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. Tom

    Good grief, the republicans are coming! Hide the women and children!

    August 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  2. judy

    right wing christians that preach junk science should stay out of politics. You have no right dictating to anyone about religion or morals . Clean up your own, Just because you ask to be forgiven and cry and act sorry dosent mean it is so. The mormon religion is really goofie and if you want to trust your future to mitt how wears his majic underware and is waiting for his planet have at it.Foeward 2012

    August 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Get all your sinning in before November after that it will be a Romney/ Ryan tea party for 8 years of restoring America.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Dubhly

      simple response to that one... Um no to Romney, No to the tea party non-patriots, and No to the republican hypocrites!

      August 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Sin is a construct by the church to guilt people into wanting to be controlled.

      August 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  3. Barbara Bartels

    Whatever reason the 2012 Forum at Saddleback was cancelled, it was the right thing to do. I watched four years ago and sat there astonished at Obama's claims to Rick Warren that he was a Christian. Well you sure didn't fool me as I remembered his voting record while he was in the Illinois Senate having lived in one of the Chicago suburbs. If a baby survived an abortion, it was legal for a doctor to kill the surviving infant once outside the womb. Obama's "yes" had been one of the votes. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. You did the right thing Rick.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • DJP

      I am reasonably certain that you are insane.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Barbara...Rick Santorum made this claim by misinterpreting what Obama said (SHOCKER)!!
      The following article which was located with a simple google search explains it all perfectly. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/mar/10/rick-santorum/rick-santorum-said-obama-said-any-child-born-prema/

      August 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  4. ccb

    While I respect Rev. Warren, I feel that he and other Christian leaders have not stepped up to the plate in re racial attacks on Pres. Obama, have not attacked Romney-Ryan's attack on the poor and senior citizens, them trying to significantly trying to cut student aid(I wonder what his college students and those about to go are saying to him??), etc. Christian leaders, who really are Christians, not those who are playing Christian for political gain, when, when are you going to speak up for the cause of Christ?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • jeddie

      Unity is becoming a utopian idea. Our rhetoric rallies around those viewpoints that sperate us instead of finding common areas that we can work together from. Many people say that do not rspect another person because of the views they hold, but expect their points to be heard and held in the highest regard.
      Politics will not solve these issues. Both parties can only blame the other one instead of taking responsibility for their actions or inactions.

      August 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • SeilnoigileR

      And yet you still keep posting here.....guess we should pray harder.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • truth be told

      It is apparent that a great many people still cannot grasp two basic Truths. Atheism is useless and God is available.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  6. rob

    Rick Warren is a dangerous, repugnant, hate-mongering bigot. I could understand Romney appearing with him, but why would Obama?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  7. J.C.

    Hey Rick, you know what that goatee around them pretty lips looks exactly like...yep. Particularly when you open your stupid mouth.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  8. beau

    So the Republicans are going to settle on an east coast, elite, millionaire from an aristocratic family? What is his experience that will make him a successful Conservative President?
    1. He fires people, lays off employees, and outsources jobs while pocketing the pension funds of those same employees.
    2. He is comfortable in an upper class setting. After all, America IS the upper class, isn't it? The little people, like you and I, are not really very important. People of Romney's class and background see us as livestock that can understand English.
    3. He does not care if Americans suffer. He has made lots of them suffer so far in his life. He's made of tough stuff. No weepy compassion will ever cloud his judgment.
    4. He knows how to destroy corporations and sell off their assets. He could use those skills to destroy the federal government, a stated goal of Conservatism
    5. After the Romney Administration is over in 2016 or 2018, Conservatives will say, "Hey, you can't blame us for the disastrous Romney Administration. He wasn't a TRUE Conservative. What we need is a TRUE Conservative like Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum … or maybe govornor Palin."

