Rev. Rick Warren, Obama's controversial
pick to give the invocation prayer at his inauguration, appears to be
relishing the national spotlight.
Just as the controversy surrounding
Warren was beginning to subside, and with the cover of a major
holiday just hours away, the preacher released a video on the
Internet sure to draw the attention of the gay blogosphere and left
On Wednesday, the Warren choice lit up
gay blogging sites like Americablog.com, which immediately began
constructing a substantial anti-gay biography on him. They pointed
out that his evangelical Saddleback megachurch in Southern California
will not accept gays and lesbians as members, he supports the
controversial ex-gay movement that claims gays can be “cured”
through prayer, and, most importantly, he supported the passage of
Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage that has sparked national, even international, protests.
Warren's support for the measure
included likening gay marriage to an incestuous relationship,
pedophilia and even polygamy.
Joe Solmonese, president of Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian gay rights
advocate, called the Warren choice “disrespectful” of gays, while
openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank (Democrat) said
the pick was a mistake.
“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples
to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Frank
said on CNN's Late Edition.
“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren
to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good
thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at
the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given a mark
of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out
for this mark of respect.”
Solmonese urged Obama to reconsider;
instead the President-elect defended his pick, saying on Thursday
that “it is important for America to come together, even though we
may have disagreements on certain social issues,” and reiterated
that he remains a “fierce” advocate of gay rights.
But on Sunday, with everyone having
weighed in on the issue, Warren resurfaced with a new video and a
more incendiary tone.
In the 22-minute video, released on his
church's website in a nook called Pastor Rick's News & Views,
Obama's choice to lead the nation in prayer makes a strong, if odd,
defense for himself – at one point saying he “loves gays.”
“I have been accused of equating gay
partnerships with incest and pedophilia,” Warren says. “Now, of
course, as members of Saddleback church, you know I believe no such
thing. I never have. You've never once heard me in 30 years talk
that way about that.”
Internet surfers watching this video
need only click over to Beliefnet.com to verify otherwise. There, in
an interview with editor Steven Waldman, Warren said: “I'm opposed
to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage.
I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a
marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling
“Do you think, though, that they are
equivalent to having gays getting married?” Waldman asked.
“Oh, I do,” Warren answered.
Warren's new video also takes aim at
his critics: “A lot of you have written to me this week and said:
Rick, how are you going to respond to all these false accusations and
attacks, outright lies and hateful slander, and really a lot of hate
speech. It's what I would call christophobia – people who are
afraid of any Christian.”
Despite the fact that the story was
never about Rick Warren per se (the story is about Obama's
miscalculation at taking gay and lesbian support for granted; if
that's what he's done), bloggers took the bait, dissecting the video
frame by frame, and giving Warren the extra 15 minutes he sought.
Discussing the new video, and its
timing, on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, The Nation
writer Katha Pollitt said: “He is not going to shrink away. This
is a big opportunity for him.”
Openly lesbian Rachel Maddow has called
on Obama to reconsider, calling Warren “the wrong choice.”