December 18th, 2008
08:26 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Obama Defends Rick Warren Pick

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/18/rick.warren/art.obama.warren.gi.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration."]Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

He's sticking with the pastor. President-elect Barack Obama is not backing down from his decision to have evangelical "celebrity" Rick Warren deliver the invocation at his inauguration next month, despite growing anger from liberal groups and gay rights proponents.

Warren is a lightening rod for controversy because he opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Most recently, he endorsed California's Proposition 8; which banned gay marriage.

Obama is defending his pick of Warren. At a news conference in Chicago today, he said a "wide range of viewpoints" will be presented at the inaugural events.

"What we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans," said Obama.

"I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency," he added.

Just moments ago, Pastor Rick Warren released this statement:

"I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn't agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.

Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.

The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God's blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America's leaders during this critical time in our nation's history." – Statement from Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church

Do you agree with Obama's decision to have the pastor give the invocation at his swearing-in?
We'd love to hear your thoughts.

We'll have the latest on this breaking story and tonight's other headlines starting at 10pm E.T.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Joe Gleneden Beach, OR

    A man,who compares Gays @ Lesbians to pediphiles and incestors is a totally choice by inappropriate choice
    by Obama.A signicant affront to the vast majority of gay people who supported
    him. Speaks volumes!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  2. Wayne April

    If President-elect Obama wants to include all voices and opinions under his umbrella, then where are those who hate blacks and those who hate mixing of the races. Similar arguments to Warren's about gay marriage were used for years to justify the bias against inter-racial marriage. There are so many other pastors with more neutral views he could have picked. You can't blame the gay community for being suspicious about why he picked Warren?

    December 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  3. John Howard

    We forget that Jesus added a tax collector by the name of Matthew to be one of the twelve. If you look at it another way he was one of Jesus' cabinet members. Can you image how the Jews must have felt about him dining and adding this crook as one of his crew?

    December 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  4. Tom, Oregon

    Barack's first real miss-step. To hear someone like Warren compare gay marriage to incest and pediphelia is simply offensive to this heterosexual. The only justification for this choice politically is perhaps it frees up Obama to do away with overt governmental forms of discrimination, such as "don't ask don't tell". Overall, however, it was a poor decision.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  5. Diana in Alexandria

    For Pete's sake, Rick Warren is definitely a Christian and has been asked to offer an opening prayer. I'm confident that he is very capable of offering a wonderful prayer asking God for protection and guidance for our new President. Let's give the rest of the controversy a break, please!!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  6. Maryl, GA

    I agree that President Elect Barack Obama is following his stated platform. He is the president of all the people. He told them that he was the president even for those who did not vote for him so....

    December 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  7. Stewart Lane

    I was a Hillary supporter who was convinced to vote for Obama.
    As a gay man I have to ask, did he have to pick this man to bless his inauguration? On the heels of the California referendum, this is nothing less than a rebuff of those gays and lesbians who supported him. Kind of reminds me of Bill Clinton getting our vote and then supporting "Don't ask, don't tell". I'm getting angry, and I'm far to old to have to fight this fight again.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  8. Linda Lou

    I think everyone needs to get over themselves. Why does any self identified group of people believe they should be given special treatment over any other. The largest population of diverse individuals made history this election and President Elect Obama could not, ever, pick a minister to say a prayer that would possibly satisfy everyone. I do not necessarily believe in everything Rick Warren says or stands for, but then again I don't believe in everything any minister has to say – Get Over It!!!!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  9. Natasha, Canada

    Rick Warren was asked to deliver his blessings not to comment on his personal opinions, which many may disagree and agree. Try to remain focused on the primary objective, The Inauguration.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  10. BigD Lakes & Woods Minnesota

    Rick Warren is not really a Champion of the Evangelical World like He was. Rick Believes in God Fundamentally + has Realistic Christian Values + Goals like Peace + Pandemic Diseases + Starvation.
    Barack Obama Again Shows His Grasp of the Worlds Issues + Ideas on How to Fix Them + How to go About it, Using His High Placed Diplomatic Skills. The Man is Pragmatic, Smart + Fearless! "God Bless You Barack Hussein Obama!" Finally a Man of Character + Understanding Who is Able to Express Himself to Us, God + the World!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  11. Gregg, Florida

    Obama is simply representing all Americans and is trying to be a bridge between us. As an evangelical I will be more open to hearing others views knowing that mine is being listened to. It will help reconciliation.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  12. Jasmine

