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. oracer

    Still, it would be very good (and needed) to have a conversation in the big famous fundamentalist Saddleback church with the President-black man and would-be President Mormon, moderated by a fundamentalist preacher. And it would be even better for Warren to be joined by an Imam and Rabbi. You talk about a GREAT faith conversation! It seems that would be a good time to talk about civility and treating the other well.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • niknak

      Why don't you start the civility with not calling the president a black man.
      First of off, he is only half black.
      Secondly, why does the color of his skin matter?
      I noticed you did not call Rmoney a white man, but a mormon.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  2. bj412

    I don't give a flock about this pastor!

    August 24, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  3. Nietodarwin

    Google "Lying for the Lord" and "The White Horse Prophecy" if you want to learn about how weird mormonism is. Seriously, someone suggested that on this comments section and I was shocked. There is a VERY GOOD REASON that Romney keeps quiet about HIS religion. Keeping a lid on that madness is more important than hiding his tax record.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  4. AEJ

    I actually tear/ripped the first book I received from a friend, "A Purpose Driven Life" by this man. His beliefs and mine are opposites. I do not take him at his writings. He just prove more and more that he is a racist and do not like black people. To be President of the US, you must be white. He may be what the Bible talks about, 'THE ANTI-CHRIST.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • toobad

      His book starts off by saying your are not the center of the universe. You are not a god. No wonder you did not like it as most people and all secular humanist are totally by defintion self centered self absored self focused on man only. It is the me me me me philosophy that says you have all the answers and you can solve anything. Look at the world governments lead by anti christians and you see it is not working out that well for mankind. WW1 WW11 etc etc brought on by men who believed in the greatness of mankind and their dreams and visions. See Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, all godless.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  5. Nietodarwin

    Take your brainwashed "flock" to chick fil A and get out of government. Religion is dying, but much much too slowly. The GOP will lose this election, despite cheating, voter suppression, and all their dirty tricks. If the economy gets worse, the xstians can save money by FINALLY not going to church and supporting these Taliban type ministers.
    Taliban=abuse of women
    GOP= america's version of the Taliban=WAR ON WOMEN

    August 24, 2012 at 10:10 am |

    Why does everyone question the Presidents religion but no one ever discuss the religion of Romney and mormonism.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • niknak

      They question his faith just like they question his citizenship.
      Because they are cowards and won't say what they really think, and that is they hate him because he is black.
      Repubs are racist cowards. They hide in their gated communties living in fear of anyone who is different then them.
      The faster they get old and die off the better.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Hey, unfair. There's been a lot said about "Bishop Willard" and his magic underwear looking forward to a visit to Planet Kolob in the afterlife. Mormons are generally good people, but the stuff they believe is as crazy as talking snakes, human-headed camels, or flying spaghetti monsters. By contrast, Obama is a Christian from a whoop-and-holler church background, and I wouldn't be amazed to hear him say he'd seen snakes handled or speaking in tongues in his youth, but he doesn't seem really fervent and fanatic about it. He's a more normal kind of church-goer than Bishop Romney.

      August 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  7. Nietodarwin

    Go practice your belief. You are as free to practice your religion in this country as you ever have been. Religion needs to get out of politics, no weird freak of a "Pastor" has any business in this at all. The GOP having a Cardinal pray on the convention stinks. If the GOP wins, we will have women in a few years saying, " It was very hard for me TO BE FORCED TO GIVE BIRTH TO THE CHILD OF A RAPIST because I was denied an abortion by the new GOP rules." We need abortion in this country, we need abortion for these religious people who think they should have some say about our government.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • toobad

      Historically you are way off and are ignorant. Religion is the reason we have the USA. Christians left Europe and oppressive government telling them what to do and now it is happening. The bill of rights is based on religion and all the GOD given rigths that are self evident. It is called Natural Law. Learn before you speak. You have no idea of our countries laws and so you are trying to change the country out of ignorance. You are the traitor in our midst and you do not even know it.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Christians left Europe and oppressive government telling them what to do and now it is happening." Are you a high school kid or something? Every state in the world was run by a king or queen, and each ruler owed his or her loyalty to a certain church. England broke with Rome and got its own Church of England, while the Roman Catholic Church ruled over most of Europe. In short, each country was ruled by its Church, and we p-d them all off by declaring we'd have no church and no king and let the people rule like they did in the Golden Age of Pericles. The threat of war with Rome kept Canterbury from bringing its full force against us, and we drove them off again in 1812, and our existence destroyed the political power of the churches. Today a bishop has no castle and commands no armies, and the Pope has only a tiny square left of his Holy Roman Empire, and we are free. Don't take my feeble words for this; look it all up. We changed the world and the common man rose up across Europe to follow us, and that is why churches don't just arrest you for not attending regularly. Look up "summoner" if you want a laugh.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  8. Jennifer R

    Other reports substantiate that neither Obama nor Romney ever agreed to the meeting to begin with. Warren is making headlines with non-news...

