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. someone cares

    about what Warren has to say, really?

    August 24, 2012 at 6:37 am |
  2. ortagasax


    August 24, 2012 at 6:35 am |
  3. Dixon

    The simple answer to all this is to stop business from controlling what insurance we can have. People are fine with a for profit business controlling what they can have, but the governemnt is somehow different. There is a long history of business not all that interested in the welfare of people. I don't like the government telling me what to do and I sure don't want the church to control me. Open the insurance industry up so we can shop for ourselves and buy what we need.

    August 24, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  4. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the spirit that Rick Warren serves (Luke 9:55) we invite you to read the article ‘Rick Warren – pastor of Saddleback Church’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    August 24, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  5. saggyroy

    "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.

    Gosh – what a stand up guy.....

    August 24, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • MAC

      He is not relevant and is very unhappy with the lack of attention.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  6. Kebos

    So what. Religion and politics should never mix. Don't given Warren a platform to spread his antiquated ideology.

    August 24, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  7. PAUL


    August 24, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  8. Timzer

    Since his tie looks like it was made out of pale brown diarrhea, I can only guess that he wants his mouth to resemble an anus (to the largest extent possible) and has succeeded with all the shit that always comes out of his mouth as the final confirmation that his mouth really is a sort of anus.
    Let's call him Rick "sphincter-lips" Warren. I think it has a certain panache up the wazoo. What do you think?

    August 24, 2012 at 3:16 am |
  9. Richard

    Why is it the radical left will do anything they can to stifle free speech for any but their own kind?

    August 24, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Free speech as in an exchange of ideas? It isn't stifling anyone's freedom to respond verbally or in print to his bullshit.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:59 am |
    • jjaz

      You are so full of rage and yet so blind. Fox news is allowed to spew complete lies 24 hours a day. There is no radical left and they are not trying to stifle free speech.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • PAUL



      August 24, 2012 at 5:26 am |
  10. Winston5

    In other words, "my 15 minutes are up, as the great Andy Warhol once said...done nobody cares what I gots to say!"

    August 24, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  11. Mirosal

    It's a combination of pub'ic hairs and from all the as's-kissing he does to get "donations", because he's too damn lazy to go out and get a REAL job.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  12. HeavenSent

    It's really more of a gasket. It forms a better seal.

    August 24, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  13. HeavenSent

    Which of the two liars, Obama and Romney, tells the most lies? The most deplorable lies? Which lied first? Which one have you believed?

    August 24, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Not my post. Scott is going overboard and should be fired.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  14. Doc1

    Good. Less religion mixed with politics. I'm a man of faith, but these guys (evangelists) need to do their backing of politicians without turning it into a demonstration.
    Besides, the real reason why it's not happening is because one of the candidates is Mormon.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Romney does have that against him.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      These evangelists are breaking federal law by backing ANY.. I repeat.. ANY.. political candidate, whether it's for county dog-catcher or the Oval Office.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • HeavenSent

      That's the phony heavensent post of Scott the webmaster who hijacks my handle on this site. I wasn't online that early in the a.m.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  15. HeavenSent

    All religion owes all to Allah, all praise be unto him, by whose will his Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, brought the double penetration dildo into the world. Romney/Ryan, Mormon and Catholic but joined by a dildo, will climb to the heights of world power and show all that all praise should be unto Allah.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Scott from California is going overboard hijacking my handle. I didn't post anything EARLY 8/24.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  16. Anthony Stark

    Figures. It's an ugly campaign. But I like seeing Romney get a taste of his own medicine.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Like all of you non-belieers will get a taste of the wrath of God. I use my dead cat bones to pick my teeth. You are all dead dried up bones. Keep wishing your father satan will save you while you burn burn burn.


      August 24, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      HS: Satan is your imaginary friends arch enemy...so you enjoy burning with it!

      August 24, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  17. bfire

    Most private health insurance plans like Blue Cross and Aetna cover birth control pills and abortions. If you're a member of tthose two plans then you're helping to pay for women's abortions and their birth control pills. Should private health insurance plans not cover those things because of some of their members religious views? There are 7 billion people in the world today. Take away birth control pills and abortions and we'll have 20 billion people in the world before long. There are way too many people and not enough resources and room on the planet to house them all.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • HeavenSent


      You and the minions of satan tell your lies to filter out the truth of Jesus in the letter he wrote to us, the Bible. The s.h.i.t stains on my pants now look like leopard print. When will you start your walk with Jesus and humble yourself to truth?


      August 24, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      HS: Reality really does bother you, doesn't it? Jesus wrote nothing and you have no way of proving it did! Over-population should be evident but you refuse to see it, the valid sources say that if we keep going the way we are, we will deplete our natural resources by 50% by the year 2030
      (Two planets need by 2030 at this rate, warns report • Humans using 30% more resources than sustainable-sources from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/oct/29/climatechange-endangeredhabitats ). You are the one being misguided, not the people who accept the way things are and can think for themselves.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  18. Cogitoergosum

    Scaredy pants!

    August 24, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • HeavenSent

      You atheists are scared. You know that your lack of humility will send you to hell to burn. I am fatter than the definition of obese. Enjoy your eternity burning in hell while your own personal worm feeds on your fat drippings.


      August 24, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      HS. Wow dude... you are a bit far lately. From another Christian, let go of all of that hate.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      HS: The only thing that truly scares me is that people think like you do. Instead of caring in the here and now, you have chosen to give up and let something that can't be proven to do the work for you. Your choice in the end but do not expect all of us to be so lazy...some of us actually care about the only life we are guaranteed of!

      August 24, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • HeavenSent

      TruthPrevailsNot, another dummy handle of Scott the pervert who hijacks my handle to post his moronic nonsense. The above post was written by me.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  19. Brandon Brown

    VERSE 1
    Gladly would I leave behind me
    All the pleasure I have known
    To pursue surpassing treasures
    At the throne of God the Son
    Worthy of unending worship
    Love and loveliness is He
    By His precious death were millions
    From the jaws of death set free

    VERSE 2
    Gladly would I give to Jesus
    All affection, everything
    For the washing of His mercy
    Makes my ransomed heart to sing
    "Holy, holy!" is the chorus
    Rising up from those who see
    Christ exalted, bright and burning
    Full of pow'r and purity

    Where else can I go?
    Jesus, You're the One
    That I was made to know
    What else can I do?
    Jesus, You're my all
    I gladly run to You

    VERSE 3
    Gladly would I flee temptations
    For their troubles fill my life
    Turn and seek my God and Savior
    For His goodness satisfies
    Earthly treasures, all are passing
    Thieves break in and rust destroys
    But in God are awesome splendor
    Love, and everlasting joys

    Gladly would I give to Jesus
    All affection, everything
    For the washing of His mercy
    Makes my ransomed heart to sing

    August 24, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Timzer

      With your lack of any intelligent comment, you become no better than a wino singing in the gutter.
      Crazy brainwashed cult members like you should be barred from commenting and voting.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:28 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Brandon: Not sure what you hoped to prove by posting such an assinine song...it sounds no different than my 3 year old nephew singing the theme song from Barney the Purple Dinosaur! However, Ty for the morning drivel...now stop wasting your life and think for yourself...it is such a wonderful world once you step outside the poisoned bubble of religion.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  20. Rufus T. Firefly

    Rick Warren delivered a TED talk on his Purposeful Life book, followed by Daniel Dennett who specifically addressed Warren's claims. It's good stuff, especially since Warren is more moderate than most of the fundies that tend to participate in debates. Just Google "ted talk rick warren" and both will come up.

    August 24, 2012 at 12:56 am |
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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.