Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to perform the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.
Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.
“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”
And this backlash has delighted the righties, who are chortling that the queers are all in a tizzy over Pastor Rick. That’s their way of covering up the fact that there are probably a fair number of wingers who are not happy that Mr. Warren is giving the blessing to the enemy… or were hoping for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
I’m not exactly sure why the inauguration of a president requires the inclusion of the clergy to conduct a ritual, but other than the obvious political posturing and pandering that is woven into the fabric of the moment, it is a tradition and it would have been a huge story if that part of the ceremony had been left out. I can’t remember it ever being a big deal as to who it is who gives the invocation, although I can imagine that some people weren’t happy when John F. Kennedy had Cardinal Cushing give the invocation at his inauguration.
As the article notes, Pastor Warren was outspoken in his support for the passage of Prop 8 in California, comparing same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest, which is, to me, the same as saying getting a driver’s license leads to grand theft auto. So I hope that this one event is the last we’ll be hearing from him in terms of public speaking on behalf of the Obama administration. Far be it from me to tell the president-elect who to choose as his spiritual counsel, but I hope that his actions speak louder than words, and I hope that what follows in the next four years will do more to piss off the Religious Right — the end of DADT, repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would be a start — than it will to mollify them with a thirty-second appeal to a mythological being.