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. Stan in Canada

    To truthbetold you are exactly right and I completely agree. to Avdberg who it sounds like you are from Canada aswell since the website you listed has ca, you know that our prime minister is a christian and is trying to do things God's way, it just is that he is getting pressure from those in cabinet who aren't to not do so, and Canada like the USA was founded on christian principles. Our parliment builing in Ottawa, has inscribed in the ach way "He Shall Have Dominion From Sea To Sea". In the end God will judge all mankind and those who are not right with Him in Spirit will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity. Read Revelations.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • LiberaLIowan

      I don't think I'm going to lose any sleep over your "lake of fire". ROFLMAO

      August 24, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  2. Gerry Daley

    Warren is nothing but a politician himself.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  3. sele


    August 24, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  4. sele


    August 24, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      Every religion is full of deception, that's why millions upon millions fall for it.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • real american

      no –he's not a liberal

      August 24, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  5. Jeff Cox

    In my opinion, I think those of you focusing on Warren himself (and your disdain for religion) are missing a critical aspect of this article – what's become of our political process as it's developed over the past 25 years.

    Warren's right – it would be disingenuous to have a 'day of civility' if it's going to amount to a 24-hour respite, after which we saw a return to campaigning as usual.

    August 24, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • midwest rail

      IF that's the real reason the forum was cancelled, then I'd agree with you. It seems, though, that there is another shoe waiting to drop.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  6. t.sarcastic

    Truth be told, Keith is probably right on this one. But, who really gives a crap if this guy cancels his self-serving forum?

    August 24, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  7. real american

    @ midwest rail-no one disagreed with J.Jay-and they attended Sunday Christian Church services in the US Capital building to thank GOD for HIS Divine Enlightenment in the founding of this nation

    August 24, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • midwest rail

      No one ? Nonsense.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  8. Joe

    Yeah, his excuse is nonsense.
    Who said there necessarily would have been name calling?
    These megachurch pastors are generally con men and charlatans, anyway, so who cares?

    August 24, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • truth be told

      You apparently.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  9. AvdBerg

    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. http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    August 24, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Olu

      You are a fool to say a Christian owes to Allah, yeah right, we owe to God through Jesus Christ.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Olu

      Mohamed was an evil man... He was crazy cutting off people's life because he wanted them to follow his own way. What a jerk and lair he was!!!

      August 24, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Olu

      Mohamed was an evil man... He was crazy cutting off people's life because he wanted them to follow his own way. What a jerk and lair he was!!!
      You Muslims are weird, i know that!!!

      August 24, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Sean

      You overlook the fact that the Muslim religion started through Abraham and Hagar – and produced Ishmael, against the Lord's will. The true living and risen God is Jesus Christ – the savior of the world. Through the line of Abraham – Isaac- Jacob and King David. From the line of Judah – he is King and Lord of Lords. One day you will stand and give accord why it is you worshiped a false god in Allah and the truth will be told. Your name will not be in the book of life and you will be cast into the sea of fire – living an enternal life of suffering and godlessness. Why is that – because it was your choice to not accept the truth and live by it. Your eyes were blinded by the truth and your heart hardened with deception. All power and glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

      But rest assure there is still hope my brother. You can repent and give your life over to Jesus. Take up your cross and live for him. Allow him to rule over your shattered life and then you will find the comfort you been seeking for. His cup overflows and his mercy shall reign forever.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Olu: How exactly does anyone owe to something that can't be proven to exist???

      August 24, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Savior

      Allah literally translates to 'The God'. Arab Christians refer to God as Allah. Get over yourselves. Hispanics refer to God as dios. I guess that's not God either to American Christians.

      August 24, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  10. JAB62

    They should all stay out of politics or get taxed.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Erik in Houston,TX

      totally agree

      August 24, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • truth be told

      The foundation of America has been the church. Congregations gathered in the colonial churches first in prayer, then in protest to found this one nation under God. Conceived in prayer and brought forth in liberty by Christians for Christians.The church has always been the first and most effective response in times of emergency through political crisis or natural disaster. Let the church prevail, find revenue elsewhere, the citizens who make up the church are taxed already.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • AvdBerg

      truth be told

      For a better understanding of the word 'church' we invite you to read the article 'Church and what it means' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

      The USA was built on the wrong foundation

      August 24, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • truth be told

      You are on the wrong foundation. America works best when America works for God.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • real american

      John Jay, 1st Chief Justice of the SCOTUS, stated, we should elect Christian leaders as they would BEST lead our nation !

