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. Brad

    Sorry folks, this great Country of ours was founded on God/religion. If you don't like it, please don't try to take away my religious freedoms. Instead, perhaps you should consider moving to a communist country or something. I find it amusing that some folks think gay/lesbian = mainstream America. Personally I hope that never happens.

    December 17, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Carolyn

    Rick Warren is a great choice (by the way I'm a Democratic evangelical who voted for Obama).

    December 17, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. Dennis

    The Holocaust analogy is bunk. I have relatives who survived the Holocaust. They would dispute Warren's comparison... and they were there.

    December 17, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Bill Michael

    It's the religious nut-jobs like Warren that elected a president who put this nation through the meat-grinder. SCREW the Religious Right...!!! No one owes them a penny. This is a very poor choice. Obviously, we'll see more and more as Obama reveals who he really is.

    December 17, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Clark

    The left-wingers advocate and adhere to being "open-minded" and "inclusive"...until it disagrees with their own narrow views. As for Rick Warren, he actually DOES represent "mainstream America". Left-wingers have a hard time with that. They simply DON'T speak for the majority of Americans, even though they keep trying to tell us all that they do.

    December 17, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. Andrew Phil, Pa

    I am tremendously disappointed in Barack for this move, but I will continue to give him my support. I suppose you can't expect the President to always make decisions consistent with his or her values. Sometimes he or she must appease radical groups, and I do indeed intend to refer to Evangelical Christians as a radical group. While I support LGBT rights and the pro-choice stance, my disappointment is not specific to those issues. It's more the fact that he'd have someone with caveman views of the world introduce what is supposed to be a new, more rational and insightful administration.

    December 17, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. Jen


    This man is strongly against the rights of a minority group of people, he is definitely the wrong person to speak at inaguration. I am VERY dissapointed at the decision Obama made.

    December 17, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Meka

    Rick Warren will be giving the invocation ONLY. Obama has said, repeatedly . . . he will be the President, for ALL AMERICANS. What about this don't people understand. America is made up of ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE!

    December 17, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. Chuck Roast

    Rick Warren is an excellent choice !!!!! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! !!!!

    December 17, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. Jeff_C_W

    To engender genuine evangalistic spirit to the enauguration, what is needed is a person who had contact with his diety. One sign of this being the case with the Pentacostal preacher is evidenced by profuse sweating. Even on a cold day outside, this would occur if the evangalist were truly in contact with his almighty.
    If Rick Warren is not a heavy sweater, he is not genuine. So if RW is not a sweater, I suggest that Jimmy Swaggart or Rod Parsley be pressed into service to present the invocation. Both JS and RP are profuse providers of perspiration when in contact with their god. And if either should be selected, I suggest he be permitted to bring an abbreviated ensamble for his presentation... the organ mini-riff player (or a few recorded snippets therefrom) is a must.

    December 17, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  11. Sandra Reid

    President Elect Obama: You blew it. I am a voting rights attorney who contributed a lot of money and worked hard for your campaign in Florida. The choice of this "pastor" disheartens me. A pastor welcomes all who enter and does not judge. My daughter is a gay women and I am an adamant gay rights supporter. Buck up. I know you are trying to be conciliatory, eg. I don't think his beliefs are those you embrace, but there is a place to draw the line. I have airline tickets to attend the innauguration; somehow I am less enthused now.

    December 17, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Jazzi

    Bad Choice in picking Rick Warren. We have not forgotten how Rick lied when he said that John McCain was in a "cone of silence" at the Saddleback forum. Rick has no credibility in my book!!! End of story.

    December 17, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  13. Michael from Los Angeles

    The so called "mainstream America" she speaks of doesn't agree with gay marriage. Check the votes. I, for one, am eager to see Obama open dialogues with people with whom he may not agree on everything. Nothing gets done in this country when we plug our ears and yell at the other side (see 2000-2008).

    December 17, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  14. Michelle

    Obama is probably just trying to reach out to republicans because this is a crucial time where we all need to be as united as possible. I'm not even republican and this issue doesn't phase me at all. I wish people would calm down and worry about other more important issues like poverty and education.

