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

Obama’s choice of evangelical leader sparks outrage

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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.

Full story

soundoff (524 Responses)
  1. Ross, Chautauqua, NY

    He certainly could have made a better choice by choosing Calvin Butts in NYC or Otis Moss in Chicago.

    December 17, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  2. Darth Vadik, CA

    Warren is just giving the invocation at the inaguration, it's not like he is to head an important post. It's bread crumbs people.

    December 17, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  3. Barbara

    Will wait for the presidential inauguration next month
    to see if Rick Warren has what it takes to deliver a truly inspiring
    invocation speech to the american people.
    Curious why President Elect – Obama chose Peter Warren,
    under whose advice ?

    December 17, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama is a homophobe – never wanted his picture taken with the pro-gay marriage mayor of S.F. before he ran for President – maybe he thought he would catch gayness.

    December 17, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  5. J. Bowen

    "Oh, I'm sorry...I thought tolerance and inclusion were the characteristics to which I should aspire. I guess they only apply to people who think and act just like me. That's not inclusion, that's exclusion; that's not tolerance, it's intolerance; that's not freedom, it's fascism."

    December 17, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  6. TjayeInLA

    Okay, the man might be a radical conservative, but GET OVER IT!! Everyone is not going to agree with everyone else. We have to learn to deal with and work with people who are different.

    December 17, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. RJ, CA

    cardron December 17th, 2008 6:42 pm ET

    I agree with everything you say - thank you - and even though I was NOT an Obama supporter, I applaud this choice. I also knew that Obama would not maintain his "stance" of the primaries and general election. For that I'm glad and dismayed at the same time, because he "ran" on what he obviously now is not. Ah, well . . .

    December 17, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |

    After donating and working for Obama, this choice both saddens and disappoints.

    It saddens me because I was very enthusisatic about this administration and with choice that thinks gays are "morally wrong" that enthusiaism is gone.

    Disappointed that the representative for the right should be so divisive. Onsteen would have been a much better choice.

    So, I still wish Obama the best and still think he is the best choice at this time for the country, but the luster is gone and I will find something else to do on Inaugral Day. This choice will also free up more of my future funds for paying down my bills.

    December 17, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  9. Kevin

    I'm worried about the price of food.

    I'm worried about paying my utilities this month.

    I'm worried about buying my wife and child good enough gifts for Christmas.

    I'm worried about my 401k.

    I am not worried about a pastor at an inauguration.

    Proud advocate of gay marriage

    December 17, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  10. Darth Vadik, CA

    For you who say abortion is the same as the Holocaust, have you lost your minds. Why don't you call a womans period or a mans ijaculation a holocaust. There is potential for life there too.

    December 17, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  11. laura

    While I cannot say that I would ever willingly listen to one of Mr. Warrens sermons, I cannot also say that he is an inappropriate choice for Barak Obama to make for offering an invocation. I am sure that this preacher hopes to become the next "religious leader" of the us of a. Unfortunately for him, most of us will not give him the right to tell us how to think. So he is doomed to fail, since he can only succeed if we agree to give up our minds. And those who do should be immediately placed into one of those "de programming" centers that they began in the 60's to remove cult brain washing. I do believe that there is a God. But I also believe that a bird singing in a tree speaks more truly of him than anything Mr. Warren or his ilk could say. The bird sings for its joy in the life God gave him. The holy Rollers are looking for human power. Go bird! Hush up Preachers!

    December 17, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  12. Rebeckah

    Good grief!!! 8 years of Bush and look how divided we are! It's sickening and sad. Take a good look at yourselves and ask if this is really what we want for our country for our children? America is full of diversity, religious preferences, orientation and cultural back grounds. Where does it say that we all have to think alike? Let people be who they are and quit the judgment, not only will it this make us United ( and for those of you who do not know your history the actual saying was Divided we stand, United we fall. Look it up it was changed) but it will help us build a future our children can prosper in.

    December 17, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  13. lea

    Keep religion out! Period.

