Updated 5:04 p.m. Eastern with quote from Richard Land
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–President-elect Barack H. Obama has invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., and homosexual activists have reacted with outrage.
Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, the Southern Baptist-affiliated mega-church in Orange County, Calif., angered homosexual activists when he endorsed Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to define marriage as being the union of a man and a woman. Prop 8, which passed 52-48 percent, overturned a state high court ruling that had legalized “gay marriage.”
When the announcement was made Dec. 17 that Obama had invited Warren to pray at the inaugural, the angry reaction came swiftly from activists still smarting over Prop. 8’s defeat.
“Your invitation to Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” wrote Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.” “By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.”
Solmonese called Warren “one of [the] architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda.”
California homosexual activist Rick Jacobs told Politico.com that inviting Warren to pray was “a huge mistake,” according to a Dec. 17 article on that website. He compared Obama’s invitation to “a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America.”
The controversy comes four months after Warren hosted an August presidential forum with Obama and Republican nominee John McCain. The event was widely praised, with some commentators saying it was more informative than the three presidential debates.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Obama for choosing Warren.
“I’m encouraged that President-elect Obama would select Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration,” Land told Baptist Press. “First, it is a signal that President-elect Obama is going to employ a big-tent philosophy in his administration’s approach to people who may disagree with them on some issues, but not others. His selection of Rick Warren indicates that people who disagree with the president-elect on sanctity of life issues are not automatically persona non grata at the White House in an Obama administration. It also indicates that the president-elect is not buying the radical homosexual activists’ argument that anyone who opposes them on the gay marriage issue should be ostracized as a bigot.”
On Dec. 4 Warren responded to the overheated rhetoric about his support for Prop. 8 by telling Wall Street Journal columnist Steven Waldman that, both historically and by God’s design, marriage is between a man and a woman.
“God, who always acts out of love and does what is best for us, thought up sex. Sex was God’s idea, not ours,” Warren told Waldman in an interview posted on Beliefnet.com. “Like fire, and many other things God gave us, sex can be used for good, or abused in ways that harm. The Designer of sex has clearly and repeatedly said that he created sex exclusively for husbands and wives in marriage.
“Whenever God’s parameters are violated, it causes broken hearts, broken families, emotional hurt and shame, painful memories, and many other destructive consequences,” Warren added. “There would be no STDs in our world if we all played by the rules.”
Government should neither interfere in people’s lives nor attempt to redefine the divinely created institution of marriage, Warren said.
“If anyone, whether unfaithful spouses, or unmarried couples, or homosexuals or anyone else think they are smarter than God and chooses to disobey God’s sexual instructions, it is not the U.S. government’s role to take away their choice,” Warren told Waldman. “But neither is it the government’s role to classify just any ‘loving’ relationship as a marriage. A committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is not a marriage. Two lovers living together is not a marriage. Incest is not marriage. A domestic partnership or even a civil union is still not marriage.”
Warren also told Waldman he supported Proposition 8 because of his concern that without such a measure, any pastor who said “he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships” would be accused of hate speech.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.