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. hometowndemocrat

    Kim posted:

    December 17th, 2008 8:40 pm ET

    Explain how you can be gay and a Christian minister….


    If you need this explained to you, you have obviously missed the entire concept of Christianity. Christianity is not about acts but about faith. If that is not clear enough for you perhaps you should speak to your minister and have him provide for you a detailed list of all of his sins...........of course, you should provide the same, but I doubt you want to do that.

    December 17, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  2. Perusing-through


    Obama has preached the gospel of "ONE AMERICA" for years. Obama has preached the gospel of inclusiveness since his Harvard Graduate Schools days. No surprise here?

    And now that he is bringing the CHANGE that he promised, , , and now that he is reaching across Party lines in meaningful ways not done by either Party in the past, , , and now that he is building a smart, sharp leadership team that will reach decisions through thoughtful consensus instead of unilateral, one-party dogma; , , THE EXTREME-LIBERAL-LEFT IS HAVING A CONNIPTION FIT!

    December 17, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  3. Wendy from San Francisco

    I didn't vote for Obama, but if he is irritating liberals he has my support. Glad to see him reach across the aisle.

    December 17, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  4. Tracy

    Does it really matter all that much? Almost all Christians oppose full civil rights for LGBT Americans – as far as I'm concerned, this guy's just a run-of-the-mill Christian. Besides, he's just doing some prayer thing at the Inauguration, it's not like he's making policy. Obama's throwing the Christians a bone, which is more than they deserve, but whatever. There are more important things to worry about, like the collapse of the American economy, getting the heck out of Iraq, and fixing the complete evisceration of our educational and health care programs on Bush's watch.

    December 17, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  5. Timothy

    What a joke. Thank goodness for the DVR so we can fast forward over it.

    December 17, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  6. Rob

    As a Gay man and an Obama supporter, I say poor choice Sir!

    December 17, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. rich

    Wow..lots of noise in here. Can I have everyones attention please? Thank you. It's just an invocation folks. We all know Obama's position on gay rights issues, and I dont think that having this man give the invocation will deter from his position in the least. He is trying to be inclusive, perhaps a bit too much for some, but I personally trust his decision making. Just when he was doubted during the campaign he showed time and time again that he can rise to the occasion. I think he knows what he is doing. We have 4 years to hold his feet to the fire on all issues including gay rights. Lets not blow our tops on this one issue. I predict under an Obama administration gay folks will have less to fear, but only time will tell.

    December 17, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  8. Rick Sutter

    You Libbies are sooo funny.

    December 17, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. Brian McCarthy

    Just as all Republican and/or Democrat is bad. So is all liberal, agnostic, right, left, etc.

    Obama made a good choice as he seeks to reestablish balance.

    December 17, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. javafreik

    "jay: Who do I need to vote for to get rid of these unintelligent, hateful christian fascists? I thought with Obama I'd get a break for awhile but here they come again… Come on Obama – We the people who contributed to your campaign and voted for you don't want these people involved in our government anymore!"

    Hateful Christian fascists? Seems to me the hate is pouring from you, my friend.

    And, did you think you could buy Mr. Obama with your contributions? So, you expect favors for your money, like Blago?

    My rights, as a Christian, are just as important as every other person on this planet. Seems I have more love and tolerance for you, then you do for me.

    More proof of the truth....Jesus said you'd hate us, just like you do him.
    Makes me trust and believe him that much more.

    December 17, 2008 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  11. Antietam

    Obama is looking ahead to 2012, when he will neeed the religious right and other conservative voters to gain a second term. Like William Clinton, he is adopting Republican agendas to fall back on should his liberal base erode. Remember that Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Bill, something no Democratic president would do. This proved a winning ticket to his second term victory over Robert Dole, when Republicans deserted their party to vote for the man who shot down welfare queens driving around in Cadillacs.

    December 17, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  12. alex

    >Sorry folks, this great Country of ours was founded on God/religion.

    Uh, no. It wasn't. The prominence of religion in politics is modern, dating to the cold war, where it was saintly US vs ungodly USSR. That's why we have " nation under God..." etc.

    Our founders were actually quite weary of religion's influence in politics.

    In any case, even a rudimentary analysis of any national poll (eg Gallup) shows that people like Rick Warren are either dying out, or at least not increasing (as a % of total population). Virtually all polls show the majority of Americans believe that homosexual relations should be legal. Following trends, I think most objective observers would agree that it is now only a matter of time (<10 years) before the majority believe that unions gays and lesbians should be given same status as marriage. Warren is on the losing side here, people.

    Thank God.

