Rick Warren cancels presidential forum; mixed explanations as to why
Rick Warren decried what he calls a lack of civility in the presidential race.
August 23rd, 2012
06:12 PM ET

Rick Warren cancels presidential forum; mixed explanations as to why

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) - High-profile pastor Rick Warren has called off plans for a presidential forum that he said was scheduled to include both major party candidates, but there are conflicting accounts about why the event was canceled.

Warren told the Orange County Register that he was nixing his "civil forum" because of the toxic political climate.

"It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day," Warren told the newspaper in an article published Wednesday.

But sources close to President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's political campaigns challenged that explanation, saying the event was canceled because of a lack of interest from the respective campaigns.

"As I understand it, Pastor Warren received tepid responses from both camps well before the supposed 'cancellation,'" said a senior Democratic strategist in contact with the Obama campaign.

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"It appears that the event was canceled because neither the Romney nor Obama campaigns thought it was in their interest to do," the strategist continued, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a delicate political matter.

A source close to the Romney campaign said that the former Massachusetts governor hadn't planned on attending Warren's event: “We were never going, ever. We offered to do a video.”

A source close to Warren who worked on the event planning disputed the offer of a video from Romney’s campaign, ”considering the unique live, long-form Q & A format of the civil forum, obviously, video representation would have been impossible and was never discussed.”

The source said, “presumably the individual who responded on behalf of Gov. Romney confused Pastor Warren’s conversations with top campaign officials about that event with the exclusive five-minute plenary video that both he and President Obama provided at the request of Saddleback Church for a Global Health and HIV/AIDS Summit that Rick and Kay Warren co-hosted with several other ministry organizations at Georgetown University on July 25.”

During the 2008 election, Warren played host to both major party candidates at his Saddleback Church in Southern California, in what he called Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.

Warren told the Orange County Register this week that this year's civil forum had been scheduled to take place this week and that there was interest from both campaigns and from the media.

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"[T]he TV networks were eager to cover it again since it garnered one of the largest viewing audiences of that election," Warren said. "I talked with both campaigns about the possibility of doing it again, and they were both favorable to participating."

Warren's spokesman declined an interview request on Thursday, referring reporters to the Orange County Register.

At the 2008 forum, Obama and Republican presidential John McCain fielded questions one at a time from the pastor on Saddleback's stage in front of 5,000 people and a nationally televised audience.

"We’ve got to learn to disagree without demonizing each other, and we need to restore civility in our civil discourse and that’s the goal of the Saddleback Civil Forum,” Warren said in the statement after the event.

This week, Warren seemed to criticize both campaigns.

"The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling," he told the Register. "But that is not the climate of today's campaign."

"I've never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don't expect that tone to change before the election," Warren said.

Warren also said a larger issue cast a shadow over the event: religious freedom.

"There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean 'You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere,' " Warren told the Register, saying he was planning a forum on religious liberty for next month.

Warren used the issue to take special aim at Obama.

When asked by the Register what he thought of the candidates views on religious liberties he said, "President Obama's policies clearly show what he values, and I have told him that I adamantly disagree with those particular policies."

In February, Warren joined a chorus of Catholic leaders who denounced the administration over the implementation of a policy that required health insurers to provide no-cost contraception coverage to employees, even those working for Catholic hospitals and colleges.

"I'm not a Catholic," Warren, a Southern Baptist, wrote on his Twitter feed, "but I stand in 100% solidarity with my brothers & sisters to practice their belief against govt pressure."

Most evangelical and conservative Christians from Protestant backgrounds do not oppose the use of contraceptives, as official Catholic teaching does. The issue for those groups was what they saw as a threat to religious liberty.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Leaders • Politics

soundoff (945 Responses)
  1. treblemaker

    Rick Warren is a Pharisee. He forgets that his Savior-was a RADICAL JEWISH RABBI!! If Jesus were to return today, I guarantee you that Mr. Warren would reject him on sight because the Savior doesn't fit the image of the hypocritical Republican Christian. Gandhi was more Christian-like than he will ever be. Furthermore I consider the words Republican and Christian to be an oxymoron. Who does he think he is to judge religious character and intent-take the stone out your eye, Mr. Warren. before you remove the speck out of theirs.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • wyl5326

      I guess you are still drunk from the 2008 cool juice you have drunk then, but I've awoken from the stupor and will VOTE out Barack, but you can continue to drink his cool juice to your heart's content !