    August 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  9. beau

    If you're a mormon:
    You believe in a man named Joseph Smith that declared himself a general against the American Government and then said he would create a Theocratic Monarchy with himself at its head.
    You also believe in a man named Joseph Smith that married a 14 year old girl – even though he already had plural wives – because he told the child's family they would receive instant eternal salvation if they gave her to him (Smith).
    You also believe in becoming a god after this life if you have committed to and followed all of your temple rituals sincerely and without deviance.
    You also believe that anyone that is not a mormon will NOT be allow to be with Jesus Christ or God, no matter how good they are, if they do not accept your gospel (religion) to be the only true church. For example. Mother Teresa will not be in heaven if she does not accept a posthumous baptism in the after life.
    You also believe that you must take on secret temple names, wear garments (underwear) that has secret symbols that are used in secret rituals in the temple as well as a blood oath that began in 1843, but ended in 1990 when there was a general uproar amongst non-mormons that found out about this particular ritual.
    You also believe Blacks and Native Americans were marked with dark skin for being evil in the pre-life or because they just displeased god.
    You believe that once you are a god of your own world, you with your heavenly wife will create spirit children that will then fill the earthly bodies of human on your own particular planet that you rule over...meaning that you are already (in certain terms) better than the God that created this planet.
    You do believe that Lucifer and Jesus were and are brothers. Sign A TRUE Conservative Republican."

    August 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  10. Dr Matrix

    Isn't it ironic that the involvement of fundamentalist (extreme) religions in politics, starting with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the 1980's parralels the increasing animosity in politics over the last 30 years?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  11. beau

    Dear Hispanics,
    If any of you are considering handing your vote to the GOP, please visit the Fox Entertainment News comment section under any article that mentions race or immigration. Read the comments (or read the comments from conservatives visiting this website), and ask yourself if you want to be on the same side as these "people."Those comments were so disgusting that Fox decided to shut down comments on their articles. You can't comment on articles anymore there. A left wing Mexican Mormon and an Indian Hindu (no, not Native American, the other kind).
    Now that's what I call a right wing Christian conservative dream ticket.
    This has to be a funny movie, this cannot be real.

    August 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  12. beau

    The Ryan choice is EXCELLENT
    Ryan has the courage to challenge Big socialist government programs like Social Security and Medicare.
    Politicians have been deathly afraid to challenge senior citizens on Social Security and Medicare because they are such a powerful voting block
    But Senior Citizens have been feeding at the government trough for too long.
    It's time Seniors learned that nothing is "Free" and that WELFARE FOR THE ELDERLY is no different from welfare for the poor.
    American seniors are just going to have to learn to save their money and rely on themselves in their old age.
    It's time to end the two biggest socialist programs in the federal government....MEDICARE and SOCIAL SECURITY.
    And the Romney/Ryan team is the ones to do it.
    You are going to pay your way now old people, no more free lunch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

    August 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • fullclarity

      And, Beau, how about corporate welfare? Do you support that one? Or, do you think that the government should not provide any incentive of any sort to business? And, if you don't think so, how do you justify that corporate welfare?

      August 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • beaubeau

      I can't believe the same person made the two comments above! I like your comment regarding seniors, though.
      Great point.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • manhandler1

      You're just a plain insult without a clue. I paid into Social Security my entire hard working life, which started when I was fifteen and ended when I became 65. That's 50 years. And I'm feeding at the Government trough? You're pathetic.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Sara

      Lemme guess Beau, you are having fried baby for breakfast.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  13. Michelle

    Reblogged this on Republican and Democrat Daily.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  14. jude

    Warren, a typical greedy mega-church pastor probably is fallen out of fashion these days. He's all about self-aggrandizement more than helping the poor or sick.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  15. old ben

    This pastor in the photo has to be selling chicken sandwiches on the side. Either that or he is letting Donald Trump dress him in the morning.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  16. James

    The early Christians would have never participated in the Roman army either. They would rather die than lift a hand to strike an enemy. Many of them did. My how things have changed.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  17. keeth

    Warren is a Chri$tian.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • James

      Appropriate use of the $Dollar sign here. Well said.

      August 23, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  18. SDFrankie

    I'd say the over/under on this guy being outed for trysts with a gay escort is three weeks. I'm guessing both campaigns are taking the under.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  19. James

    If one would take the time to study the history of the early Christian Church they would realize that Christians never participated in the Roman government. They would rather die than to serve a secular government agenda. Many of them did. My how things have changed.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Believe in no man, I don't because it appears those of the cloth are too self serving.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:31 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.