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. yota

    America, please do not be outraged by anything that comes from the Obama presidency, you voted him in!

    December 17, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. J-STIZLE ( Oakland, Calif. )

    Not surprised !! Obama is trying to show America that he is not as far to the Left as Fox News would have you to believe. I already knew that he is not a " Socialist " . But I wish that he were. Anyway .... he's still wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy better than Hillary ( or any Republican ) !!!
    GET OVER IT !!!!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  3. Anton Williams

    How about boycotting the inauguration. That would save the U.S. some money.

    December 17, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  4. Matt from L.A.


    I think religion has no place in politics, and personally have a bad emotional reaction to this this.


    If I wanted to look at this in the most positive way possible, I would say:

    Obama has said that in order to have success in restoring the American dream, he needs each individual in this country to help out.

    In reaching out to the religious / heartland folks through Warren's presence, he is trying to get EVERYONE on board, including people who may have voted against him or who may fear that his administration will exclude them or disregard their values and beliefs.

    This is consistent with his belief that an all-hands-on-deck effort is our only chance of group success. If he's right, and this helps to achieve that, then it's hard for me to condemn it.

    December 17, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. New Mexican

    Terribly disappointing. He could have chosen a stellar pastor from his own denomination, United Church of Christ... or any of the mainline Protestant denominations... or Catholic or Jewish..... but to choose someone who in no way represents what most of his supporters thought they were voting for is anathema to me.

    December 17, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  6. Roscoe

    News Flash: Even though I'm not a big fan of Rick Warren, he DOES represent mainstream American values. The only people who think he doesn't are so far out of the mainstream that they don't even know it exists.

    December 17, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  7. CAW in MD

    @ Lauren,

    Wow - you personally know all 46% of the people that you are claiming to represent with your comments? That's impressive!

    Of course, if you don't know them all personally, then you really don't know what that 46% of people were thinking on November 4th, so maybe you shouldn't be making sweeping generalizations on their behalf...

    December 17, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  8. Saintly in San Diego

    I might not agree with Warren, but I am not uncomfortable with Obama picking him. Obama himself might not agree with all of Warren's positiond, but he might respect him for his help and support of the disadvantaged. Bush and every other president before him have had an invocation, this should be no suprise or a big deal. You cannot agree with a person 100% of the time. This shouldn't be a an issue.

    December 17, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  9. PDX Gal

    The nut is in charge of the supernatural display in the upcoming ceremonial event.

    At least he's not in charge of environmental policy, or healthcare, or the economy.

    So hopefully putting a nut in charge of the supernatural display will appease other nuts out there.

    He did say he was going to be EVERYBODY'S president, after all.

    December 17, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  10. barackobama4prez

    no one said it was going to be easy to bring this country together folks. the right and the left both pray. let's get over ourselves here and remember the bigger picture. We have an excellent Democratic President coming into office!

    December 17, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. Thanh

    I knew that Obama was going to play the center after the primaries and more after the election. But no, everyone said, "No, Obama is different, Obama is the future. Butterflies and rainbows."

    Obama is mainstream. Mainstream means you're in line with the majority of the people, which in this case includes people who voted Republican. It's better to alienate small groups on both the left and right, rather than alienate half the country.

    The only difference between him and presidents past, is that he has the balls to bring power players in his circle.

    December 17, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  12. David

    Good for you Obama, I see you going to be all inclusive and are not going to make the same dumb mistake as Bush did and only listen to the extreme wing of your party.

    December 17, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  13. Jake

    There is no question that Obama has provided a boon to the Democratic party as many, many people have believed he is reaching out to them. However, this party's honeymoon won't last long as so many newcomers realize that dissent from the views of the far left core will not be tolerated. Despite the image portrayed by the other side, the GOP offers a far larger tent...yes, there are some far right wingnuts, but they rarely succeed in shouting down moderate common sense voices, like these extreme left NGOs do.

    December 17, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  14. Gavin

    Obama picking Warren is an interesting yet not surprising choice.

    Warren is very influential in our world. A quick glance over his credentials shows that.

    The people who voted for Obama yet are now complaining of his choice need to keep in mind that in acting that way, they are stooping to a very low level.

    People on both sides of the spectrum need to learn to respect and love each other for their differences.

    December 17, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  15. Chris Wakemore

    That's right, cut anyone out of the process that you disagree with... What a brilliant mentality. As a gay male I firmly believe that this is of no relevance. I also expect Obama to sit with despots and oppressors so that he can look them in the eye and deal directly with them. The fact that we know Obama will not be swayed by this religious persons personal thinking should be reason enough not to care...

    December 17, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  16. Nick D - California


    December 17, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  17. I'm Not Missing The Old Mule & Winky Half-baked Alaska

    I'm as liberal as they come. Ya'lls need to grow up on the right AND THE LEFT!!!

    December 17, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  18. Rev. Wright

    Barry, please call me as soon as possible. We need to talk.

    Thank You.

    December 17, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. Ana

    mk@6:47- Well said.

    This IS change I can believe in. Neither good nor new ideas come from people who agree on everything.

    December 17, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  20. Peter Sterling

    Inviting Warren is like inviting a flat-earther to an astrophysics convention. Meh.

    December 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  21. DAVID



    December 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  22. Missy M

    Throughout the campaign, I found Obama's and McCain's stance on gay rights to be rather similar. I don't know why anyone is surprised. And I like Rick Warren. I don't agree with all of his stances on the issues, but these days, Christianity tends to be a pick-and-choose, cafeteria-style religion.

    December 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  23. Matt

    Who cares? What, you were expecting Jeremiah Wright? That would've gone over REAL well...

    December 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  24. FL Democrat

    See....I said all along that Obama was full if it. He's arrogant and his promises are completely EMPTY.

    Change? HA! Where.

    He disgusts me and I hope he's beaten in 2012, or something gets him outta there as quickly as possible.

    December 17, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  25. martin, illinois

    I am impressed by this choice.

    It's about common ground people. Get a grip. AIDS, poverty, take precedence over acknowledging gay marriage (instead of civil unions) or supporting abortion (abortion being a highly debated issue itself, even among democrats).

    Lead on Barack. I'm with you!

    December 17, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
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