    To pretend outrage at this is a bit absurd simply because Obama has already stated how he feels about the LBGT community. While he feels they should not have their civil rights violated, he does not believe in gay marriage. Anyone who does not agree with (as they are completely free to do so) should not have voted for him knowing that this was his stance on the issue. To have Rick Warren deliver the Invocation does not mean he subscribes to his societal views, and he's not asking for his advice on them either. Secondly the majority of Christians do not believe in same-sex marriage, so honestly, who could he have picked. I'm not taking a side on Warren's comments, I'm just asking people to act so surprised.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  13. Donna Slade

    I agree with President-Elect Obama's decision to choose Rick Warren. I belong to Mariner's Church in Newport Beach, a sister-like church of Saddleback. He's reaching out to all people regardless of faith and I commend his courage.

    May God bless Obama, his family and the United States of America.

    Donna Slade

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  14. Diana Mitchell

    Give it a rest. Rick Warren is not the Devil incarnate, just a minister. Barrack Obama is (will be) the president of the united states of america. I'm sure he is able to determine whom is wishes to give the invocation at his inagural. The media drives this story as it does all stories ...hello,
    people like controversy about anything and everything. Lay off the media, it won't be news.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  15. craig

    As. A gay man. Partnered fOr 11 years and have been passionately been behind obama during the campaign I am saddened and hurt by his. Choice. This is americas day and for a man who considers my relationship incest I am sad about his. Choice. He. RePresents and preaches hate and what next will happen to divide americans??

    December 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  16. Giselle

    Obama is not wrong for what he did. He chose Rick Warren, an American, independent thinker and outspoken advocate for what he believes in. Each is a man with a belief system that moves them at the core. They are exercising the very rights we claim to value. Freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Isn't that what America prides itself in?

    December 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  17. Richard

    We forget so quickly what this all means... Change for the eveyone. Congratulation! President-Elect Obama! Everyone is not going to be happy.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  18. Stephen E. Follansbee

    When President-elect Obama invites a white supremacist/racist to speak at the inaugural celebration, then I will believe his "inclusive" approach to this issue. It is too bad that Mr. Obama has invited someone who perpetuates rather than clarifies the confusion between church and state.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  19. jeffrey

    I do not support President – Elect Obama's decision this time around- buidling bridges is important and to be admired, but to give a place of prestige, honor and spotlight, to someone that is so skewed and hateful, is simply wrong. If this were a different age, would we give Adolph Hitler a voice as well, just to build a bridge- maybe i would have more respect for Rick Warrens opinions- if he wre to recognize the BIBLES teaching that GLUTTONY is one of the SEVEN deadly sins. Start at home before you judge mr Warren.Sorry Obama, i lost a little respect in your trying to be politically open this time.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  20. james earl

    I don’t believe in gay marriage, but I believe the gay community should be protected under the law equally, my point is ever since the rick Warren and Obama issues started I learned that gay people who should be tolerate other have double stander when it comes to people who don’t hold their view.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  21. Grace

    Obama so far has kept his word on issues he spoke about fixing, he also did want to bring everyone together. Obama has his reasons for who he picks, he is a very smart man and i trust him. As far as what i think about Rick Warren i put aside

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  22. katherine kennedy

    Please stop talking about the Rick Warren decision as though the only reason for the outcry is his stand on gay marriage. It's a much broader concern.

    Many of us who are moderate Democrats are extremely tired of evangelists with their right-wing social agenda dominating the political scene. We've had to listen to them for the past eight years and were expecting to hear some articulation of our more inclusive values during the Obama administration.

    But what do we get at the inauguration? Another right-wing evangelist in the spotlight. It is appalling that these divisive values are once again being given a place of honor. Obama should be deeply ashamed of himself. And again, these sentiments are not from the left wing, but from a very moderate Democrat.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  23. Susan Wight

    Rick Warren wrote a fantastic book in, "The Purpose Driven Life." It's first sentence is one of my favorite's, and usually puts things in perspective for me. Perhaps it will help others who may not have yet read it. It simply starts with the sentence, "It's not about you."

