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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

"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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

"[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. Rick

    This clown has no business being involved in politics in any way shape or form. In fact he shouldn't even be allowed to vote due to him paying no taxes via his religion scam

    August 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So non-taxpayers shouldn't be allowed to vote? I could go with that.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  2. If you have faith

    you'll stay at home in November and let God decide...

    It's the only logical choice.

    If you don't have enough faith then go ahead and vote for the Mormon and take a risk that God doesn't mind cult leaders rising to that kind of power.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • jamest297

      You were home schooled weren't you?

      August 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • GOPlies

      Republicans are putting religion aside this one election.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • nothing new here

      Republicans have played the God card way too long.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  3. Dr.Don Claybrook, Sr.

    I know Rick fairly well. His mother, Dot, father Jimmy, and sister Chaundel were members of my first church which was located a block from their home in Redwood Valley, north of Ukiah. I'm saddened by the fact that Rick (or the candidates most likely) will not be having the forum this year. At last year's forum, Rick made a point of saying he would not say publicly how he was going to vote because he'd lose half of his congregation. Actually, if he did make public how he's going to vote, it would cost him maybe 5% of his congregation because his church is in Orange County. I know Rick's theological views and know that he would have an awfully hard time voting for Obama or any democrat for that matter. As a Southern Baptist, he will have a terribly hard time voting for a Mormon. So, he's between a rock and a hard place. All honest Southern Baptist will have a difficult time voting for Romney.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • True Faithful

      Well Dr. Don, if you believe in God, and you believe America is God's chosen forum for Christianity, then God will make sure the right candidate gets eledted whether you cast a vote or not, right?

      So just do what many other Christians caught in this conundrum are planning to do which is just not vote at all and have faith God will sort it out.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Ah, the good old Southern Baptists.

      The same religious nutters who formed the SBC in 1850 because they were just positive that their version of a god wanted them to own "colored" people.

      The same group of religious nutters who in 1998 (14 years ago) voted that their version of a god demanded that wives MUST submit to their husbands.

      The same group of religious nutters who earlier this year voted that equal rights for gay folks was wrong.

      Perhaps these religious nutters would be happier living in a fundamentalist theocracy? But if they keep trying to set one up in the US, I hope they are prepared for a bloodbath.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • nothing new here

      So voting for the "lesser of 2 evils" is out of the question?

      August 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • bryes

      So, it's his bigotry against Mormons that's holding him back?

      August 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  4. Adam

    Why did we feel we needed to hear from this guy in the first place? Just another grifter.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  5. OldMo

    BOzo, Mutt + Ricky = 3 fake Christians + 3 real globalists.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  6. D987654321

    F him anyway.

    Warren's a bigot.

    I still can't believe Obama had him officiate at his inauguration. Well, yeah, I kind of can, considering Obama just summoned the courage to stand up for marriage equality only a few months ago.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Pandering to the 1% pervert vote will not get Obama a second term. Romney/ Ryan 2012

      August 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      Yeah....much better pandering to the religious pervert vote

      August 27, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  7. amy

    Good, now he has more time to tell Uganda to kill gay people.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Killing qu eers in Uganda? About time a nation somewhere showed some common sense. Qu eers the folks who gave the world AIDS.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • .

      Until recently, the origins of the HIV-2 virus had remained relatively unexplored. HIV-2 is thought to come from the SIV in Sooty Mangabeys rather than chimpanzees, but the crossover to humans is believed to have happened in a similar way (i.e. through the butchering and consumption of monkey meat). It is far rarer, significantly less infectious and progresses more slowly to AIDS than HIV-1. As a result, it infects far fewer people, and is mainly confined to a few countries in West Africa.

      In May 2003, a group of Belgian researchers published a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. By analysing samples of the two different subtypes of HIV-2 (A and B) taken from infected individuals and SIV samples taken from sooty mangabeys, Dr Vandamme concluded that subtype A had passed into humans around 1940 and subtype B in 1945 (plus or minus 16 years or so). Her team of researchers also discovered that the virus had originated in Guinea-Bissau and that its spread was most likely precipitated by the independence war that took place in the country between 1963 and 1974 (Guinea-Bissau is a former Portuguese colony). Her theory was backed up by the fact that the first European cases of HIV-2 were discovered among Portuguese veterans of the war, many of whom had received blood transfusions or unsterile injections following injury, or had possibly had relationships with local women.

      Given the evidence we have already looked at, it seems highly likely that Africa was indeed the continent where the transfer of HIV to humans first occurred (monkeys from Asia and South America have never been found to have SIVs that could cause HIV in humans). In May 2006, the same group of researchers who first identified the Pan troglodytes troglodytes strain of SIVcpz, announced that they had narrowed down the location of this particular strain to wild chimpanzees found in the forests of Southern Cameroon . By analysing 599 samples of chimp droppings (P. T. troglodytes are a highly endangered and thus protected species that cannot be killed or captured for testing), the researchers were able to obtain 34 specimens that reacted to a standard HIV DNA test, 12 of which gave results that were virtually indistinguishable from the reactions created by human HIV. The researchers therefore concluded that the chimpanzees found in this area were highly likely the origin of both the pandemic Group M of HIV-1 and of the far rarer Group N. The exact origins of Group O however remain unknown.

