Obama's choice of Warren causes uproar

LAKE FOREST, Calif. /*Pastor Rick Warren*/ faced controversy in 2006 when he invited then-Senator /*Barack Obama*/ to speak at his church for a global summit on AIDS.

Now President-elect Obama is facing heat for his decision to allow the conservative evangelical founder of /*Saddleback Church*/ to do the invocation at his inauguration January 20, 2009.

"It was a slap in the face to gay and lesbian community who worked so hard to get President Obama elected," said Rev. Giovanna Piazza, Sophia Spirit Ecumenical Church.

Warren and Obama hold drastically different views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

In front of Warren's church, protestors recently voiced their anger after the pastor supported /*Proposition 8*/, an initiative banning gay marriage, approved by voters in Nobvember.

"On the same day Obama was elected, gay and lesbian persons in Orange Coutny and in the state lost their civil rights," said Rev. Piazza.

Equality California is circulating a petition calling Obama's decision to include Warren at his swearing-in "appalling," demanding Obama "immediately rescind the invitation."

The president-elect is defending his decision, saying he has always been an advocate for equality of gays and lesbians and will remain so.

"It's important for America to come together even though we have disagreements on certain social issues," said President-elect Barack Obama.

"I think it's wonderful," said Orange County resident Sara Hendrickson. "He's a great pastor and I think he'd do a wonderful job."

"For Obama to do that, he's sort of opening his hands up and saying, 'Let's try to give everybody an equal chance," said O.C. resident Jerry Scanlan. "I think it's positive."

Others say there were plenty of other people to choose from for such an important task.

"Seems like a poor choice to represent all the people of faith from around the country," said Rev. Piazza.

Pastor Warren released a statement Thursday afternoon:

Statement by Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church
Regarding the invitation from President-elect Obama to deliver the inaugural invocation
Lake Forest, Calif., Dec. 18, 2008

"I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn't agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony

"Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.

"The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God's blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America's leaders during this critical time in our nation's history."

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