    President Elect Obama is looking past himself and perhaps for the greater good of all, not just some (special interest groups). That may be hard for some (special interest groups) to swallow.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  24. Dolores Palacio

    Yes, your panelist got it absolutely right! This is such a symbolic day which should be celebrated joyously by everyone. This choice is hurtful to so many people. There would have been plenty of other occasions for Rick Warren to participate in White House events...just not this day!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  25. tom

    am a 67 year old gay man...am not concerned about marriage period..most end up in divorce anyway...but the insult of choosing rick warren ..too much ..I worked ..contributed..separated from life long friends...who supported McCain because of palin...tomarrow am sending all info on Obama back to democratic party..will never vote for another democrat...he screwed the gay community..who will he screw next

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  26. Angela

    Since President-elect Barak Obama has the choice of whom he wants to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, we should support it. Why, because, those words that will be spoken at that most historical time (including personally historical), will be words of strength to him in his times of trial during his presidency. However, perhaps a little lesser known pastor would have caused less controversy.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  27. RA

    Hooray to President-elect Obama for refusing to bow down to the onslaught of demands to remove Pastor Rick Warren. No matter how you slice it, the BIble (as well as all major religions) are very clear on homosexuality. It is not God's intention. Yes, God does love everyone, but it doesn't mean that He accepts choices that we make that are not aligned with his Word. God bless President-elect Obama.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  28. Bruce Koff

    The Presidential Inauguration is a time to inspire America and the world. Elevating a bigot to a national stage and calling it "inclusive" is no inspiration. It is a betrayal of all that America represents.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  29. Bill R

    I honestly feel betrayed by the Rick Warren pick. To build a new bridge, he doesn't need to burn one.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  30. John in Arizona

    The choice of Pastor Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation is the first big mistake of the Obama transition. I have been an active supporter of Barack Obama and campaign volunteer. I have been impressed with all his cabinet appointments so far, and the remarkable job being done by his transition team. But this invocation choice is a painful slip-up. I understand the desire to expand the religious point of views that are represented at the inauguration, but Rev. Warren has a reputation for his exclusive and divisive positions. And the invocation is not unimportant. It will set a tone for the rest of the day's proceedings, and it is the wrong tone. As a Protestant pastor myself, I would have recommended John Bryson Chane, Dean of the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington DC, or Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite, former President of Chicago Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago and currently a religion columnist for the Washington Post.. The President-Elect has said he will not be afraid to admit his mistakes and correct them. This should be the first one.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  31. Mark Stelter

    Let's give Obama a break. If we villify everyone that disagrees with us, who has said something that we strongly disagree with, we wouldn't have anyone left to praise. Rick Warren is reverred for the way he brings purpose to individuals in ways that have nothing to do with the gay or lesbian issue.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  32. Synitha

    I agree with President-Elect Obama decision to choose Rick Warren. President-Elect Obama is his own man and can make his own decision without people attempting to pressure him to change his mind. That illustrates to me that he will not buckle under pressure when his base does not agree with a decision he makes. He made himself very clear that he is a President for all the people not just the Democrats.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  33. Jeffrey Schmalz

    What Barack Obama did to the Gay and Lesbian community with his choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration would be no different than inviting the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to the Black community.

    Sure Rick Warren is entitled not to support Gay Marriage, but has he come out in support for a national civil union bill to help prevent the disenfranchisement and persecution of millions of LGBT Americans?

    Why has he compared gay relationships to incest and polygamy. This is just a sick, misguided decision that Senator Obama has made, and it would never have been done to any other minority.

    Jeffrey Schmalz

    December 18, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  34. hakafos44

    I would have preferred a stronger public speaker like Joel Osteen or TD Jakes, but I am willing to see if Pastor Warren is willing to show tolerance in his presentation and motivate this country towards unity. I hope he admonishes the religious right to suspend their narrow views in favor of embracing all Americans as we struggle to restore our national and international prominence.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  35. Sarah

    i am not in agreement with Rick Warren about a number of things, including his views on gay rights. Despite what Rick Warren says, I think he is homophobic. However, he is like many Americans in this country and he will be one of the people President-Elect Obama will represent. I am glad to see Obama reaching out to people of all walks of life and views. It is refreshing. He said he would reach out to Evangelicals, and he is doing that. At the same time, I expect he will support the rights of gays. In terms of gay rights, we should quit fighting the battles and work on winning the war.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  36. Matt

    I feel that Obama's promises on open dialogue and bridging gaps can only be accomplished by having varying viewpoints around. I daresay that tolerance applies to all involved, and that means that gay-rights supporters need to be tolerant of their mainstream Christian counterparts. I think that this is a good way to show such acceptance and diversity.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  37. Maureen Mather

    Re: Rick Warren, I have been an avid supporter of civil rights my entire life, but why Barack Obama can only chose people who believe exactly what he believes I find symptomatic of the illness Obama saw and named – the division of the country into special interest groups pitted against one another instead of groups coming together for the good of the country. I find their outrage alarming.