    August 24, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • midwest rail

      He is desperate to remain relevant on a national stage. Won't happen.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Huebert

      Honestly, until this story I had never herd of Rick Warren.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  9. Mitt Romney

    You see, I have special internal glands that tense up when I'm in a Rick Warren megachurch, and they keep me from being able to conceive of being elected. It's Nature's Way.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  10. HeavenSent

    Mirosal, is another dummy handle for Tommie Tom, who is ScottyAZ but now CA. I wasn't online at 1:00 a.m, or 2:00 a.m. with all the false posts from the fake heavensent.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  11. Luke

    It is amazing, 8 pages of comments. I do agree that Mormons have a false sense of eternity securement. And I do agree Mr. Obama will say whatever it takes to make the White House his home another 4 years. Lets wake up and start taking care of our great country and the future of our children, we cannot waste 4 more years!

    August 24, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  12. Thinkergal

    This man dispises and condemns anyone who is not in lock step with his teachings.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  13. kc

    I meant to type Beliefs and I am glad the president isn't going.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:54 am |

    Romney wasnt going to show up at all as his campaign said because he was afraid someone would asked him questions that he will not give a straight answer to before he flip flop.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Ed

      They do fear scaring away the evangelical vote.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • toobad

      You hate them because they hate so you hate yourself. Makes sense to me because most secular humanist anti christian types like yourself have no foundation of beliefs just whatever mankind makes up. This month it appears you can kill babies, steal christian money(taxes) and make them pay for LGBT propaganda, abortion, lib agencies like ACORN and then turn around and hate the christians for speaking up outside of church?

      August 24, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  15. Bible Clown©

    All that talk about fairness and he ends up on an anti-Obama rant. Sounds fair to me, how about you guys? Obama should totally have shown up for some of that fair treatment.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  16. kc

    Funny how the Rev. complains about the bickering between both parties and then he turns around and criticizes the President. The reason why President Obama probably isn't going is because he knows that Warren is a Republican hack. His "church" is run like a corporation and this guy is the typical evangelical preacher crying oppression while he uses his pulpit to express his anti-gay believes. Sorry but I am glad that the president is going. As far as Romney goes, he probably isn't going because he knows the evangelicals really hate him too and he doesn't want to talk about religion in front of "real christians".

    In my opinion no religious leader should be holding political debates unless they want to give up their tax exemption.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Why does his corporation deserve a tax exemption anyway? Give that to real churches, not Chick-Fil-A.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  17. Mr. Moderate

    Mitt would only send a video? Scared to go off script hmmmm? That would mean they are picking on you right?

    Also, not one is restricting an individual right to believe what you want to believe.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Mitt Romney

      Heck yeah, what if they asked me all those "gotcha questions?" Like have you stopped beating your wife yet? Oh yeah, which one? I sent them a video of me and my sons urging poor people to join the Army and make something of themselves.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  18. ShawnDH

    Rick Warren is a religious fanatic fascist.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Which God?

      @ ShawnDH. Lol! Now tell us how you really feel. 🙂

      August 24, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  19. toobad

    Most of the comments are aggressive and condemning, intolerant, and bigoted toward evangelicals. Claiming they are pushy, condenming, intolerant, and bigoted. So it is OK to be that way if as long as it is you doing the pushing? Typical humanist tactic, They change our laws silence prayer and christian influence. The funnel tax dollars to support ACLU, Planned parenthood abortion, ACORN, and the gov't funded brainwash of the LGBT lobby teaching kindergardners billy has two dads. etc. Then they call Rick Warren pushy. Look in the mirror for the reall pushy hypocrit libs.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • midwest rail


      August 24, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • toobad

      Rick Warren asks for money and people choose to give to help others because they believe in the cause..
      Leftist Gov't makes laws to take taxes and give to things Christians WOULD NEVER SUPPORT BY CHOICE. Like ACLU, LGBT propaganda, abortion to minors on demand, Acorn.

      August 24, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • rusty66

      Ah, yes. Secular humanists, atheists, liberal churches, Democrats, gays, mainstream media, anyone with a triple-digit IQ are ... "THE ENEMY."

      You are free to worship anything / anyone INSIDE YOUR CHURCHES. But keep your twisted cults OUT of the government, and OUT of the public school system.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • midwest rail

      Does that mean that when government chooses to use tax dollars for things I disapprove of, I get to demand a refund ? Nonsense. None of what you posted is factual – it is merely the opinion of another modern faux Christian wrapping himself in a mantle of undeserved victim hood.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • SeilnoigileR

      total BS. I want a refund on every dollar of tax money that went towards 'faith-based' initiatives. You and your chri$tian thug friends have been in charge of trying to force your beliefs on the entire nation for as long as I can remember. Nobody is trying to slience your prayers. Poor put upon religious folk 🙁 If, perhaps we were living in old Roman times, you could consider yourselves persecuted, but you can't use that lame excuse now. Keep your religion to yourself. Or better yet, try living like Jesus and maybe people will again be attracted to your views. Picketing Planned Parenthood and soldiers' funerals just ticks people off and makes you all look like fools.

      August 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  20. Craig

    This is just an attempt for this pastor to try to gain political influence. Once you've fleeced thousands into following your religion then political influence is the next step.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:44 am |
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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.