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

    See all of Rick Warrens prayers answered at saladandchips.com

    August 24, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  2. pbernasc

    Romney campaign said they would never ever do it .. well then we know who is the chicken

    August 24, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  3. ClaudiaL

    This forum needs to go the way of that magazine (Good Housekeeping?) that asked the presidential candidates' wives to enter their favorite cookie recipe. Ha-ha. Teresa Heinz-Kerry put them in their place when she let it be known that she didn't submit a recipe, and that her assistant must have sent one in. Good riddance to the magazine's efforts to put the first ladies in the kitchen & to Warren's efforts to test the candidates faith to see if they are worthy of being president.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • OTOH

      It looks like Ricky tested way too many of those cookie recipes. He is what an overfed weasel looks like.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  4. Cleophas

    Obama is an antichrist.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Booga, booga, booga! Go hide under the covers, Chicken Little.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • MAC

      How christian of you – always always spouting hate and other stuff racism maybe???

      August 24, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  5. Cleophas

    God bless you Rick Warren for standing for the truth. Return to righteousness America return to truth u once believe and the God of heaven will grant you rest.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Larry L

      You are in need of professional help. Your mythology has captured your mind... you are wasting your life with fairy tales.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Len

      "Truths" we once believed like the one about keeping the vote for white men only, or the one about slavery being a good thing? Most Americans recognize that we've outgrown a lot of what we use to consider "truth."

      August 24, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  6. TheVeteran

    He would have to expose Romney. He knows that LDS believe that God is a man, with a wife, who lives near the planet Kolob, and that we can work our way to god status and rule over our own worlds, with our wives, and that Jesus and Satan are brothers, and that Jesus, their god Elohim, and Joseph Smith will judge us.

    All of that sounds like a sci fi novel, and it is clearly heresy. Rick Warren, as a man of God, would have to expose that. I think he should have done it. People need to understand exactly what the Mormon religion is. It is a cult.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Joanie

      Right....so your position is that your interpretation–and only your interpretation–of one religion is the only true understanding. How did you get so smart? And how do we feel about those poor people in other countries who were born to other religions who just aren't as privileged as you?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Jimbo

      What makes you think you have it right and everyone else is wrong? Cause you're smarter than the rest? Sure thing.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Nothing better than watching one theist that believes wacky bs give someone else flack about believing wacky bs! Makes my day! Irony for the win!

      August 24, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Len

      "heresy" from your point of view, but for a lot of us it just more of what we've come to expect from Christianity. Honestly, how are Mormon beliefs any weirder than the notion of the Rapture, or the Catholic host turning into Jesus' actual body? Face it, you all believe some pretty wild things.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  7. Polopoint

    Good. Get him and religion out of politics.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  8. R1983

    Mr warren, you know why you don't want to have this forum, you and Mitt Romney don't want to talk about his faith. I remember
    in 2008 everyone knew you had given John McCain all the answer to the questions. You were shock that President Obama
    knew the answers. Nice try. but we got you.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  9. Alicia

    What do you expect?... you have a president that more than likely supports Islam and a contender that practices a known cult......NOT much of a friendly environment for a Christian moderator to ask honest, pointed questions.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Were you dropped on your head in infancy?

      August 23, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Alicia

      Tom,Tom... I "think" you meant to say "during" infancy and not "in"... uhmmm. no, but thanks for asking..:-)

      August 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You really ARE an idiot, aren't you? Both are correct, you fvcking dolt.

      Thanks for verifying your cranial-rectal inversions syndrome and its cause, dink.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      Oy vey! Give the whole "secret Muslim" thing a rest! Besides, there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim; a fundamentalist, violent crackpot, sure, but those come in ALL denominations.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Alicia

      TomTom dearest.... it WOULD have been correct had you said in "your" infancy..... erase it, start over again & write it on the board 1000 times before you go home or pick on someone a bit more literary than yourself....now, what was your question?.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, idiot. It's correct as it stands. You're just too stupid to know that.

      Ever heard of Wordsworth, moron? Here:
      1. early childhood, babyhood the development of the mind from infancy onwards
      2. beginnings, start, birth, roots, seeds, origins, dawn, early stages, emergence, outset, cradle, inception the infancy of the electronic revolution
      beginnings end, close, death, finish, conclusion, termination, expiration
      "Heaven lies about us in our infancy" [William Wordsworth Intimations of Immortality]

      August 24, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Alicia

      "Think Again".... nothing at all wrong with being a Muslim... we love them dearly even though, they are wrong. Love the person, hate the message as we believe.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Or if that's too difficult for you, Alicia the Azz, here's another:

      Crying in infancy
      Crying in infancy is described as a loud, high-pitched sound made by infants in response to certain situations.

      Infants have a cry reflex that is a normal response to some stimuli, such as pain or hunger. Older children and adults cry for emotional reasons such as pain, fear, sadness, or frustration. Premature infants may not have a cry reflex, so they must be monitored closely for signs of hunger and pain.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who's "we", Alicia? You and your gerbil?

      Please. You're a dimwit.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What a shame you never learned how to punctuate a sentence, honey.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Alicia

      Tommy, Tommy, NO! wrong again!!...

      ""Heaven lies about us in our infancy" [William Wordsworth Intimations of Immortality]"

      ***** Note the use of "OUR" to describe the use of the noun "infancy"..... that's correct, you were not.

      All you did at the beginning of your post was to define "infancy".... there was NEVER a debate on it's meaning....

      Go watch TV or something.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Alicia

      LOL Thomas, Thomas, you're really laboring to dig your way out of the well.... give it up, you;re WRONG!, Now, go victimize someone else with your idle time.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Aww, sweetie, you don't need to be upset. Just because you are mistaken is no cause for shame. You're just ignorant; education can fix that. With a good work ethic, you can actually learn to use semicolons and commas correctly and even figure out that "in infancy" is no less correct than "in childhood".

