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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things. .

    August 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Atheism is Healthy for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

      Actually – you know what? It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. Teaching kids to be agnostic helps reinforce their understanding of the new real things they can see and learn about in life. It helps them properly separate the known from the unknown without confusing them. They just need to be taught things that are unknown, like god, and things that are made up, like all religion.

      Atheists have strong minds, and don't run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, disserving society).

      We have only begun to scratch the surface in using the mind to its maximum. Damaging it with made-up junk that politicians and salesmen dreamed up long ago is senseless, and limits the mind's potential. These politicians and charlatans didn't even do a good job of organizing and being consistent with the stuff they dreamt up to try to control people. Daddy used to say they were caught with their pants down when the bible was first translated so that common folk could read it. Very true.

      old mama kindless

      August 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • RDS

      Prayer has never been shown to change anything. Show me the data.

      August 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • The power of Christ compels you

      to stop your insane trolling as it is giving ME a bad name in the patheon of heaven, all the other guys, ra, zeus, vishnu, tao, dionysus, god the father, not to mention the holy spirit, etc. Knock it off already you moron and the voices you hear in your head are not answers to your prayers; the truth is that you are very boring and insignifiigant, get over yourself!!! Stop, the power of Christ commands you!!!! Sh*it head.

      August 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Islamism Is healthy for any other living things, but not for humans since no other living things give a $H|T whether there are 72 hoors in Jannat waiting for them or not, if they die unnatural deaths.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • SeilnoigileR

      I doesn't because you are STILL posting the same lies....

      August 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  2. RDS

    Rick couldn't deal with the Moroni and the golden tablets!

    August 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  3. BobInIrvine

    As a local to Saddleback Church (and having gone there a couple of times for secular meetings), it's an amazing edifice to how much money there is in the God business.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • MMR

      Lots of money, and it's all tax-exempt.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Profit

      Cathedrals, basilacas, temples, crystal palaces, vatican city, abbeys, synagogues, churches, etc. add up al the wealth (asset value) of the real estate and cash flow of all combined would make the largest corporations look insignifigant by comparrison.

      August 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  4. jumpinjezebel

    As I stated last time, the rest of the world was laughing at America when they saw our two candidates get in front of some church leader and pledge fealty and slobber over each other in front of all Americans. Obama had to do it to attempt to dispel the "He's a Muslim" baggers. This time Romney would get all chewed up by a couple of questions about his religion.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Truth

    In November Christians will have a clear choice that couldn't be more black and white. It's the choice between black and white, and we all know which side the racist republicans will vote...

    August 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  6. Jon

    *sigh* Yeah, that would be nice, Mr. Warren. But this political environment didn't come out of nowhere. It's been brewing for a long time, and now we're stuck with it.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  7. Jesus was a hunchback

    It's because Romney is not a Christian.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • jamest297

      And that is exactly what most of the citizens of the USA prefer. Give us an old-time fiscal conservative who knows how to value a dollar and leave the hocus pocus to countries in the middle east and africa.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Good to know

      I always wondered why it looked like jesus' asz was not touching the cross, the hunchback explains it. I have some really nice rosary type jesus figures at a very reasonable price, and the beads are just fabulous, shipping and handling not included, contacte me at ......

      August 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  8. jamest297

    Can there be any doubt why christianity is losing market share in the USA and around the world? It is goobers like this who contribute to the (joyous) shining of a light on their 5th century view of the world.

    August 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      market share? HAHAHAHa

      August 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, bill, insightful comeback....for you, that is

      August 27, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  9. Norm

    Why does this joker think he's even relevant enough to have anything to do with this election.
    I hope he sunk a boatload of money into this before he got the face palm from both sides.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  10. cbr

    Who is this man? Why is he getting all this attention?

    August 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Norm

      He thinks he's "somebody"
      But he's the only one that thinks that.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  11. RE McCray

    Confused. A gay pastor is having a forum to discuss what issue with the President? Who is he?

    August 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  12. Patrick

    Perhaps the good pastor should move to a country like Iran where you are only allowed to belong to one religin and it is integral with the civil authority. Obama is President of all the eople of America, not just the ones that morons like this think "count".

    August 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  13. MennoKnight

    I rather liked the debate at Rick's church 4 years ago.
    It seemed fair, civil and open.
    To bad it is canceled.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  14. Mystical Pizza

    "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.
    translation.................no one cares or watches Rick Warren.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  15. Mike Buck

    Warren is right about one thing. The style of modern politics formulated by the likes of Karl Rove and FOX Noise are now common place. The Dems have decided to strike back with the same tactics and the Teabaggers are now saying "This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not bicker and argue 'bout who killed who" to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  16. hubert39

    Christians involved in politics?? I guess they forget the sin about lying and gossip. The Bible list 617 sins. Most so call Chrisitains only pay attention to 3 or 4 of them. The other 614 are good sins.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  17. Joe Talks!!!

    Romney and Obama have this election. USA knowS this.................

    August 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  18. Mike

    I reported abuse to every single comment here because none of you were being civil.

    August 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • blogger formerly known as Who invited me?

      S T F U

      August 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      gosh – maybe you should go hang out in Eatocracy – they are probably nicer over there.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Hey mikey(he likes it), did you report yourself for being abusive to others?

      August 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  19. GOPlies

    Obama has this election. Republicans know this

    August 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • DemoncrapsLie

      Romneyhas this election. Demoncraps know this

      August 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Seriously


      George W takes the cake on lying.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  20. Mark

    Warren is charlatan and egomaniac. His brand of religious liberty – as is the case for most evangelical Christians in this country – is forcing their religious views on everyone else in the name of "policy." That is, they get to be free to tell everyone else how to live. What hypocrites.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • meteorcrater

      Perfectly stated.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
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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.