    December 17, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  14. JB

    Another great example of liberals lacking the ablity to accept anyone that believes differently than they. We are headed down a slippery slope. You cannot please everyone all the time. I find it amusing that these same liberals cannot comprehend why someone would be opposed to a pro choice speaker. Turnaboutis fair play. What happened to accepting that people may not believe the same things you believe. Like for example, that gay marriage should not be dictated in the courts. I thought people had the right to vote their conscience. Nope, I guess it's my way or the highway with them.

    December 17, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  15. Mike

    This is funny. I thought the "outrage" from the headline was going to be because Comrade Obummer had chosen a gay band for the inaugural parade but no - it's because of a man who "championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic." Liberal leftists are NEVER satisfied, which is why the Right will always be at war with them and rightly so.

    December 17, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. Darth Vadik, CA


    Do the ghosts under your bed scare you too?
    How about your own shadow?

    Country hasn't been attacked since 911 is the biggest crock I ever heard. Thet is the little boo BUsh says when conservative cowards step out of line.

    Get over your fear.

    December 17, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. jonathan

    Terrible Choice, Period.

    December 17, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  18. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    no matter what this man does, SOMEBODY is not going to like it. Welcome to the big time President Obama. I guess it was a far better choice than Rev. Wright though.

    December 17, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  19. Chicago GOP

    Since when is LGBT equality a "mainstream America" issue? Last time I checked, nearly every state that has voted on gay marriage voted against it!

    December 17, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  20. Liam- Burlington, VT

    What happened to the open-mindedness that everyone enjoyed during the presidential race? Part of Obama's message during the campaign was finding common graound and acting in a bipartisan manner. While some of Warren's views may be rooted in religion and conservative ideals, where is the bipartisanship? I am for gay marriage and for President Obama, but I believe this was a good move on Obama's part. Warren is very active in seeking peace and ending poverty- that is Obama and Warren's common ground. Just as the left is entitled to its pro-gay marriage view, Warren is entitled to his anti-gay marriage view. What are you trying to do hear, smother the views of the right and pretend they don't exist? "Mainstream America" is about open-mindedness and free speech, which is just what Warren's address will represent on inauguration day.

    December 17, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  21. Tom

    I strongly support Obama in general, and I understand his big-tent approach to politics, but I disagree with this choice. Warren may be someone you can work with on some issues, but his view that GLBT people don't have the same rights that I do is repugnant and indefensible. It's the biggest remaining civil rights issue in our country, and Warren is a dinosaur on it. GLBT people are as human as I am, as human as you are, as human as anyone is. Obama should not give a bigot like Warren a forum unless he comes into the 21st century on this issue.

    December 17, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. serge

    Really Barack,

    You think that by running away from us, you will look grown up? Don't be shortsighted, four years run pretty fast. We want to celebrate our victories, the one of the civil right and the civil liberties including those of gays and those who think that preacher should talk to the soul and not openly advocate for the failure of Iran or his killing.

    Rick is an opportunist regardless of what he does for Africa. Barack Obama, it is weak to let this guy do the invocation. What has he done really except to incite division.

    Slavery was a stain on the constitution, Rick warren invocation will be a stain on your inauguration.

    December 17, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  23. kitschdeva

    I see dumb people.

    December 17, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  24. Curious in CA

    Lesbians and Gays need to take their heads out of the sand. This country is the most religious of the western democracies. Barack Obama does support their rights. If gays and lesbians want the rights then they should fight for the rights not the word because that sounds a little like seeking validation and acceptance. Somewhere down the road someone will come along to fight for the rights but this is the beginning of the movement. It took black people 100 years to get rights guaranteed them by the Emancipation Proclamation. Do your homework already!!

    December 17, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  25. Joanna

    You can't please everyone all of the time. We need to work together, even when we don't see eye to eye. That is the new way. We can benefit from everyones civilized input and find a respectable balance between one another. Lets just Celebrate the day!!!

    December 17, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
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