One of the many big political stories of the past few days
is Barack Obama�s newest pastor problem.
Obama has chosen Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural
This is the same Rick Warren, of the ironically named
Saddleback megachurch, who actively pushed for passage of Proposition 8, and
has compared homosexuality to incest, polygamy, and child abuse.
Warren�s respect for women equals his respect for gays. For
instance, he recently compared reproductive choice to the Holocaust.
This guy is the king of zealous exaggeration and deceptive
spin. But people follow him and absorb his every word. That makes him
dangerous. And that danger led to disaster on November 4, when his Prop 8
efforts succeeded in stripping gay couples in California of their right to
This is the kind of religious political interference that we
voted against when we elected Barack Obama as our next president. But now
Warren will play a starring role at the inauguration of the president who
promised change we can believe in.
So, naturally, Obama has come under fire in the past few
days for this selection. And rightly so, in my opinion.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has responded to the
controversy with a set of carefully constructed talking points, describing how
this will be �the most open, accessible, and inclusive inauguration
in American history,� bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and
While Obama does not share Warren�s views on homosexuality,
the talking points tell us, Warren �has a long history of activism on behalf of
the disadvantaged and the downtrodden,� and �[h]e�s devoted his life to
performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in
addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis.�
The talking points end with the rather tokenesque-sounding
announcement that �for the very first time, there will be a group representing
the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.�
As Joe Soe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign put it, �The
anger about this decision? Hey, we�re also bringing a gay marching band. You
know how the gays love a parade.�
This makes me seriously question Obama�s sensitivity to the
LGBT community and its quest for equal rights.
I understand and appreciate Obama�s agenda of inclusiveness.
But, in seeking inclusiveness, did he really have to include someone so
divisive, who is himself against inclusion of the LGBT community in one of
society�s most revered institutions?
And, while I appreciate Rev. Warren�s work to fight AIDS and
poverty, those good works do not erase the bad.
Perhaps in another era, the sting wouldn�t hurt quite so
badly. But Obama�s choice here comes in the wake of Prop 8�s passage, and that
makes it particularly careless and hurtful.
By including Warren in the inauguration ceremony, Obama will
be rubbing salt into the proverbial wound.
And it makes me wonder if he thinks the evangelical vote is
more important to his political future than the gay vote.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and
activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a
former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights
group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of
newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the
author�s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty
International or any other organization with which she may be associated.