      August 24, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  2. treblemaker

    Rick Warren is a Pharisee. He forgets that his Savior-was a RADICAL JEWISH RABBI!! If Jesus were to return today, I guarantee you that Mr. Warren would reject him on sight because he doesn't fit the image of the hypocritical Republican Christian. Gandhi was more Christian-like than he will ever be.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  3. Snake-Eyes

    Folks I have said scores of times before & I will say it again here today:

    Many of America's problems would be greatly helped if preachers stopped trying to be politicians and politicains stopped trying to be preachers.

    Any church that hosts somethiong as this should immediately lose its tax exempt status & be forced to pay all owed back taxes immediately. Same goes for these churches that hand out the flyers at election time showing the "diffeences" in the candidates. People can find this information anywhere, no need to have a church supply it. From what I have seen these flyers are always biased in their information.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Nare

      Great comment.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Vader


      August 24, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Jason

      Well put!

      August 24, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • K Kim

      See your point the whole way through – not stopping just at religious organizations.
      Tax exemption for even charities should not be allowed. It has the real effect of permitting privileged members of society to unduly influence public policy by favoring their pet cause regardless of what may be in the best interest of the general ublic. What we do in the name of doing "good" is perverse.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • OTOH

      K Kim,
      " It has the real effect of permitting privileged members of society to unduly influence public policy by favoring their pet cause regardless of what may be in the best interest of the general ublic."

      What? Do you have some plan to outlaw people with money from supporting their chosen causes? I think that Marx and Lenin did.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  4. Nietodarwin

    CANCEL Mr. Warren and all other 'Pastors"

    August 24, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 24, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Religion is unhealthy for all living things on the planet. Prayer is a form of mental illness and delusion. You don't care about the planet or the future because you have your little "heaven." Still on here everyday? Change your diapers.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • truth be told

      When confronted with Truth an atheist will degenerate to filth as in diaper comment

      August 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • stupid followed to its logical conclusion

      becomes atheism

      August 24, 2012 at 11:18 am |

      If no one feeds it it will starve. It lives off of attention.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Dan

      Prayer changes your chances of actually accomplishing something vs just hoping it happens.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Lisa

      Or prayer is hoping that the most powerful being imaginable twists reality in your favor, in which case you might get better results from "Lady Luck."

      August 24, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Ed

      It's fitting when the troll believes the fairytale.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • M

      truth be told: when a person who has lost REASON is confronted with TRUTH (ie, scientifically substantiated reality), sometimes, the peson who has lost REASON retreats to unsubstantiated 'FAITH'. God (in whom I believe) gave us minds to use. 'FAITH' relies on the denial of REASON. As long as you do not alow 'FAITH' to interfere with things that require REASON (engineering, mathematics, physics, medicine, chemistry, etc.) you're AOK. I do not believe God 'tricks' us into having to disbelieve what we can see with our eyes and measure with science. And I do not believe he would punish us for being tricked into believing something that was false by some real or imagined 'Satan'. Again, He created our MINDS for REASONING – to not use that capacity is insulting.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • truth be told

      There is no conflict between science and God. God created science.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • The Real Truth To Be Told

      The person calling themselves "truth be told" is a liar, a coward, and a fraud. The Christian god does not exist, and any smart person can understand why that must be the case.

      If god created science then how come he got so much of it wrong in the bible?

      And what created your god?

      It's obvious that your god doesn't exist. Get over your stupid delusions and get a life, moron.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  6. Steve, Dallas

    Just stick to preaching. Stay out of politics. The more you involve yourself and your church in politics, especially in the National media, the more you make both of you appear to be after money and fame. Go back to your roots, if you even remember what that is.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  7. JDinHouston

    Typical evangelical preacher – they all lie.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  8. Stay Calm

    True religion is feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, taking care of the orphan and the widow or the more vulnerable in society. Doing this in a humble, civil, and quiet way. Howling your political views from a religious perspective is hypocrisy at its finest. When you mix religion with your political views and and your church receives government subsidies or special treatment, then you can be certain you are the apostacy predicted in the Bible.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Cq

      Most of the Christian groups that feed the poor, etc... don't actually do it in a humble, or quiet way. Most use it as an opportunity to proselytize, which leads to the question if they would even bother to do charity if they were prevented from proselytizing. Secular charities have a better track record when it comes to "just helping" people.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  9. ugh!

