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. Obama was never for gay rights....

    Obama did not come out against Prop. 8 and was silent as gays marched for their rights.

    Evidently blacks are the only minority group with rights and Obama sees gays as less than human.

    How is this the unity and tolerance president?

    He's just another slick politician who was out to get votes.

    December 17, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  2. KCBob

    I too am disturbed. Why even have a religious figure serve in government. Enough of these Christ Cultists and other delusional religious nuts.

    God is not dead, he never existed! The sooner we stop the spread of this mental disorder the better off humanity will be.

    December 17, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  3. Debora, IN

    Warren is the wrong person for the job. Barack wanted to be inclusive, and Warren is just using him. Rick Warren is a Republican and he used Barack by filling his venue with Republicans.

    I'm sorry Rick Warren will be speaking. Bad choice for Barack and bad choice for America.

    December 17, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  4. Ian

    Christians can be progressive and independent and Pastor Rick Warren is in that mold. The left, of which I consider myself a part, needs to stop its own litmus test for contentious issues. As Christians, we must always show Christ's love to my GLBT friends (yes we have them) instead of the scorn they have too often received from the church. That means supporting their rights for equal protection under the law including civil unions and the right to adopt in my opinion and many others. But we cannot go along with those who want to redefine the holy institution of marriage, affirmed by Jesus (see Matthew 19:3-12) when it is clearly not God's intent. Its not intolerant of GLBT rights to simply insist that the issue be only an issue of civil rights and not an attempt to render meaningless, what is considered by many as a sacred institution.

    December 17, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  5. New Yorker

    The invocation, big deal; If he picks someone like Warren to sit on the Supreme Court THEN we'll have something to write home about. Get a grip, liberals; this is no big deal.

    December 17, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  6. Mary

    Who is "outraged"? What a strong word...still not sure it describes anyones true feelings about the choice of Warren. CNN is trying to start something out of nothing...Obama can't win for losing with the media. I am interested in knowing if real journalism is still reality.

    December 17, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  7. Andrea

    Cardron, you have said the truth! The US is made up of many people who do not always agree with everything that everyone says and believes, if Obama is to be a successful president, he will have to involved everyone, whether they voted for him or not. Remember, even though The Smiths didn't vote for Obama, they still will suffer if the economy gets worse. Oh yeah, and if they are able to stay in their home and avoid foreclosure, they still reap the benefits from an Obama administration that they didn't vote for. Food for thought

    December 17, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  8. SHAME

    People it is an invocation. I think the choice is acceptable. PE Obama makes every effort to be inclusive. I do not agree with Mr. Warren but recognize that all perspectives are important. I think his committment to diversity and inclusiveness are the top reasons I voted for him. It is time to come together, even in simple invocation.

    December 17, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  9. Kelsey, MD

    Oh why can't Rick Warren just stay in California. He's always hogging the limelight. He doesn't even like Barack, but is using him because there will be such a big audience.

    What a damper on the inauguration. Rick Warren is raining on our parade already.

    December 17, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  10. Brent

    Regarding the issue of gay rights, within a few decades, people who oppose gay equality will be viewed in a similar historical light to the unelightened souls who for centuries opposed equality for minorities and women. Denying homosexuals equality is simply bigotry from any logical perspective. Some day, the Courts either by way of the Equal Protection Clause or Congress through the Commerce Clause, will prohibit states from overtly denying gays the same rights that hetrosexuals are provided.

    Regarding the choice of Rick Warren, it is a very disappointing and transparently political choice for Obama.

    December 17, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. Perusing-through


    From the very beginning Obama was something different. Initially, I had no plans to vote for him. But as time past and as we watched Obama and his campaign team successfully & effortlessly hurdle "multiple campaign-ending obstacles"; we Independents, Moderates, and GOP-skewed Progressives made the switch to Obama-Biden for CHANGE and ONE AMERICA. So the extreme-liberal Left needs to understand Obama-Biden are in the White House but not strictly from the support of the Left. Obama-Biden received significant support from Independents and GOP -Progressives scared out of their wits of Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from POTUS.

    December 17, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  12. Leslie, IN

    I guess it was nieve to think that when Rick's candidate loss (McCain), Rick would bow out of the picture. I guess that was too much to ask for. Shame.

    December 17, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  13. This makes it clear.....

    Obama has no room for gays under his tent....

    It is bizarre that a man from one minority would deny the rights of another minority.

    How many times did Obama tell us that he was a man of unity and tolerance? Was this the big lie?

    Obama is beginning to show us who he really is and it's not pretty.

    December 17, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  14. Claire, NH

    What is it going to take to get rid of big mouth Rick Warren. Jeesh.

    December 17, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  15. Jenny, PA

    First mistake of Barack's administration–pitty.

    December 17, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  16. Roger

    PL Obama could have asked Rev. Wright. Pastor Warren is the one of best "service provider" since Billy Graham is retired. May you all have a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.-Keep your comments flowing!

    December 17, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  17. paul oregon

    im not gay have no opion abount what they do in there lives.

    i have a opion abount this scum-bag warren and his room of silence
    i m very disapointed in obamas choice there are more honest religions to pick from. very sad

    December 17, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  18. vanessa

    No one could be a bigger supporter of Barack Obama than I, but this is one decision he has made that really upsets me.

    This is not about any specific issue for me, it is about picking the easy choice that pleases evangelicals rather than a more traditional minister from his own faith.

    President-elect Obama, what are you trying to prove with this one?

    December 17, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  19. Helen, NC

    And like most presidents he will sneak away in the morning to a black church, but the "real pastor" will be Warren. Too bad a black pastor isn't good enough to speak at the inauguration. Bararck is pandering all ready.

    I hate the fact that he asked Rick Warren. That plastic Republican.

    December 17, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. Merle

    YEUP!! how does it go? "Told you so, told you so, told you, told you, TOLD YOU SO!" You all got him into office...I WAS HOPING FOR HILLARY...but OH WELL.. oh well...more disappointments to come im a "partner/friend" of someone in the military, im not surprised...the gay community shouldnt be surprised as well!!!!!!!!! i dont wanna hear it!!!!

    December 17, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  21. J.C.

    Good for Obama! Who would have thought he could have left Palin behind?
    He does try to represent everybody.
    Good job!

    December 17, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  22. Carl

    LOL... this is crazy... I'm a fire breathing liberal but I dontsee anything with the choice. just because their dissagree on some issues that doe mean their can't work together. Rick does many good thing. I just happen to dissagree with hs views on soem socials issues wise up MY FELLOW LIBS...

    December 17, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  23. voter

    Obama choice has nothing to do with not advancing gay rights. People forget or are not listening to Obama's message. He has consistantly stated that people can find common ground. Warren and Obama agree on global warming, aids etc, but disagree on social issues. We can't be divided all the time. We can't find someone who we 100% agree with all of the time. so relax.

    December 17, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  24. Jay

    I'm sorry...I don't understand what the problem is. I am a democratic Christian...and you'd be surprised that a lot of people align themselves up with beliefs like Rick Warren: that abortion is wrong, that marriage is between a man and woman, but that we need to fight against things like poverty, HIV/AIDs, etc. That, really, is the middle of the road position of America. (Just look at California and Prop 8...I thought California was "liberal"....)

    December 17, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  25. Perusing-through


    President-Elect Obama is asking Pastor Warren to pray at the Inauguration; not to pick Supreme Court Justices. You extreme-Liberal Lefties need to chill your heals.

    December 17, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
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