Perhaps for not going so hard on Barack Obama in last summer's Saddleback presidential forum, the Lake Forest mega-church's pastor, Rick Warren (right), will deliver the invocation at the president-elect's swearing-in ceremony Jan. 20, reports CNN.
Warren did not make a public endorsement in the race, but his past views (and forum questions) were certainly slanted more toward John McCain. And Warren did publicly support California's Proposition 8, commenting in Saddleback's October newsletter, "This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." His congregants had to dodge angry protesters on their way to Nov. 9 services as a result of Warren's support for outlawing gay marriage in the state.
Ad so, selecting Warren for the invocation was immediately chastised by Joe Solomnese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, which sent a blistering letter to Obama, accusing him of delivering a "genuine blow" to the gay community:
Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.
Solomnese urged Obama "to reconsider this announcement." Commenters on a just-the-facts blog post on U.S. News & World Report's faith blog expressed their anger:
As an openly gay donor to Obama campaign the news of Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inaugeral [sic] is election night deja vu, all over again. Gays and Lesbians were celebrationg [sic] 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 [sic], TURNS THEIR BACK to Rick Warren, a salute of a single finger wouldn't hurt ...either.
A second commenter called the Warren pick a "[t]otal insult to all LGBT Americans," while another summed up his frustration in his title: "Bleep to U too Barack Obama."
Meanwhile, People for the American Way also chastised Warren's Inauguration Day role for the Prop. 8 support and other infractions. Wrote the liberal group's president Kathryn Kolbert:
It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama.
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Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion.
Apparently, no one is going to be happy, according to Matt Lewis, writing on AOL News' Political Machine that conservatives probably aren't happy about Warren being there either.
On the surface, one might wonder why conservatives would object to having an evangelical pastor deliver such an important and historic invocation. But for a long time now, conservative opinion has been greatly divided concerning Warren -- and this latest move is merely one more reason for conservatives to be skeptical of his loyalties.
Jeez, maybe Obama still has Rev. Wright's number.