Nationally known author and pastor Rick Warren has accepted an offer to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural swearing-in ceremony, drawing fury from gay rights activists and opponents of Proposition 8.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, accepted the invitation to participate in the ceremony within the last few days, said Kristin Cole, a spokeswoman for the 20,000-member, four-campus mega-church. According to a program released by the Joint Inaugural Committee, Warren will give the invocation immediately after opening remarks by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California).
Earlier this year, as the debate over same-sex marriage raged in California, Warren publicly endorsed Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to declare that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Since the proposition passed in November, hundreds of protesters have gathered near his Orange County church to condemn the stance.
Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights organization that worked against Proposition 8, called the decision to include Warren in the inauguration ceremony a “slap in the face to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who donated for, worked for and helped elect Barack Obama president.”
The Human Rights Campaign, a nationwide gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, issued a letter calling the invitation a “genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”
In August, Warren made headlines when he interviewed Obama and Republican rival Sen. John McCain, asking about issues important to conservative voters, including abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research. The public interviews were televised.
Earlier this month, in an interview with reporters from the Los Angeles Times, Obama answered a question about his current spiritual advisor by telling reporters he had found inspiration in a “prayer circle” of supportive clergy leaders who include Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Dallas-based mega-church the Potter’s House, the Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Warren.