WASHINGTON (ABP) — Rick Warren, founder of the Southern Baptist Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., will give the invocation at Barack Obama's Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.
In August Warren invited both then-candidate Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain to his California mega-church for a high-profile Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. Obama landed in hot water when he tried to brush off a question from Warren about abortion by saying determining when a baby gets human rights is "above my pay grade."
Afterward Warren said he thought Obama should have been more specific in his answer.
"He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else," Warren said in a BeliefNet interview. "But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me."
CBN's David Brody said including Warren in the inauguration "makes a whole lot of sense."
"Even though Warren and Obama disagree on the life issue, they do see eye to eye on many social justice issues," Brody said. "This move is also classic Obama because it is a signal to religious conservatives that he's willing to bring in both sides to the faith discussion in this country. Obama has never shied away from that."
In 2006 Warren, author of the best-selling Purpose Driven Life, drew criticism from fellow religious conservatives for inviting the Illinois senator to Saddleback Church for a conference on fighting HIV/AIDS.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, released the program Wednesday. Warren will be joined by luminaries including singer Aretha Franklin and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Delivering the benediction is Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder with Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and considered the dean of the civil rights movement.
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–Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.