      So sorry you haven't completed your education and that what you've received thus far is inferior.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, and honey? Just a little hint: when you use "it's" as in "it's meaning", you are actually saying "it is meaning". Didn't you learn about contractions and how they're different from possessives when you were in, oh, about 9th grade?

      Not to dismiss your immense wisdom and knowledge out of hand, but why would any person take your advice or thoughts seriously when the issue is abortion or public policy?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Sallyforth

      The president supports Islam? Do you live under a rock, with nothing else but a TV set permanently set on Fox? Wow.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, Alicia lives there along with KEEF! Between the two of them, there's not even one undamaged brain cell.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • SimpleMinds

      Yep...an honest Christian stuck in between two heathens....that wouldn't be because his worldview happens to match yours, would it?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims


      So Obama kdrinks alcohol and eats pork just to try and get one past you right?

      Tinfoil hat?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      More like a crash helmet. Alicia has a hard time putting one foot in front of the other without falling down.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Lisa

      A great many Americans are Muslim, so why is it wrong for a president to "support" their religion if he also supports all the others?

      August 24, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • MAC

      Really? Thanks for your on going and irrelevant faux talking points – it adds so much to the discourse.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  10. RealityChecker

    Having a hatemonger like Obama appear at an event designed to encourage civility is like having Charles Manson attend PTA meeting.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • ChristardMingle.com

      Explain why you feel Obama is a hate monger.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • SonnyBoyWilliamson

      Hatemonger, huh. The best defense is a good offense, i guess. If you subscribe to the GOP dogma of hatred and intolerance, the best way to defend yourself is to accuse everyone else of hatred. Nice try.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  11. RMBruton

    I seem to have forgotten when Rick Warren was appointed the spokesman for Christianity in the United States.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Lisa

      Billy Graham must have gotten too old, Falwell's dead, Haggard lost all credibility and nobody really likes Joel Osteen as far as I can tell, so that leaves this tool.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  12. Jim

    Better headline: "Romney rejects civility, Christianity"

    August 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  13. Jack

    Hello folks. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  14. NateFromIndiana

    It may be just as well – things have gone far enough that nothing is going to shame the two sides into being civil.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • mercfan

      Civil suggests a minimum of observance of social requirements. Just because two people have different opinions – that doesn't mean they can't be civil to each other. The way you make it sound, you expect them to put on the gloves and duke it out.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  15. Geoz

    Given how Warren was treated so well by Obama – including him in the innaug. And then Warren undermining him... I think a tepid response is in order. Romeny can't take a Christian questioning when his Mormon roots show.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  16. scizwiz

    A creepy Christian koko local he is.A mustard seed!

    Obama 2012 the man who will save us .

    August 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  17. sgurdog

    Rick, your perverted religious liberties do not allow you to dictate the healthcare employees can receive. You can preach all you want to but you don't get to legislate for the rest of us.

    August 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  18. !

    q2long –


    Winston Churchill (Jacobson)
    Jewish Mother: Jenny (Jacobson) Jerome

    United States

    Franklin Roosevelt (Rosenvelt)
    1st traceable Jewish ancestor: Claes Martenzan van Rosenvelt

    Josef Stalin, (Joseph David Djugashvili)Djugashvili means "Jewison"


    Adolph Hitler (Rothschild)
    Father: Alois Hiedler. Jewish Grandfather: Barron Salomon Mayer Rothschild

    The New York Times of March 14, 1935, quotes the President as saying: "In the distant past my ancestors may have been Jews. All I know about the origin of the Roosevelt family is that they are apparently descended form Claes Martenszen van Roosevelt, who came from Holland."

    In the 1938 "World Almanac" under the heading "Biographies of U.S. Presidents and their wives," page 237, appears: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the son of James Roosevelt, a direct descendant of Claes Martenzen van Rosenvelt, who arrived in New Amsterdam in 1649 and married Jannetje Samuels.

    Eisenhower was also a Crypto-Jew Judaic President of the U.S.

    Dwight David Jacob Eisenhower was Jewish, Born in Denison, Texas in 1890, his father was David Jacob "Eisenhower," although his mother was a Stover before marriage.

    His hatred of the Germans, and his murder of over a million of them he held prisoner AFTER WW II is all that is needed to fill in the blanks.

    His predecessor, Harry S. (For Solomon) Truman was also a Judaic (And Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Bush Jr.; they are all related to the Jewish power elite. And there are more....). Why do you think that you can't talk about "Jews"? And Eisenhower being Jewish also explains this (which I'm sure you History teacher in the Judaic-controlled School systems forget to mention, mine forgot to mention to me in school; if he even knows it!):

    August 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • 1olddude

      And your point is?

      August 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • D

      $1 says his point is something anti-Semitic.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Next he'll be telling us they're all Hindus too.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Go far enough back, Dude, and they're ALL Africans. Which means Obama isn't really the first black anything since everybody before him was at least part black. And you, too.

      August 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • jjaz

      Wow, what a bunch of wacko conspiracy theories. I'll bet you were kicked out of the Tea Party for being too liberal.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:46 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This wacky post was meant as a response to a thread on p1.

      It's still wacky there, but has slightly more context.

      August 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  19. paganguy

    Rick Warren has never explained why he grew those very toxic flowers and plants in his back yard. Was he trying to eliminate some of his enemies? This wannabe king-maker tried to install McCain as president. That didn't work.
    Can we trade this guy to the Chinese for some iPads?

    August 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  20. Jack

    Mr. Warren

    The hatred and out lies by Talk Show host has elevated the emotions and nastiest that I am not sure we come back from until leaders of both party's stand up and call out them.

    August 23, 2012 at 10:44 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.