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.

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soundoff (524 Responses)
  1. Christa

    A lot of different people and groups helped to elect Obama, not just far left liberals. Alienating Warren won't help change attitudes. His inclusion might help open his mind to other opinions and soften his own stance. If not, it will at least still serve to demonstrate that Obama wants to connect with others, and is inclusive of all Americans now that he represents all Americans.

    December 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. sean hall

    Im not gay, but if i was i would want the option to marry. Does that make it right? I dont know. But you your heart.

    December 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  3. Lori

    Who cares? This does not mean that Obama agrees with the guy. Didn't we learn this during the election? Being around someone you disagree with on some issues does not make you a believer in ALL that they believe in. Get over it! Obama is still pro-choice and pro-gay rights. To all those pro-choice and pro-gay rights liberals who are complaining- try voting Republican next time. You'll see what will happen to you.

    December 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  4. Susan

    Rev. Wright looks mighty good right now.
    Rick Warren is a moron.

    December 17, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  5. voter

    So allowing people with disabilities equal rights (<2% of the population) is different from allowing homosexuals equal rights? (<2% of population)

    Why should any "majority" determine oppressive ethics/morals and civil liberties for all? (Jewish, Disabled, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, Asian/Black/Indian/European etc.)

    December 17, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. Lisa

    The comments against Obama's choice of Warren are confusing to me. An invocation, by one definiton, is basically a prayer. An appropriate person to lead the prayer is a pastor. Pastors are, by nature, conservative. I can't believe this is what people find time to whine about. Presidents represent the majority – and the majority of people don't make it their first priority to make sure that the person giving the invocation is "acceptable" to the GLBT community.

    December 17, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  7. Give Me A Break!

    I don't get it! Is this an extreme attempt for Barak to distance himself from Rev. Wright ? I don't blame him for distancing himself but THIS GUY? I don't get it.

    December 17, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  8. David from Minnesota

    I am impressed with the fact that Obama is selecting people for various cabinet posts and tasks (including the inauguration invocation) on the totality of an individual's being and actions rather than on one's particular position on one or two given issues. Rick Warren, though he has talked about gay marriage and abortion, is one of the few christian leaders today that really has got it right regarding the heart of Jesus' message. Jesus to my knowledge never talked about gay marriage or abortion, but he talked a great amount about justice, mercy and love for one another.

    December 17, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  9. Who care?

    I'm a liberal and an atheist. It doesn't bother me at all. Ideally, there would be no religious freaks near politics, but I will never see that day. Get over it! Trust me, there are far greater issues to get upset over!!

    December 17, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  10. Bill Charlotte,NC

    I am a major...major Obama supporter.... He made a big mistake here!

    December 17, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  11. jackie

    I'm surprised at Obama. He"overlooked" the people who helped vote him in. This idiot Warren is just another fool who thinks he's God.
    I'm sick of him claiming that "God is on his side". I HIGHLY DOUBT IT !!!

    December 17, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  12. Denar

    I love how the left proclaims to be for the common person, but manages to consistantly throw them under the bus to get ahead. The only thing an autoworker (or anyone else for that matter) does is go to work everyday to support their families. They do not make decisions that will affect these corporations or spend their money. The fact of the matter is the Government has standardized them to death. Poor management and the stock marker hasn't helped. Toss in the tree hugging left and 20 million poverty wage earning illegals and you have a recipe for what we are seeing today. You can blame Bush or you can blame Pelosi or Reid, (I'm not fans of any of them, if their lips are moving they are lying.) Why don't they take a 20% across the board paycut before offering it as a solve all problem for someone else? Maybe you haven't noticed but they can't even balance their own budget. I would take that in a second if all house and senate members agree to vote in term limits and go back into our healthcare and social security programs. No more golden parachutes. I suggest you purchase a mirror and take a glance at it once in awhile. There's an excellent chance you'll see the crux of the problem.

    Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year!!!!

    December 17, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. Brad

    Rev. Wright looks mighty good right now.

