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I Have to Say This PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

As a 501(c)3 organization, the JREF is limited in what it may properly say in regard to political matters. However, the just-announced decision by President-Elect Obama that he will have fire-breathing “pastor” Rick Warren – of the huge evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County – deliver his inaugural invocation, is alarming. Warren is most famously known as a trenchant opponent of gay marriage, but he also opposes “Plan B” – which aims to override the law that requires hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, he fights in-vitro fertilization, he opposes women’s abortion rights, and stem-cell research.  As our friend Bob Park says, all clear-headed humans should be offended by that last item.  I’m offended, since I’m very science-oriented, though I’m elated at Obama’s appointment of Harvard physicist John Holdren to be presidential science advisor, of Oregon State marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and of Steve Chu to serve as Secretary of Energy.  These are all ranking scientists, and just may neutralize the science-bashing that took place from the White House over the last eight years.

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written by JeffWagg, December 20, 2008
While I'm certainly no fan of Rick Warren, I'm pleased that Obama chose this extremely unimportant role for someone like this. If politics dictate that Obama pander to these folks, this is the way to do it.
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written by Alencon, December 20, 2008
Perhaps, but I can't get the old saying "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" out of my head.

To my mind Warren's views are as unacceptable as the views of the folk in white sheets and pointy hats. So why are his views tolerated even at the highest levels?
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written by Jon, December 20, 2008
"As a 501(c)3 organization, the JREF is limited in what it may properly say in regard to political matters.


Is the Saddleback Church in Orange County also a 501(c)3 organisation or similarly restricted?

Can they have their charitable status removed after the inaugural invocation by it's representative? Isn't that just about as political as you can get?

Just askin'.


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Agreed, I guess, but...
written by MrIncredible, December 21, 2008
...who would have been a better choice? Jeremiah Wright? Ted Haggard? Al Sharpton? When you make your living trying to get people to worship a fictional entity you are, by definition, a little nuts. Most any clergy person anywhere would be opposed to gay marriage, stem cell research, and abortion. That's what their bible tells them. That's their gig.
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 21, 2008
If Obama's intent was a minor political nod to evangelicals, he might have made it a bit less glaring had he offered it to a 'softer' evangelical like whutzizname, Billy Graham Jr.
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The right choice
written by julianrod, December 21, 2008
The right choice would've been the guy from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
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A better choice
written by Trish, December 21, 2008
A better choice for the inauguration of the president of a nation founded to have a secular government, with clear separation of church & state, would be to say, "I'm not going to have a preacher in any official capacity at my inauguration."

Not that I'm holding my breath.
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written by Yahzi, December 21, 2008
Jesse Ventura said, "You can be yourself and get elected, but you can't be yourself and govern."

Obama's going to have to make lots of compromises. As a start, this isn't bad. There shouldn't even be a chaplain at the inauguration of a secular government official in a secular government. But there is, for now, and Obama is going to play by the rules, for now. He's going to be fair. And that makes me happy. For now. smilies/grin.gif
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written by LindaRosaRN, December 21, 2008
Let's not forget that Rick Warren is also a Creationist, and a young Earth one at that.

What really irked me about Obama was the way he defended his choice. He claimed Warren invited him to speak at Warren's church. Well, not exactly. Obama was invited to debate McCain. Obama made it sound like Warren was open to hearing opposing opinions on his own turf.

In delivering an *invocation,* Warren will be asking favors of his deity on behalf of the nation. Doesn't that call for a big knife and a goat?

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written by Beerina, December 21, 2008
I find it sad government is scaring 501(c)3 organizations by threatening their tax-exempt status if they...criticize government. Even if criticism of supernatural things is part of the organization's purpose.

Still, it would seem to be a careful line to tread. It's a subtle difference between saying, "This guy opposes a women's abortion rights because of religious beliefs, which we find wrong" (for some Randi-esque reason), and "This guy should be opposed because he opposes a women's abortion rights", without mentioning the religious background. Full speed ahead on the former, careful with the latter, though IANAL.

In any collision in court, I suspect the former would survive a challenge.
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written by mike5496, December 21, 2008
Yes, he's obviously working some political angles... But what was the last administration that would make a statement like this: (change.gov website):

“The truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry,” President-elect Obama said. “It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States—and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.”

Pretty refreshing.
M
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written by frankwomble, December 22, 2008
One could stretch the idea of "free and open inquiry" to include those of a relgious bent, since they might be considered philosophers.
President-elect Obama is just doing what all polticians do -- pandering. To expect otherwise is to not understand the nature of the political animal, no matter how much one purports to believe in a "search for knowledge, truth and greater understanding of the world around us." Religion does exactly the opposite.
No need to whine about Warren at the inauguration, though; it's essentially harmless. It will take someone with much greater courage in the future to openly say: "My administration will base its policies on the best available science. Woo-woo and superstition of all kinds, including religious, is unjustified and inappropriate. Therefore, there will be no invoking of the blessings of any mythical Judeo-Christian Hairy Thunderer at my inaguration, since such an act would be both hypocritical and moot."
I won't hold my breath waiting for this to happen.
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written by Roadtoad, December 25, 2008
With respect to all:

Having been one of "those" evangelicals, (including a YEC, and all that went with it), and having worked in Christian Radio, this is one of the most boneheaded moves the new administration could have made. Rick Warren? Are you kidding me?

Warren has a decidedly myopic view of humanity and of the world at large. I hope I don't sound too cynical, but Saddleback will be making hay of this for the next four years, using this as part of very sophisticated ad campaigns which will support their very simplistic views of science, God, and American politics. It will ultimately result in the uninformed making sizeable contributions to Saddleback, without realizing that those "contributions" will be used in manners that would make Thomas Jefferson's and Gregor Mendel's hair stand on end.

The whole thought of this just plain creeps me out.
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Tempest in a tea pot.
written by Raindoggy, December 26, 2008
I for one am not that concerned.

We all know that an (open) atheist president is a no no. So Obama has to throw the rabid religious nuts a bone. I would rather have him throw the swearing in bone than the "here's a cabinet position" bone. I think that Obama has made it clear where he stands on science and knowledge. This to me is inconsequential out side of a political image context.

It's about building bridges people smilies/tongue.gif.
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