Courage Campaign renews Warren debate call

California’s progressive, grassroots Courage Campaign, still incensed that Barack Obama invited Rick Warren – a renowned author and the pastor of Orange County’s Saddleback Church, as well as a strong, public supporter of Proposition 8’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage – to deliver an invocation at tomorrow’s inauguration, renewed its challenge today to meet Warren for a debate in February or March about marriage equality.

“There should’ve been more thought placed in the choosing of Rev. Warren for the invocation,” Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, told reporters on a teleconference this morning, citing Warren’s comparison of gay and lesbian relationships with pedophilia and incest. “As clergy we need to be compassionate, we need to be tolerant, we need to be respectful of all things and all people, and the comments Rev. Warren made were not respectful, they were dehumanizing.”

“No faith or religion has the right to forcibly impose their theology,” said Lee, adding marriage shouldn’t be a theological discussion “but rather a civil, institutional discussion.”

But while Warren’s selection for the invocation was “a mistake,” it’s a done deal, Courage Campaign founder and director Rick Jacobs said. Given that, Warren should now follow Obama’s instruction that “we all talk to each other” about the issues that divide us.

The Courage Campaign delivered an invitation and 25,000 campaign members’ signatures to Warren’s church on Christmas eve, and Lee followed up with a Jan. 13 letter. According to an Orange County Register article published Friday, a “spokeswoman for Warren said that the Saddleback pastor is focused on President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, in which he will deliver the invocation, and is not making any comments prior to it.”

So Jacobs and Lee today demanded Warren answer their invitation as soon as Wednesday, right after the inauguration.

And if he doesn’t answer this call to debate, Jacobs said, he’ll then have to answer whether he’s “serious about dialogue or is he just interested in making his point.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.