    Why must we always hear from this obese blowhard? His sermonizing at Obama's inauguration was one of the worst lame invocations of all time.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  10. Numyorangay

    Warren used the issue to take special aim at Obama.

    Fat, misguided, piece of dung! Got two words for you. . .Jimmy Swaggert! Another two. Jim Baker!
    Can't wait to see you wandering around the desert with your pants around our knees and your yoo-hoo

    August 24, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  11. Stan the Man

    Why any candidate would waste a minute talking to this man is beyond me.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      He commands 20,000 votes in California as well as influences millions on a national level. Smart move for the Obama "team" to ignore the guy. Romney / Ryan in 2012

      August 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      He commands 20,000 votes in California as well as influences millions on a national level. Smart move for the Obama "team" to ignore the guy. Romney / Ryan in 2012.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Lisa

      Yes, why not have the sponsorship of the Long Island Medium? What's the difference between Warren's saying that God endorses a candidate, or her saying that "Spirit" does?

      August 24, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  12. Eli

    Worst. Recovery. Ever.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  13. Emily Lowrey

    Coming from Rick Warren, who himself used the 'Christian' values of American to provide justification for the Ugandan government and its people to discriminate against its LGBT community.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  14. Hypatia

    Warren's just mad because no one wants to come to his party. Well, that's the way most of us feel about strident, bellowing fundie xians screeching their doctrine of hate and division.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  15. carl

    who cares what this money grubbing egomaniac says or does?

    August 24, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  16. nolimits3333

    Reagan-Bush-Bush set the national house on fire. They overspent by $12 trillion and counting. We're still paying for Afghanistan, Iraq, the tax cut, the Great Republican Recession.

    We called Fireman Obama to put out the fire and save the house.

    As soon as he arrived, Conservatives in Washington began stabbing the fire hoses, letting the air out of the fire truck's tires, and turning in false alarms (death panels, birth certificate, Kenya, socialist indoctrination of children, closet Muslim, Rev. Wright, etc.).

    Now Conservatives are saying that we should blame the fireman, not the guys who set the fire in the first place.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  17. Lamar in Dallas, TX

    How about we keep government in the statehouse and religion in church! Glad the silly thing is cancelled!

    August 24, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Rick

      Elect someone like Ron Paul and maybe we can begin doing that. The typical Republican and Democrat are fine with big govt and throwing away individual freedoms.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Primewonk

      Rick – Ron Paul is just another run-of-the-mill right-wing, fundiot nutter. He just advocates moving legislation and laws legalizing discrimination moved to the state level.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. nwi

    For all the buzz over evangalicals the last several years, there isn't one on either tickets.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  19. correctlycenter

    What for you possibly say to a Mormon and a Socialist other than I'll pray for you?

    August 24, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Ryan's a Socialist? I thought he was just a Randite anarchist. When did this happen?

      August 24, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  20. adam

    Why would Warren even have considered allowing an America-hating Tax Cheat Romney to abuse his good name ?

    Romney/Ryan want to continue giving Big Oil $10 Billion a year in aid but are against helping the down and out.

    Crooks for Romney/Ryan.
    Rapists for Romney/Ryan.
    Tax Cheats for Romney/Ryan.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • toobad

      Obama team and cabinet is the worst group of tax cheats ever and you are pointing fingers at Romney?

      August 24, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • niknak

      Prove that Toobad.
      I want to see evidence of anyone in Obama's cabinet that has cheated on their taxes.
      Every person who has run for president since Eisenhower has released many years of taxes, including Rmoney's father.
      2 years is nowhere near enough.
      If he is not hiding anything, then why is he not releasing them?

      August 24, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • wyl5326

      So why do you support the treasonous Barack whisper to Vlad about waiting after election for him to sell out US as caught on recordings ? So you prefer treasonous President to an alleged tax cheat when IRS could easily catch him if that is true ! Be sensible instead of being still in stupor after drinking Barack's cool juice since 2008 where he can't run on his own record and resorts to Attack ads and drag the Presidency to it's lowest level by his own actions ! Wake up and kick out Barack and let him wallow in his 'hood as he coined the Romneyhood ! So how do you feel now that I coined the term Barackhood and Obamahood for his own stupidity !

      August 24, 2012 at 10:42 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.