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. jack

    Its Rick Warren, who cares?

    August 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  2. Nietodarwin

    This is another good story on religion. Many many people see that this guy is just one more con artist. Todd Akin has helped out a lot this week too. Many people who have been raised in the xstian faith are WAKING UP to the fact that these people are really really sick and evil. Not too many people in this country want to FORCE A WOMAN TO BEAR THE CHILD OF HER RAPIST. The GOP IS the same as the TALIBAN. The truth hurts, education is painful, but it's happening.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  3. Typo

    Payers change things.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Typo

      dangit, that was supposed to go under the robot's post...

      August 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Nice and (also) funny there "Typo" I hope you are wrong. Romney has lots more $$$ than Obama. If you are correct, we lose our democracy forever.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      I can read and spell, so I got the joke anyway, (which is to say I knew where it belonged.) Like the guy down below said about that robot, "Don't feed it."

      August 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  4. SnapinTurtle

    I have three copies of the Purpose Driven Life various simpletons have given me over the years. He is a charlatan like most of them are, happily for this one I think his 15 minutes are up.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  5. Nietodarwin

    CNN did a wonderful story a few weeks ago about the many "Pastors" who have FINALLY admitted that they don't believe in god. Someone should steer Mr. Warren towards this story. Maybe he can get some help, then finally help others, and help us all by getting his face out of our politics.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  6. realist512

    It's easy. He didn't want to interview a Mormon.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Ed

      Or the Morman didn't want to pull back the curtain?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  7. Frank Ricard

    Event was cancelled since there was no interest and people didn't want to pay the fee associated with this event. By the way, when is Warren going to come out of the closet?

    August 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  8. Dave

    Oh Rick, Rick, Rick!! Just admit that you aren't as big a deal as you think you are. And your goatee looks like you kissed a cow's rear.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Ed

      Now that Graham is retired, he probably figured he was in line for "America's Pastor." Tough luck.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  9. Nietodarwin

    Either humanity will get rid of religion, or it will be the cause of our ruining the planet, and religion will get rid of us. Naturally, xstians don't care about the future of life on the planet, even for their own offspring, because they believe in "the rapture" and "heaven" and "eternal life" and ......who knows what other DELUSIONS.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  10. nothing new here

    Perhaps Pastor Warren should recommend that his followers deal with the logs in their own eyes, before worrying about everyone else's splinters.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  11. Nietodarwin

    Religion is a lack of education. We don't need little mr. xstian Warren saying anything about government. There is still WAY too much crazy religion in the american Taliban (the GOP) WE HAVE A MACHINE ON MARS. There is no god, so he had nothing to do with it. It's called SCIENCE.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  12. nothing new here

    People like Rick Warren just want to have their cake and eat it too. Not unusual, compared to other people. It is just that Warren and Co. constantly play the "religioh card".
    These people should be thankful to be in a society where they can worship in their churches, and operate with tax exemptions. This would not be happening in other countries.
    I think it is time that we start taxing these churches. If they want to play politics, then they can pay their dues, just like the rest of us.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  13. PeterD

    There is no Civility in America as once My Guru said that Every Major Street of Major City in America Goes to Hell.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Jon O

    Name-calling? This guy is one of the most dishonest partisan hacks out there.

    He has no right to talk about name-calling with his-half truth opinions on national events.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

      Don't feed it.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • truth be told

      Typical communist response, deny the Truth and restrain free speech.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Then why skunk up prayer with politics?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheese Makers

      Libraries change things.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  16. Sparkly

    *branches. Get so mad at these people I can't spell.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Huebert

      Don't feel to bad, I can't spell even when I'm not mad.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Ed

      Me too Huebert.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  17. Sparkly

    Rick Warren is about promoting Rick Warren and nothing else. And WHY do all these churches still enjoy tax exempt status when they clearly are no longer churches but simply braches of the Republican party? I left organized Christianity years ago because they made it clear they only welcome Republicans. Luckily I'm aware Christ accepts everyone, but how many people have they pushed away from God in the past ten or so years? Good luck when you explain yourself to Jesus, Rick. You're going to need it.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Lionel

      Well said. Republicans claim to be the party of family values and morality which is something they are not.

      They are very hypocritical and the hurricane that is heading to the convention is a sign from God.

      Obama / Biden 2012

      August 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  18. john vance

    I doubt if either one of these candidates wants religion injected into the current debate. Potential downside for both and not much visible benefit for either. There are religious folks on both sides of this election and at this point keeping mum regarding religion is the best thing they can do fo their choice.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  19. Scuzy Meezy

    Forget this church thingy. People have been praying as far as you can go back.

    Yet it's the Wall Street and the powerful been having their dreams come true.

    CEO making off will billions each year just be gaming the system.

    People have prayed enough. They build the church and only the church owners prosper.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  20. Bob Ussery

    Rick Warren doesn't represent my God, Jesus Christ, nor what the Scriptures teach relating to politics and Christian values. So take a deep breath and relax....Rick Warren's work is, well, Rick Warren's; don't confuse it with Christianity's teachings, get that from Scriptures.

    August 24, 2012 at 11:37 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.