    December 17, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  14. Bzcar

    I am so thrilled with what I am reading here. All of you who are posting are saying nearly the same thing. Either you are supportins Obama and agreeing with what he is doing ( by the way I am also impressed with him so far) or you are watching and hopeing that he will bw the one who will bring this country back together. But you are all talking together of one accord for the most part and that is good. This country pulling together with the help of God cannot be beat. But our only hope of success is to all work together whether we agree with every issue or not should not matter. As long as the main issues are all agreed on. Things like who believes what doesn't amount to a thing. We need to all hold up the flag.

    December 17, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  15. Richard A. Spomer

    Obama is Left of liberal, and he will help destroy this country from with in its boarders. Picking this so-called pastor is no more than a clear sign that he belongs in the pastures!

    This is also a clear sign that Obama has no consciousness when it comes to a God fearing country and the inability understand the commandments of God the father and his only begotten son Jesus Christ!

    December 17, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  16. bill for barack

    Rick Warren is a Christian in the most Biblical sense of the word and is an EXCELLENT choice for the inauguration.
    His choice sets a wonderful moral tone for the new administration.
    Or would you prefer McCain and Rod Parsley ???????????????

    December 17, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  17. brian

    Obama's stock just went up a few points. He understands that business as usual politics needs to leave and walked the walk, by picking people more to the center, across the aisle, and across party lines.

    Rick Warren is an influential pastor and writer and has a more liberal christian perspective than many. A comparison to James Dobson is laughable.

    Obama is not catering to the radical left...I LOVE that as a conservative. I am beginning to like this guy, even with his radical beliefs about abortion...

    December 17, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  18. fred

    actually our next president is really a conservative. He sure fooled you liberal idiots.

    December 17, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  19. T Mckinley

    You people on the extreem far left need to stop whining. The choice was Obama or McCain. If McCain had been elected, who do you think HE would have chosen to give the invocation...John Shelby Spong? Forget it!

    Obama will be the president of ALL Americans, not just the radical far left.

    December 17, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  20. Honey

    I am a liberal who voted for Obama. While I do not embrace all of Pastor Warren's teachings, I certainly have no problem with him giving the prayer at the inauguration of PE Obama. Folks, Obama is not always going to do things with which we agree, so we must all learn to agree to disagree.

    December 17, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  21. Carl Braestrup

    Together with Wright, we now have two examples of religious leaders in Obama's prayer circle who profess a love for God alongside intolerant views and hateful, divisive stances on issues of the day. The name and spirit of Jesus is not well served when used to justify intolerance and hate - on the right or left, of country or gays and lesbians. This is a disturbing bungling of what up to now had been an inclusive message about the inauguration. Has the Obama team studied Rick Warren's speeches? Questioned him on what he believes happens to the Jews at the second coming? Are they sure that gays are the only targets of Warren's venom? Perhaps this will work to Obama's advantage, but it was a blow to those of us who supported Obama because he represented change and progress, not a reversion to the hate-based politics of his Republican predecessors. What's next, President-elect Obama – will you give the commencement address at Liberty University? For shame.

    December 17, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  22. Glenn, Cary, NC

    Oh, my God (so to speak)! Obama is a politician! Who could ever have guessed?

    December 17, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  23. Kay

    I wouldn't have been surprised if George W. had chosen Rick Warren to participate four years ago, but this is a new day. I have been very proud of Obama's top-notch choices for cabinet members. However, I'm equally disappointed in his choice of an egomaniac, an opportunist like Rick Warren, to give the invocation.

    December 17, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  24. Hope

    who cares he is speaking for maybe 10 minutes and he isnt giving a sermon..Get over it people. The church is here to say and no people arent perfect. Let the man say what he wrote about Obama and be on his way. If its not one thing its another people have to complain about what Obama does.

    December 17, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  25. JohnS, North Carolina

    A better choice would have been someone from the Unitarian Church.

    December 17, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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