      August 24, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • midwest rail

      And plenty disagreed with Mr. Jay at the time – because he was wrong.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • real american

      let the door hit ya on the way out

      August 24, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • midwest rail

      Translation – "If you don't think exactly as do, you aren't a real American." There ya go, r.a., fixed that for ya.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • JerseyGeorge

      Thomas Jefferson: "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

      August 24, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • WASP

      @be told: ok show me where america is a christian nation; i don't mean your propaganda BS i mean literally where the founding fathers made this great nation a christian one because for all i can see everything was created free of religion due to the horrible actions of the church of england and the roman catholic church against the colonies. thus to prevent a repeat of history religion and it's ilk were left out of the power triad of this country..........and by power triad i mean the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. you have noticed that no religion has EVER been made an official religion of the USA because all religions are welcome, thus NOT A CHRISTIAN NATION.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Tom Paine

      No. The United States is not a Christian nation; it is a nation with a Christian majority population. The U.S. is a product of the Enlightenment, where your right to practice Christianity (or any other religion, or no religion at all) is protected by secular law. To be a Christian, one must believe in the divinity of Jesus. Many of the founders did not, including Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Madison, Franklin and Paine. They also did not believe in the infallibility of the Bible.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • anniem

      They should be taxed anyway...

      August 24, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Truth be Told – you really need to check your history. Those folks who protested and then came to the Americas were trying to force the Church of England to follow how they (less than 1% of the population) wanted to worship. They first went to Holland because the government there allowed them to worship as they pleased, then left when they realized Holland allowed EVERYONE to worship as they pleased, not as the Congregationalists (what we call Pilgrims) wanted.

      Also, if you read the biographies of the "Founding Fathers" you will see that even though most of them belonged to one of the organized churches (Episcopal, Methodist, Congregationalist, Quaker, etc.), the vast majority considered themselves to be Deists, and students of the Enlightenment, as well as Master Masons. As such they did not believe that the country, even though guided by Divine Providence (a term most of them used in public, as opposed to The Great Architect which they used in Lodge meetings), should not be wedded to religious thoughts or ideas. Consider that the same Churches in the North and in the South used religious arguments both favoring and opposing the concept of slavery. Which one was right, there?
      On the other hand, people like Rick Warren have used people's desire for Salvation (as espoused by him, of course, as opposed to what others espouse) to build up a political empire. While they cannot overtly tell their congregants who to vote for, being seen with him can immediately give the congregation a tacit endorsement for their votes. Neither Romney nor Obama are willing to pander to him for these same votes.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • SeilnoigileR

      Hey Truth be told – the 'one nation under god' bit wasn't added until the 50s. Learn some history and stop your blatant, self-serving lies. America is NOT and WILL NOT ever be a theocracy, despite the efforts of the likes of you and the other revisionist historians here.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  11. James Sunduist

    Rick Warren cancelled the conference with Obama/Romney because he said both sides are NOT civil?
    This is the height of hypocrisy. Tell all of the saints and resisters Warren has purpose driven out of churches and split churches, including Christian and Missionary Alliance churches. How civil was that?
    Tell that to all of the Good Bereans whom his Purpose-Driven partner, Dan Southerland calls “Sanballats from Hell”. Tell that to all of the Fundamentalist Christians he calls “enemies of the 21st Century.” Tell that to all the seniors who stand in his way “pillars who hold things up.” Tell that to all of the authors who exposed Rick Warren’s book, whom his partner John Piper said are slandering Rick Warren (though he has not provided a shred of evidence to prove his charges). What needs to happen is for every Purpose Driven Church or church that promotes his teachings, to cancel Rick Warren and remove all of his books.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  12. David

    This guy is a ponpous, self-aggrandizing blowhard.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  13. David

    Shame on Rick Warren. He doesn't want to truth about Mormon belief to come out. Now we know who he wants to win.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  14. comeatmebro

    Probably has to do with the fact that Obama is a Christian and Romney is not.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • AvdBerg

      For a better understadning what it means to be a Christian we invite you to read the article 'Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You? listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

      August 24, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Keith

      AdvBerg, I see you survived the assault ot "LiarPrevails" and her friends who were going to shut your site down?

      August 24, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 24, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • Id

      Really? So just pray your troubles, wants and needs away. Nothing is in your control, it is the decision of someone you have never met? No thank you. I'll continue to treach my children about hard work, determination, free thinking, educational, quetioning and the power of community. FYI-atheism has been around a lot longer then organized religion and will most likely continue as we continue to evolve

      August 24, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • truth be told

      The greater form of child abuse is in denying your child eternal life. Shame on you.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Mirosal

      Sorry, but an even greater form of abuse would be to subject the child to indoctrination (read: brain-washing) of something that only serves to instill fear into the child. "Do what 'god' says or you'll be punished forever and ever." Sure, that makes sense.. take a 5 or 6 year old, frighten them into doing what YOU think this "god" wants, and have the kid live in fear for every step, thought, or action that person will take for his/her entire life. That isn't a "love of 'god'", that is simple coersion, and THAT is abuse.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Olu

      That's so true when you pray in Jesus name!

