose the name he uses, he can choose the minister he chooses.

    December 17, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. Adele

    Give the man a break. Obama knows what he is doing. This man does not make a move without thoroughly analyzing everything.

    December 17, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  19. Natalie

    Obama said loud and clear that he would be bringing together BOTH sides of the aisle in his administration.
    He is the change...A president who doesn't pander to one side of the political spectrum. It's refreshing, and exactly what I expected.
    If you didn't see this coming, maybe you should have been paying attention.
    Not everyone will be 100% dem/liberal...And after the past 8 years of having Bush only fill his halls with the utmost conservatives(although, what is the def. of conservative these days?), I am glad that we have a man in office who will listen and allow others to advise him even when they don't see eye to eye on EVERY issue. And quite frankly that's awesome to me.

    December 17, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  20. JON

    Come on folks you got to be kidding me. This is a big deal???? Oh no he picked Rick Warren so what. 500,000 lost their jobs in NOV. We're still in 2 wars 10 trillion in debt and this is what we're talking about . The far right will keep saying see, see watch-out for the big black man we told you.... the far left will say wa wa wa that's not what I wanted when I voted for him he needs to do what I think. Grow-up!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  21. w in Philadelphia

    In November we loved Obama for his inclusiveness. If he only included people who agreed with him on every issue, he would be far more disappointing than this invitation to Warren is. Let's reserve judgment and learn to listen to each other more. It seems to be what Obama is modelling for all of us. I'd call that change we can believe in. Perhaps Americans need to give up a few individual rights – namely the right to be RIGHT (correct)- in order to promote the greater good of all people and their ideas.

    December 17, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  22. Sandy

    I am very impressed by Obama's choice to have Pastor Rick Warren speak. We need to keep morals in the USA our home of the free. Americans began in this cournty, where are constitution was founded under God.

    Society is trying to change everything that is good. I am very impressed that Obama is open minded and working diligently to unite people to have open views and to listen to each other in a civil maner.

    If we lose God's blessing on our land, we are all doomed. How many have opened a bible, before preaching what they beleive is truth?

    God Bless

    December 17, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  23. Irish

    This is a very disappointing choice. This guy is a charade and an opportunist. Big churches, big bucks, big egos. Haven't we had enough of that? Why have any religious figure up there? What about the poet laureate who could speak to the heart and soul of all Americans? I have plenty of friends who buy their 'credentials' from some online church so they can marry friends and relatives. Why not have one of them? This would have been the perfect time to begin to draw the line between church and state that has been overstepped so often by that phony Christian Bush.

    December 17, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  24. Rob

    You know I see that OUR religious idiots are getting as bad as those in the middle east. The U.S. has changed the marriage thing before when the outlawed the morons from having many wives. Now why is this not ok yet gays think they are picked on. If gays can marry then morons can have several wives........lastly,,,,ABORTION is the right of each person if you don't want to fine "BUT leave the rest of the people alone. Drinking and driving kills more than abortion – do away with alcohol, guns kill more do away with guns, For God's sake (no pund intented) KEEP YOUR RELIGION TO YOURSELF AND LEAVE THE REST OF AMERICA ALONE...

    December 17, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  25. bill

    Using Rick Warren is like him using Bill O'Reilly to hold the Bible for him and Sean Hannity to administer the oath of office.

    Warren attempted to make Obama look bad in his presidential debate and deserves no part in this ceremony.

    December 17, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
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