    Maureen Mather

    December 18, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  38. Camille

    Its Obama's day he is free to choose whom he wants, I am just glad I have a president that knows how to seek divine intervention, and start his task as president with PRAYER, people are entirely too distracted with the mundane and minute details. So he spoke aginst Gay marriage, that is his opinion, thats why he does not not live in your house.... if you have a loving support group that includes friends and family who supports your choice in life hold on to them dearly.. but for heavens sake its OBAMA'S day.

    December 18, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  39. Kristen-University Park, PA

    I agree. Obama has chosen someone who he trusts to pray over him for these next 4 years. I don't think this had anything to do with gay people. Obama is right we have to be able to agree to disagree.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  40. Andrea

    Hmm...He is the President-Elect he can choose who he wants for his inauguration! When you are the President-Elect you can pick who you want to open at your inauguration!

    December 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  41. Sarah in FL

    I do NOT agree with Obama's choice for Warren as the one to offer the prayer at the Innaguation.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  42. David Batts

    I'm advertising a boycott of the swearing in of president Obama. As long as Pastor Warren's is a part of the service. I am a gay american and i'm not the same as some pedophile like Warren says I am. I don't care if he's for gay rights or not.. But as long as he says I'm just the same as a incest couple or a pedophile I can not support anything he is part of.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  43. Jim,

    Yes I agree – Its about time that Gods people say Enough & speak out
    Sin is sin period. Homosexuallity is wrong,Adultry is wrong,Theft is wrong,Murder is wrong, The Miricle is God has not wiped this Nation off the Face of the earth for its wickedness. Gode raised this Nation up & he can most certianly Destroy it- & if this Nation does not repent it will be destroyed.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  44. Gilby-HI

    I think he should have picked Rev. Wright. Rev. Wright has had so much bad press and TV coverage. He has thousands of people that love him. I would love to see and hear him give one of his firey sermons at the inauguration. Now that would be a real change.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm |
  45. Dulcie - Denver

    Last night I was pretty infuriated by the choice. I'm straight, but I deplore inflammatory and divisive public comments by anyone.

    Today, I'm much calmer. Personally, I would have rather seen someone slightly more moderate – against gay marriage, but someone who hadn't lumped homosexuals in with incest and pedophilia. I think that's close-minded and bigoted.

    But it's PE Obama's choice and perhaps we *can* learn something from this. We might not like it, but I guess I can live with it. I just don't have the energy to maintain much anger with the watching our economy burst into flames.

    December 18, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  46. KMiley

    Mary from Penn makes a good point. When it comes to religion, there is no one who will be acceptable to all. If Obama and Warren can agree to disagree, can't the rest of us?

    December 18, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  47. Chuck in Connecticut

    People are forgettng what the up coming inauguration is all about. This is not the inauguration of the United States, or the inauguration of gay and lesbian couples or ushering in change. It’s Obama’s day. It’s the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States. Just like a Baptism, Bahmitsfa or Wedding. It’s his choice and no one elses opinion matters. Should I as a heterosexual male be offended or feel left out when a gay couple gets married by a gay minister? I wonder if Barney Frank attends Sunday services for gay and lesbians only, or if he attends services at all. Get real America!

    December 18, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  48. Tammy, Berwick. LA

    This once again is a sign of the arrogance we know and love in BO the PE. Any guy who will tick off his voting base to placate his naysayers and try to call it creating unity is a ball-less wonder in my book. The next four years should be so entertaining.

    December 18, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  49. Michael Murdock

    President-Elect Obama has made a choice. He's made many choices recently and even though I am a Republican and have been for a number of years, I am impressed. It's HIS inaguration. He can have bless whomever he wishes to. The people making noise about this should get over it. It's not sending a message, it's those who are fearful that it will judging it because they're scared. Get over it. It's a prayer and it will last a couple of moments in the scheme of things and be forgotten the moment the Oath of Office takes place. Lighten up and take a breath. Our country has BIGGER issues.

    Michael Murdock – The one who should be CEO of Yahoo, INC.

    December 18, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  50. Mary, Pennsylvania

    I agree with President-Elect Obama's decision to choose the person he thinks is most capable of asking for God's blessing upon this country and his leadership. No matter who he selects there will be those who do not like the decision. I'm not a fan of Rick Warren but this is Obama's inauguration, give him a break.

    December 18, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
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