      HIV Group N principally affects people living in South-central Cameroon, so it is not difficult to see how this outbreak started. Group M, the group that has caused the worldwide pandemic, was however first identified in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Repub lic of Con go. It is not entirely clear how it transferred from Cameroon to Kinshasa, but the most likely explanation is that an infected individual travelled south down the San gha river that runs through Southern Cam eroon to the River Con go and then on to Kin shasa, where the Group M epidemic probably began.

      Just as we do not know exactly who spread the virus from Cam eroon to Kin shasa, how the virus spread from Africa to America is also not entirely clear. However, recent evidence suggests that the virus may have arrived via the Cari bbean island of H aiti.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Also them qu eers are , oh wait , later. Mom is calling from next trailer. Time to put trash out.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  8. Dawg

    Mr. Warren smells like a hypocrite to me. I know nothing about him but would bet my bottom dollar he is a Republican. Hopefully enough Democrats get elected to the house and senate to give President Obama a fair shot at fixing this country in his second term. The Republicans have done everything in their power to harm this country during Pres Obama's first term.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • bob

      interesting display of moronism

      August 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  9. Rex

    "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"

    Religious freedom does not mean you have the right to impose your religious beliefs of other people. That is what Warren and other zeolots are trying to impose. You are free to practice your religion, whatever that religion may be, in this country, but not in a manner that intrudes on your fellow citizens rights. It is the Christian Right that is trying to redefine the 1st Amendment. Sadly, most of them practice Christianity in a manner that would offend Jesus Christ and are directly contradictory to many of has teachings.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • QS

      Indeed – it is the religious community that is actually trying to redefine the First Amendment to fit their beliefs.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Simon M.

    Greg s wrote: "California is a welfare state, Its the deepest darkests blue state in the country."

    I thought Massachusetts was the bluest of states?? They are actually doing quite well for themselves up there. 🙂

    And your point is?

    August 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • NEDem

      They will be doing even better when Elizabeth Warren gets elected to the Senate!

      August 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • bob

      California AND Illinois are both bastions of Liberals/Democrats and they're both in an extreme world of hurt and would both be forced into bankruptcy if they were corporations.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

      Please, don't feed it.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • truth be told

      Starvation , the danger sign of atheist repression.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • mistamista

      Yes, prayer DOES change things. In the last year alone 130 people were killed by people who said that their religion made them kill. Atheism is the only truly possible chance for the future. The more that people pray to their different versions of Jesus, Mohammed, Ganish etc, etc, etc....the less likely human being will to tolerate others. That's when things get bad. Sadly, there is NO god....and your prayers will never change that fact.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs` .

      August 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Rick

      No, it doesn't. it just allows you to thanks an imagined almighty when coincidentally your prayers come true and ignore it when they don't.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  12. Adam

    When Obama is thrown out of office, conservatives will be even happier than liberals were when he was elected. Truth.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • mistamista

      Well, you'll have four more years to think that over. If Romney & Son are going to be demolished and all the wishing in the world will not change that. Truth.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Rick

      Of course they will, because then they can go back to making the rich richer while making everyone else poorer, discriminating against blacks, gays, women, the poor, students, hell...everyone who isn't a white man over 50.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Adam

    It's unbelievable to me that Obama breaching people's religious freedom isn't the biggest issue of this election, even with the economy in the tank.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Which God?

      @adam. How have you 'lost' your religious freedom? Can you still pray? Ans:yes. Can you still go to church? Ans: yes. Can you stick your religion into others lives? Ans: NO!

      August 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Joseph

    Warren was so bias against Mr. Obama in the last forum that I wouldn't give this money grubbing so called preacher the time of day.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  15. rustywheeler

    Hey Rick: they're just not that into you.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  16. Shirogami

    What Joshua means by not 'relevant', is that he disagrees with his politics.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Don

    It seemed clear to me that Warren's "forum" in 2008 between Obama and McCain was "skewed" in McCain's favor. Because Obama was questioned first McCain had the advantage of "advance awareness of the questions". The absence of the "Warren forum" in this year's election is no loss for the electoral process. Warren may attempt to camouflage his political bias, but he's clearly a "rightward leaning" evangelical. Any pretense of objectivity is just that...a pretense. Don Wilson, Overland Park, KS

    August 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  18. Cigarman

    Rick Warren is just like a preacher in any mega church. He has his parishoners so messed up that they actually believe in HIM, not GOD. If Rick Warren and any church that even mentions Politics were Prosecuted under Separation of Church and State Laws, the United States would be much better off. We as Real Americans need to push for Prosecution of all of these type people, especially Romney.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  19. Stan

    Even though Romney refused to participate, I like how he takes a jab at Obama while cancelling the event. Can he spell B-I-A-S-E-D?

    August 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  20. nothing new here

    This is one major election where religion is not being pushed by either side.
    The God card had been played out.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Have you not read the RNC platform? Have you not read the various state Republican Party platforms?

      Where the hell do you think calling for constîtutional amendments to ban abortion come from? Where the hell do you think calling for constîtutional amendments banning equal rights for gay folks come from? Where the hell do you think calls for teaching creationism in science class in public schools come from?

      August 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
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.