    December 17, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  15. rob

    Hye, isn't they a gay band going to be at the ceremony?

    December 17, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  16. Ron in Los Angeles

    This Inaugural speech is a clever idea by Obama. He can stroke the Evangelicals without giving a whole lot. After all, come the day after the Inaugurals, the Evangelicals have had their treat and must watch from the sidelines.

    Another month, just another month, and we can start moving forward again.

    December 17, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. Jah-Man, New York, New York

    This is what I don't understand with the gay and lesbian movement in America! Every time someone says or does something they don't approve of, it not only makes headline news (thanks to a pliable media), but the rest of the country seems to be held hostage by this group, which really is no different from any other group with equal rights in America!

    Why aren't other groups in America coming out in staunch support of Obama's choice? By being silent these other groups are allowing themselves to be bullied by the gay and lesbian movement, and I am sure that if other groups were to come out against the gay and lesbian movement for any public position on issues, the gay and lesbian movement would blow their lids sky high in self-righteous indignation!

    America remains a country of free choice, and Obama has made his choice! The gay and lesbian community doesn't have to agree, but at least respect the man's right to choose! Gays and lesbians do have the same right to choose and so they can choose to stay the hell away from the inauguration!

    December 17, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. Jim from CA

    I am so upset that I spent any time working for him and contributing to his campaign. I should have spent more time on and money on stopping Proposition 8. I was going to take the day off to watch it. Forget it now. This is the worst insult.

    December 17, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  19. mimbaz

    You so called liberals probably think you own Obama, and so he can only do what you want???

    December 17, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  20. Bill from PA

    The far left is very tolerant only of those that agree with them.

    December 17, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. It's not about you

    This is almost hilarious. Obama invites someone that doesn't agree with their view of the gay/lesbian movement and all of a sudden it's chicken little, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Ever stop to think that the only way to ever get your point across is to reach out to those with whom you disagree? If you read the guy's resume, he's done a heck of a lot more in this world than anyone posting here. One of the reason's even those of us who agree with efforts to get/lesbian folks their rights get ticked at them is their irrational behavior toward anyone who strays form their definition of "the path." EVERY TIME someone even speaks to anyone who disagrees with their issues all of a sudden it's tar and feathering time for all involved. Until you all figure that it takes a large person of character to reach out to those with whom he disagrees, you'll continue to have problems getting your point across. In short, it's not about you!

    December 17, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  22. Edward Bentor

    As a long time Business Democrat, this move was brilliant. Keep the Religious Right on your side. I would have done more. Instead bring him on in some type of Religious Advisory role.

    Go Obama!

    December 17, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  23. Javy Reyes

    I'm glad liberals are crying now. You should have voted for HILLARY GET OVER IT NOW. I truly hope he become even more conservative than all democrats in the party. "I told you so" LOL

    December 17, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  24. R. Bolick

    All I can say is I hope that for all of you that voted for Obama ... you are happy. This man has not the slightest idea as to what he is going to do or how he is going to do it. I think it shows with selecting this man for the inaugaration. The truth comes out not that he has received everyones votes for "change." You voted for him, suck it up and deal with the idiot.

    December 17, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  25. mark

    I wrote both Rick Warren and Obama transition blog
    As an openly gay donor to Obama campaign the news of Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inaugeral ,is election night deja vu, all over again. Gays and Lesbians were celebrationg with all the rest of America the Obama victory, then at 11pm we get a shiv shoved in our back with prop 8. Rick Warren and the LDS elders were the MAIN SUPPORTERS which attacked LGBT families in CA, making us the ONE minority not covered by the equal protection clause.
    I hope EVERY queer and our friends attending the Inaugeral, TURNS THEIR BACK to Rick Warren, a salute of a single finger wouldn't hurt ...either.
    I am so disappointed the president to Bring America TOGETHER, chooses to tear us apart at his FIRST oppurtunity

    CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE...what's the WE crud?

    December 17, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
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