Dozens of gay activists protested Rev.
Rick Warren's appearance Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr.
commemorative services outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Protesters say they cannot abide Obama's choice of Warren to give the nation's prayer at his
inauguration ceremony today. They say Warren is homophobic. Warren
likened gay marriage to an incestuous relationship and polygamy in an
interview with Beliefnet.com editor Steven Waldman, and backed
passage of a controversial gay marriage ban in California.
Gay activists point out that Warren's
Saddleback megachurch bans gays and lesbians from attendance, and he
supports the controversial ex-gay movement that claims gays can be
“cured” through prayer.
Signs outside the church read: “We
still have a dream: Equality.” And protesters chanted, “Gay,
straight, black or white, we demand our civil rights.”
The demonstration was the second in as
many days. On Sunday, about 100 gay activists appeared outside the
campus of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Outside the Lake
Forest church campus demonstrators waved rainbow flags and chanted
for equal rights. Parishioners attending Sunday service mostly
ignored the protesters.
“President-elect Obama made a huge
misjudgment [by selecting Warren],” Jenny Mirmak, an Obama
supporter who demonstrated outside Saddleback Church with her husband
and 7-year-old daughter, told the Los Angeles Times. “The
Democratic Party has always counted on the gay and lesbian community
for their votes, then thrown them under the bus once they get
“Rick Warren is not a voice of unity
or equality,” Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Atlanta
director Jeff Schade, who protested in Atlanta, told the Atlanta
Cole, a spokeswoman for Warren, reminded the media of Warren's work
helping HIV patients in the United States and Africa. But there too
gay activists say the pastor falls short. Warren, like most
evangelical pastors, supports President Bush's abstinence only AIDS
initiative that denies outreach to the three most at-risk groups: gay
men, sex workers and IV drug users.
Warren was introduced in Atlanta by
King Center President Isaac Farris Jr. who urged critics to listen to
the pastor. Farris said Warren was invited to speak at the historic
church where Martin Luther King Jr. once served as pastor partly
because of his efforts to solve social problems, including poverty.
But Sunsara Taylor was not interested
in what The Purpose Driven Life author was about to
say. Sunsara, who identified herself as a supporter of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, began shouting “No common ground
with bigot Rick Warren” as he approached the podium. She was
quickly ushered outside.
In a January 12 blog post at the
Saddleback Church website, Warren said he would “out-love” the
protesters: “Never forget that everything we do is all about
connecting people to God and that Jesus loves and died for all those
angry people who are attacking me. We will respond with nothing but
love for them. We will out-love those who hate us. And if being
insulted brings more people to Christ, so be it.”
But at Sunday's protest, at least one
church member disagreed with that philosophy. “People are saying
if you really love the protesters, go out and give them doughnuts and
coffee,” Casey Jones, who shouted Bible verses at the protesters,
said. “And I say 'no'. I'm not going to give someone doughnuts
and coffee on their way to hell.”