People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert responded today to the news that Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama:
"It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama.
"Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion.
"I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides. Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Senator Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum, both at his church. But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.
"Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn't need or deserve this position of honor. There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good."
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People For the American Way has an open letter to President-elect Obama expressing our disappointment. The text of the letter is below.
Dear President-elect Obama,
We were gravely disappointed to learn that Rev. Rick Warren has been selected to deliver the invocation at your inauguration. Rev. Warren was a poor choice to lead the invocation due to his long history of hateful, divisive rhetoric on important cultural and civil rights issues. It's not just that we disagree with him on the issues--it's that he uses his powerful platform to marginalize those who disagree with him. He is not the sort of leader who can help unite Americans. We agree with you that everyone should have a seat at the table, but only those who treat others with respect should get a seat of honor.