Digital News Report- President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Reverend Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2009. The decision has sparked controversy, especially among the GLBT community, who feels that Warren is intolerant and homophobic. Warren was a strong advocate of California’s Prop 8, the ban on gay marriage, and felt that it needed to pass to uphold free speech. He has publicly compared gay marriage to incest, pedophilic marriage, and polygamy.
Warren gained national attention when he hosted the Civil Forum on the Presidency at Saddleback Church, which marked Senators Obama and McCain’s first appearance together as the presumptive Presidential nominees. The Saddleback Church is an evangelical church located in Lake Forest, California. It has over 23,000 people in attendance weekly making it the largest church in California and the 4th largest in the United States.
Joe Solmonese, the head of the Human Rights Campaigncalled the selection of Warren a “genuine blow” to the cause of gay rights in the country. He continued saying that, “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.”
Obama has responded to the controversy by saying “it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on some social issues.” He went on to say that he is and will continue to be a “fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans.”
Warren denies claims that he is homophobic. He has stated, “ff course [I’m not homophobic]. I have always treated them with respect… When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them. When the protesters came, we served them water and doughnuts.”
Rick Warren released a statement stating “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.”