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. Tunes

    Nothing was cancelled because nothing was scheduled. What a non-story.

    August 28, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  2. howash Dao

    Rick W: Your 15 minutes of fame are all used up in 2008. McKain-AllBama got all what they need from you already. MoRonmey doesn't want you. Saddle back please 😉

    August 28, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  3. Alicia

    Rick folded wisely... I would have to if I had to look forward to hosting a president that is a closet muslim and a billionaire that belongs to a cult..... well, they are both cults.. but you know what I mean....

    August 28, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • JD

      As opposed to being a member of your cult? All religious "faith" is a cult. The faster you realize that, the happier you'll be.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Jeff

      It is spelled too, not to. You be so smart.

      August 28, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • shawbrooke

      The word cult is badly overused. Today cult means something that the speaker disagrees with.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Jack

    Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Da King

      Na, that's ok.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  5. Marilyn

    It's an election dummy, they are going to say the worst about each other, that's the way it is, good stay away nothing will ever change anyway.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Bill

      unkind words always helps a situation

      August 28, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  6. Bob Werner

    Are you saying that Mitt Romney is telling a falsehood Mr. Warren?

    August 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Da King

      Very funny!

      August 28, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  7. mariner v

    Rick Warren talked to god and god told him to stay away because there is going to be really bad weather. He basically said, " Prayer is not going to help the republican party right now because the weather is not going their way." Accordingly, Rick Warren made adjustments.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Bill

      he didn't say basically anything...he spoke very clearly on why, but people must twist words and cut people down to obtain pleasure

      August 28, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Bethurum

      I just love how people comment without reading the original communications between all of the parties concerned! That is not what he said....

      September 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  8. paganguy

    I know why. Neither one of the candidates was willing to kiss his ring. Rick Warren has a serious case of delusion.
    I wonder what happened to his poison flower, the one that got into his eye last year.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bill

      again with the unkind words...I didn't read where Rick Warren cut anybody down with his words unkindly...but you had to in order to find pleasure

      August 28, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  10. blake

    Show some integrity Rick. Completely honest. You lose your credibility without it.

    August 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Bill

      your questioning his integrity without even knowing Rick...by means of message board that he may never read...integrity would be you speaking to him personally

      August 28, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  11. web

    Rick Warren looks like a child molester.

    August 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • cliff

      WEB...and you know this...how?

      August 27, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Alicia

      You must be really familiar with child molesters... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Alicia

      Pete.... with one slight distinction... Mormons do NOT believe that Jesus was God...... a distinction that has ramifications.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  12. Rick

    It was cancelled because neither one of them are Christians. Whether it was initiated by the candidates' lack of interest or Rick Warren's explanation. Both sides had this as their common ground.

    August 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Pete

      Rick, if you are saying that Mormons do not believe in Christ, then you are incorrect. Mormons hold at the center of their faith their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. Many religions dispute this because of historicity, and this is not the place to debate it, but I don't think in the end times Christ is going to say that one group worshipped him better than another. Through His grace we are all saved.

      August 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • heliocracy

      If Obama's not a Christian, then why were you idiots all concerned about his fiery Christian pastor in the last election? You can't even keep your baseless criticisms straight.

      August 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Bethurum

      That's a good one! He has hosted many people at his forums and other events that do not believe in his worldview. He is very inclusive.

      September 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  13. freethinkr

    The Romney camp would never agree to it because it would undoubtedly bring up Mormonism, THE craziest religion ever devised by man. Magic glasses, golden tablets, disproven geneology (Mormons think the American Indians came from Israel!), Garden of Eden in Missouri, Jesus appearing in America 2000 years ago. The most unbelievable, far fetched, patently false "religion" ever.

    August 27, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • W. R. Martin

      "craziest religion"? Crazy and religion are redundant.
      Name one religion that isn't crazy.
      Name one religionist that doesn't hold crazy beliefs.

      August 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • LeoStotch

      If it changes (in a positive way) how someone feels about their environment and other people, beautiful. If it does the opposite, it's a problem. Think a minute...do you really think "God" is listening and can answer prayers to almost 7 billion people?

      August 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • truth be told

      Yes. That is part of what makes God, God.

      August 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • JD

      Prayer does nothing because your god doesn't exist...however, let's say he/she does...

      Is your god omnipotent? Does your god know all? Does your god know everything about you, from beginning to end? If yes, then your god knows how the story ends and changing the plan in the process would equate to admitting that his/her plan is not perfect. Therefore, why waste your time begging your god to change the plan? No amount of silent groveling will change "his holy and divine plan", so why not use the time wasted in prayer doing something useful?

      August 28, 2012 at 1:58 am |
  15. David Nelson

    Rick, please go study your bible and don't come back until you have decided that doctrine actually does matter.

    August 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Bill

      unkind words again...what do you hope to accomplish with unkind comments

      August 28, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  16. Jerry

    Is it true that Rick Warren is changing from belief in Jesus Christ to a religion mixing Christianity and Islam?

    August 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bethurum

      Jerry. And where did you come up with that conclusion? The Chrislam thing has been disproven and not attributed to him!

      September 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  17. Silent Dogooder

    Prayer only works in the presence of faith. If you are an atheist and you claim that prayer does not work for you, you are right.

    August 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Michael

      It's what we call confirmation bias. The Christian (or Muslim, or various other religious folks) will tell someone, i.e. an atheist, to pray to their specific god with all of their heart, etc. If the person doesn't get any results, (assuming that they humor the religious person in question), then the blame game starts and the potential convert is accused of not having enough faith, and they basically want the potential convert to repeat the process until the person convinces him/herself that it's true. And if they do, they probably WILL convert – regardless of the religion – because if you're already talking to a thing and imagining a conversation with it, you're already humoring the idea that it exists. It doesn't matter whether it's Yahweh, Allah, or Baby Huey. All cults practice this kind of thing.

      August 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • truth be told

      The only prayer available to a deceived atheist is the sinners prayer.

      August 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • mariner v

      In other words, "Its not a lie, if you believe it?" On the other hand, you might believe that god will save you if you jump off the empire state building, if you have faith? Gravity will prove you wrong!

      August 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  18. coalesce99

    The reason it was cancelled was because they don't want to highlight Romney's devotion to the cult of Mormon.

    August 27, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  19. Michael

    There was an All You Can Eat buffet going on that was far more relevant to his interests than politics.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • truth be trolled

      plus I think Donald Trump was releasing a new fashion line and he didn't want to miss that . . .

      August 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bill

      again your unkind words help nothing

      August 28, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  20. MKinSoCal

    Rick Warren standing side by side with Papists? And we thought politics made strange bedfellows!

    August 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Christian !!!

      Someone of the name of Norman Vincent Peale warned of this in 1960 .... I just read in another article in this very forum...
      🙂 🙂

      August 27, 2012 at 11:43 am |
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.