      August 24, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • WASP

      @mirosal: i love you! 😉 i couldn't have said that better myself.
      i know first hand as many atheists do, the trama of being threatened with " if you are bad or do something god doesn't like you will burn forever" being southern baptist they were a bit more colorful in their descriptions of whom all would be joining us there.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • mp757

      Sorry Mirosal, but your words are not consistent with what God teaches. First, no matter who you are or where you live, there is indoctrination of some sort. Do we teach our 5 & 6 year olds the difference between right and wrong? What to do, what not to do? Of course. Are there consequences for not following the rules in every strata of our lives? Of course. Are we "instilling fear" as we educate our children about consequences? Sometimes, perhaps. If that's brainwashing then we are all guilty. Without some guidelines and guidance, there would be chaos. Now back to what God says. God's law is not about living in fear. It is about living a life that is pleasing to him and in accordance with his doctrines and principles. God also understands the difficulty in living out those doctrines and principles, so he sent Jesus to pay the ultimate sacrifice according to his own law. Our role, then, is not to live in fear, but to always strive to be better and to do better while asking for forgiveness when we do not. It's much like the relationship we have with our own children. So God has given us a way to not be "punished forever and ever" but it is up to us to try everyday to live in accordance with his mandates. If we do, what's the worst that can happen? We treat each other with more love and respect, get our marriages together, raise respectful and loving, children, have hope that anything is possible? If that's abuse, sign me up.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      You do not have to follow any religion to understand right from wrong. Simply teach them the meaning of what the laws we follow are for. If you did a little research, you'll see that many of our laws can be dated back at least 2000 years BEFORE jesus the myth was ever "born". Just teach the child about society, and the reason for the laws. No "god" is EVER needed to lead a happy, productive, fulfilling life. You are doing nothing but living the modern myth now. Tell me... you reject EVERY "god" from days of yore, but you think YOURS is somehow more real. There is as much evidence to show Zeus is real as there is to show yours is too. When you realize why you have dismissed all those others, it's VERY easy to dismiss yours, and for the EXACT same reasons.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • JustTheFacts

      Anyone who thinks God is restricted to their way of thought or belief is blind...God is Everything! She is Rebup, Dem, Mormon, Jewish, christian, Muslum, Athiest, Pagon, Yankee, Red sox Isreali, Iranian, etc... God is everything. He is the flower and war, abundance and poverty. The only judgement God has is via man. Our founding fathers created a nation whose gov is free from religion because of the judgement and disseption associated with religion. Warren's ego couldn't take the fact that the politicle parties were not interested in his fluff.

      August 24, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • SeilnoigileR

      The true crime is frightening your children into making them believe they are damned unless they do what you tell them to and believe in a collection of goat herders stories ripped off from older mythologies. Have you ever considered that 'eternal life' would get pretty boring after a while? Besides, I'm willing to guess there are a LOT of people who would not want to spend eternity with most of the so-called chri$tians posting here.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  16. SensibleJoe

    Rick Warren probably canceled his little self-aggrandizing public relations stunt because someone might ask Romney difficult questions - like "Isn't it true that Mormons believe God is a physical being that lives on a planet" and "Isn't it true that Mormons teach Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, born as sons of God the Father?"– and his favored candidate would be unmasked as not so conventionally Christian after all.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • David

      So true! Rick Warren wants Mitt Romney to win, but he knows that many Christians would be turned of if they understood what Mormons believe as it relates to Jesus and other basic beliefs of mainstream Christianity.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • To the Unhappy Wanderer

      Don't let your mind wander. It's too small to be let out on its own.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  17. 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’ and ‘Barack Obama – President of the United States of America', 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 7:17 am |
    • Olu

      Who are you to judge? Did God write the names of the Churches down or did you?

      I guess you're way too young and ignorant, wining and dining in your judgmental ways...

      Sicko, you are!

      August 24, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • WASP

      @berg: Revelation 12:9.
      "9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."

      luke 9:55 "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of – You suppose that you are actuated by a proper love for me; but you know not yourselves. It is rather a love of revenge; rather revengeful feelings toward the "Samaritans" than proper feelings toward "me."

      average must be your comprehension of scripture, because i see nothing saying anything more than imaginary lies.
      the second one however does sound a lot like todays christians however, could it be you were trying to tell us something about yourself?

      August 24, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  18. keith

    Most likely because he views mormonism as a cult and wants nothing to do with Romney.

    August 24, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  19. mitch


    To all delegates and guests to the GOP convention. Convention security has received reports that Mitt Romneys arch-enemy, Joe Biden, has obtained a quanti*ty of Kolobite from the planet Kolob and plans to plant it at various convention locations. As many of you know, that being in the vicinity, about 30 feet, of Kolobite will make magic undewear burst into flames, causing severe pain and distress. Kolobite is a dull grey rock that glows blue under artificial light; report any sighting to security. We highly recommend that people attending any events DO NOT repeat DO NOT wear any magic underwear. We acknowledge that this may lead to excessive groping, fondiling and diddling, but this may contribute to the party atmosphere we hope to achieve.


    August 24, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 24, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • AvdBerg

      In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mattheww 15:9).


      August 24, 2012 at 6:57 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.