    December 17, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. Mike

    HA HA HA....You Obama lovers got what you deserved....I`m glad i voted for McCain .....this administration is going to be a nightmare

    December 17, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  14. Josh Carpenter

    Why does there even need to be an invocation? Why does it have to be from a pastor at all? When are we truly going to separate church and state? This choice is ridiculous and hopefully just a move to try to calm some of the religious wrong's nerves that Obama is the Anti-Christ etc. In doing this however, he has alienated a lot of other people who have supported him from the start. I am a Christian; I am Gay; I also value other religious and philosophical teachings. I have studied religions and religions role in government/society extensively for years, so I must correct the people who believe this country was founded on the "Christian" principles that most so-called Christians value today. This country was founded by people who fled a society where religion and government were intertwined because they saw the results. They wanted to worship free of the government's intervention; they wanted to govern free of the church's intervention. What has happened to these ideals? They did not mention "Jesus" or attribute anything to the Judeo Christian God; they simply called on "Providence" for guidance. And references to God are universal, as most of our founding fathers were Universalist, not Protestant.
    As a Gay American, I view Obama's choice of Warren as a direct slap in the face; and I must tell him that he will never convince the right wing lunatics that he is a Christian no matter how hard he tries. He can, however, keep the support of ALL those who supported him by rethinking this choice and naming someone else who is in step with today, 2008, to give the "Invocation."

    December 17, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  15. Don

    Congrats to all of you that voted for this nutjob, and now see his policies changing just like EVERY other President.

    December 17, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  16. OregonMom

    To all of you whom feel Obama's inclusion of this man is a betrayal to the ideals he promised in his campaign: Were you paying attention to the core message? We're all in this together tho' we may not agree on all issues. We need to find common ground to accomplish goalds for the better good. This includes tolerance for those who do not believe as we do ... and working with them, not necessarily against them. Obama's inclusion of someone evangelically conservative may actually advance the agenda for gay rights and abortion by beginning a true, open dialogue. Christ taught tolerance. President-elect Obama is practicing just that, on all playing fields. God bless him and all of us who are in this together (Yep, that means all of us, even James Dobson - you may not agree with him, but it don't help to hate the man – that never changes anything for the good).

    December 17, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  17. AS from TX

    When is this going to stop that gay rights, abortion etc is between you and your god. These issues should not be brought to ANY PRESIDENT no matter who they may be. Whatever rights you want should be address to your State Represenatives not the President. I've been raised as a Catholic. But I believe that you as an individual need to make whatever choices you want but the day your number comes up, you will need to face your maker. So leave President Elect Obama alone let him choose whomever he wants whether you agree or not. He has every right like you and me. So grow up......

    December 17, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  18. Mr. Coffee from Illinois

    Although under a "policy of inclusion" there should be a place at the table for people with Mr. Warren’s views, to grant those exclusionary views symbolic leadership of the administration's moral ethic effectively overpowers the voice of LGBT people in other areas of his administration.
    If we are indeed included, we should make our voices heard now – Mr. Warren is welcome to participate, but not to lead.

    December 17, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  19. milton

    Nice ploy to get Prop 8 back in the limelight. Now, it's being looked at even more. Way to go Barry. I can see through the smoke.

    December 17, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  20. Branden

    Boo hoo hoo... Obama didn't please the Gay community... I would have loved to see practically the exact same article if Obama had chosen someone who adamantly supports the gay agenda. "Obama continues to push his extreme leftist agenda." Give me a break. Gay people and gay supporters need to get over themselves, because people who used to be sympathetic like me are now just getting annoyed by the constant whining and mockery of our democratic system. Keep pushing it as forcefully as you are and making the biggest scene ever and see if there isn't a backlash...

    December 17, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  21. Noah in CA

    Obama still cares about gay rights. He just believes the christian right has been too distracted by socially conservative issues, and abandoned the fight against poverty, and the fight for equal opportunity. Getting christians back on track, to what jesus really spoke about, is just more important to him.

    As a compromiser, and one who is willing to prioritize, Obama is willing to bring a large socially conservative group into his bigger quest to change America. And he understands what it takes to do this.

    December 17, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  22. clifford

    As a neocon hard right Republican,ATTA BOY OBAMA!!!, excellent choice!!!

    December 17, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  23. Ann

    "[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.

    Wasn't this guy an Obama supporter? or at least very vocal against Hillary. You got what you elected dear. Enjoy it.

    December 17, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  24. ee

    very disappointing barrack.....
    and by the way, if religion wants to 'protect marriage" then why do they keep getting divorced, and having affairs..... why not make divorce illegal, so that way no one can get divorced and that way everyone who gets married has to stay married. FOREVER!!! wouldn't that be protecting marriage?

    December 17, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  25. clifford

    Hey Liberals, we tried to tell you !!

    December 17, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
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