Warren Cancels Forum Obama/Romney Declined to Attend

The Orange County Register reports this afternoon that Rick Warren, whose 2008 Presidential Forum was a bust for then-candidate Obama, has decided not to hold his previously-announced Presidential Forum in 2012.

Obviously, the reason is both presidential candidates declined to participate. But Warren insists, according to the Register, that it’s “because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns.”

But Politico reported more than a month ago—and, to my knowledge, no one challenged the reporting—that “Contrary to reports on Pastor Rick Warren’s call yesterday, there will be no joint Mitt Romney-President Obama appearances anywhere before the debates, campaign officials tell POLITICO.”

Today Warren said, “I talked with both campaigns about the possibility of doing it again, and they were both favorable to participating.” The Register reports:

Warren pulled the plug on this year’s forum, explaining that the current negative campaign is opposite to what the church’s civil forum is about, even as plans had been ramping up to coordinate schedules, secure the area and get traffic control in check for a forum of this size. Planning had begun in March.

Requests for comment from both campaigns have not been returned as of early afternoon.

Let’s think about this logically for a moment. Obama didn’t exactly gain much by his participation in the 2008 Forum, during which, contrary to Warren’s promises, he was asked about culture war issues. And there’s little if any upside for Mitt Romney from appearing at an evangelical megachurch whose pastor believes there are “fundamental differences” between Mormons and evangelicals because Mormons “don’t believe in the historic doctrine of the Trinity.”

This obviously is a face-saving move by Warren. But he blames it on the campaigns, charging, “I’ve never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don’t expect that tone to change before the election.” Who’s Warren to talk about mean-spiritedness? As I wrote when Obama (inexplicably) chose him to deliver the invocation at his inauguration:

After insisting that his agenda was “broad,” and holding himself out as an impartial arbiter of the forum, [Warren] declared that voting for a “Holocaust denier” (i.e., someone who is pro-choice) is a “deal-breaker” for many evangelicals. Obama was pressured to talk about “abortion reduction,” but Warren likens such rhetoric likening it to Schindler’s List: an attempt to save some lives but not end a “holocaust.”

In the world of the “broader agenda” evangelicals, when liberals advocate for gay marriage, they’re stoking the culture wars; when a “broader agenda” evangelical crusades against it, he’s merely upholding biblical standards. In that tradition, Warren in October implored his followers to vote for Proposition 8 because “there are about 2 percent of Americans are homosexual, gay, lesbian people. We should not let 2 percent of the population… change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years.” Warren called opposition to gay marriage a “humanitarian issue” because “God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation.”

Warren, a creationist, believes that homosexuality disproves evolution; he told CNN’s Larry King in 2005, “If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn’t reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.”

Instead, Warren says he’s going to host a forum on “religious freedom,” and invite “the leading Catholic voice in America, the leading Jewish voice in America, and the leading Muslim voice in America to join me.” Which, when you think about it, is obviously another promise Warren can’t possibly fulfill.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email