December 17th, 2008
07:12 PM ET
6 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. Lamar, Dallas, TX

    Joel Osteen would have been a much better choice!

    December 17, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  2. Molly Weasley

    I don't think Warren is as bad as James Dobson or that ilk, but it was a poor choice. It's a slap in the face to his gay and lesbian supporters.

    There were other, better choices - a progressive pastor like the Rev. Jim Wallace, for instance. He and Obama are also friendly.

    I hope they transition team realizes that they blew it, big time.

    December 17, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. Craig H, Mpls, MN

    I appreciate the attempt of bridge building by Obama, but wish he'd chosen someone less controversial. It may overshadow the events of inauguration day.

    December 17, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. Luigi ina California

    Whay do all these Bible-clutching preachers look so pudgy and over-fed? This guy remind anyone beside me of the late Scary Falwell?

    December 17, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. Dee

    For all of you "why the **** is there an invocation at the inauguration of the President": you might revisit your American history. Start with George Washington's inauguration and move forward form there. Take a look at our Declaration of Independence while you're at it.

    Or just move to Europe.

    December 17, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. Zentemple

    No personal comments about someone's looks, please, Mr. Perfect. And no name-calling. You don't hear Mr. Obama calling people names or criticizing peoples looks, so how are you any better than he is when you do?

    Now, Obama is a leader and a leader is what we have needed. Not a dictator, a leader. Leadership. That is his gift, the ability to bring people of difference together in a common cause. This is what we need today in order to make basic progress on important issues. Let's be polite, have some manners, and look for the things we can agree on.

    December 17, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  7. Debra Goodman

    Interesting choice. As a pro-choice, pro same sex marriage kinda woman, he's far from my favorite guy, but I would concur with the reader that commented that we should learn to agree to disagree and embrace that where we find commonality. What bothers me more is that there has to be a religious tone to the invocation in the first place, and I personally would prefer, if that is how it must be, that it be delivered by a group representing the diverse religions that are practiced throughout the US.

    December 17, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. prairieguy

    I'm gay and have no problem with the choice...Warren and Barack agree on many other issues.

    If folks didn't pay attention to Barack in the campaign that's their fault...Barack is not from the far left nor the right...he is a man in the center and willing to listen to all points of view.

    I for one like how he has handled his transistion to include a wide diversity of folks and this is carrying over into his inauguration!!

    December 17, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. Jay

    Please take alook at yourselves before throwing stones and castigating others. Who among you is perfect?

    December 17, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  10. Barrie

    why do any of these characters get a voice at the inauguration for the highest political office in the land, it makes a mockery of the separation of church and state which is a joke in the US anyway.

    December 17, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  11. A Canuck

    This is a very shrewd political move .........trust Obama ....he knows what he's doing !!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  12. kelli

    I lied...being gay wasn't boring or unnatural. I just wanted to clarify that because my 17 year old called me on it.

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  13. Soughtful

    Great choice by Obama.

    Not afraid to embrace Warrnen who is clearly hated by the extreme wing of his own "base."

    Those who called him an ultra liberal robot can now see that he has always been his own man.

    Those who expected him to be an ultra liberal robot can now see that they should have taken him seriously when he said he would represent all of America, not merely one ideological branch.

    Interesting how responders are accusing Obama of deception about his positions.

    However, he has always clearly stated his belief that marriage was between a man and woman, but that civil unions should be available for same sex partners who sought certain rights(identical to positions held by Clintons, Bush, and McCain, by the way). I've personally heard him say it on every single debate where he was asked a question about gay marriage.

    So why the shock and suprise over the choice of Rick Warren!?

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  14. an84u

    I think Warren's mostly a Rush Limbaugh type. Certainly he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. I'd advise Obama to steer clear of him. Beware! It'll like be another Rev. Wright-just slicker spoken. President Obama will have lots of explaining to do if the invitation to Warren holds. Why not some good mainline denomination guy? I'm sick of these spinter sect reactionaries.

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  15. southerndem

    First off to all you people who are whining about this must not have listened to PE Obama at all during the campaign. I can't count the number of times he said "There is no red state America or blue state America, only the United States of America" I do not agree with Pastor Warren AT ALL on abortion or gay rights but this is just what Obama was talking about. Just because you disagree with someone, is no reason to exclude them from our democracy. That is what the current administration has done for 8 long years and look where we are now. And to all you Clinton supporters (Marge) who are STILL whining STOP IT , it does you no good ,and only reinforces a stereotype about women which will keep them down in the political arena.

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  16. Shaik

    It is ONLY an invocation...which will take all of 5 minutes, at best....not a POLICY speech! It is routine. Two days later no one would remember what was said. It's inclusiveness....
    Pay attention to Obama's inaugural address....that is the important part of the inauguration....that is the lasting part.

    December 17, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  17. Moki

    I strongly feel that gay people should be allowed to be legally married if they so choose, but I do not think that Obama's selection of Warren to simply offer an invocation is a statement from Obama on the issue. Obama will be president to all the citizens of the US, including those who oppose gay marriage.

    To me it's a non-issue. There's other much more important issues we need to be concerned about other than who offers the prayer at his inauguration.

    December 17, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  18. Thomas

    There's nothing wrong with that. Take a chill pill people

    December 17, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  19. kent

    It is unanimous then!

    December 17, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  20. kent

    It is unanimous!

    December 17, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  21. Brad

    Wright would have been better. Warren's a nutjob with a soothing voice.

    December 17, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  22. Dee

    What's the big deal? Honestly. There are probably some aspects of Warren's personality that Obama likes. It doesn't mean that they agree on EVERYTHING. Everyone needs to grow up.

    December 17, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. SueWA

    Hugely disappointed. Certainly there's some kind of political payoff for this, whether it's "keep your enemies closer" or whatever, but hey, out of all the choices that might have been, why do you select someone who mobilizes people against people? Very sad, and wishing we knew what we don't know about this decision.

    December 17, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  24. proudliberal-independent

    liberals and progressives are already getting shoved under the bus and we already know it. [the air pressure is low on one tire, by the way...,]

    December 17, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. philip

    I am curious why we need an invocation in the first place?
    And why an evangelical christian?
    What about the moslems,hindus, atheists, pagans, buddhists?
    Separation of church and state people .

    I think everyone has the right to believe in their own set of fairy tales .
    Please for the life of me can we not let them intrude into the governance of the state?

    December 17, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
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