New York Times columnist Frank Rich took to the op-ed pages
Sunday to rail against President-elect Barack
Obama for his selection of conservative pastor Rick Warren
to deliver the opening prayer at January's
The Obama camp
has attempted to justify the selection of Warren as a way
to shine a light on the "wide range of
viewpoints" in a "diverse and noisy and
opinionated" America. But Rich, a columnist for the
Times since 1994, says Obama should know better,
saying the president-elect "knows full well that a
'viewpoint' defaming any minority group
by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is
have been up in arms about Warren's selection since
the announcement was made. So too have evangelical
voices, who claim Warren should have rejected the
invitation because of Obama's pro-choice
("pro-death" in their words) beliefs.
But this is
perhaps the most visible column yet to come out of the
opinion pages that really calls into question Obama's
rationale in choosing Warren, the Saddleback Church
pastor who campaigned heavily for the passing of Prop.
8 in California.
In the column
Rich reasons that despite calls from liberal activists to
remove Warren from the inauguration, Obama now has to follow
through with his decision. Civil rights icon Reverend
Joseph Lowery, an outspoken supporter of gay rights,
was selected to deliver the
benediction, though that announcement was rather
overshadowed by the selection of Warren.
Rich then pushed
the conversation forward by turning to Timothy McCarthy,
a historian who teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School
of Government and "an unabashed Obama
enthusiast" who served on his campaign's
National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
Leadership Council. His question -- what happens next?
that Warren's role at the inauguration is symbolic,
saying that it is now time "to move from symbol
to substance," calling on Warren to
"recant his previous statements about gays and
lesbians" and on Obama to start following
through on his promises to LGBT Americans.
urged "LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to
judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not
on the character of his ministers."
column's up note Rich reasons that conservative
evangelical America is on its way out, albeit slowly.
After spending a half million dollars in California to
pass the anti-gay-marriage measure Prop. 8, James
Dobson's Focus on the Family has now had to lay off
20% of its workforce.
new generation of leaders, he says, "departs from the
Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a
stranglehold on the G.O.P." He points to the
recent removal of top evangelical leader Reverend
Richard Cizik -- known for addressing global warming and,
more recently, supporting civil unions -- as a sign of
the "old establishment's
Rich ends the
column with a call to action for 2009: "Here's
to humility and equanimity everywhere in America,
starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids
of change awaiting us in the New Year." (Ross
von Metzke, Advocate.com)