Barack Obama

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, disagrees with Sen. Barack Obama’s strong support for abortion, and has told him so in a public meeting, but still will allow him to address an AIDS conference at the church because getting different parts of society working together on the problem is so important, the church said in a statement.

“Though he is not a keynote speaker, Purpose Driven and Saddleback Church are acutely aware of the strong opposition to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama being one of many featured participants on the program,” the statement said.

“While knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS, the speakers at the Summit do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Saddleback Church, its pastoral leadership or the congregation. As a result, we’re not making an endorsement of Obama or any of the other speakers. Rather by coming to Saddleback, the Summit speakers are affirming and supporting the vital role of the Church in fighting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.”

The statement came a day after a long list of Christian leaders from across a wide spectrum of theologies and missions rose together to urge Warren to rescind the invitation to Obama to the conference starting today.

“You cannot fight one evil while justifying another,” a joint statement from dozens of leaders of Christian groups said in condemning Obama’s support for abortion and Warren’s support for Obama.

Troy Newman, president of the front-lines anti-abortion Operation Rescue, wasn’t about to let Warren off the hook so easily.

“One simply cannot justify inviting pro-abortion Sen. Barack Obama to speak in the defense of the lives of HIV/AIDS victims when he has already expressed to the world his blatant lack of respect for human life by supporting abortion, including the radical partial-birth abortion procedure,” Newman said.

“Because of his callous disregard for innocent life, Obama lacks the moral credibility to speak on life issues,” Newman said. “There are some things that just cannot be excused with a disclaimer, and support for abortion is one of them.”

“We find it distressing that Mr. Warren could attempt to defend his pro-life position while giving little more than lip service to the deaths of over 126,000 babies that die from abortion each day worldwide,” Newman said. “The AIDS pandemic pales in comparison to the abortion holocaust.”

“The evangelical church can provide no genuine help for those who suffer from AIDS if those involved do not first have their ethic of life firmly rooted in the Word of God,” the original statement said. “Accordingly, we call on Pastor Rick Warren to rescind his invitation to Sen. Obama immediately. The millions of silent victims who have died because of the policies of leaders like Sen. Obama demand a response from those who believe that life is a gift from God.”

It’s the second round of criticism for Warren in just days. Earlier criticisms arose because of Warren’s recent trip to Syria, where he described the government and its policies as “moderate” even though the U.S. government describes Syria as “terrorism-sponsoring,” and Mideast experts confirm it has punitive policies discriminating against Christians and Jews.

“It is clear Rick Warren would never have a racist or sexist speak at his church concerning any topic,” said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, a spokesman for the Christian Defense Coalition. “In light of that fact, why would he feature a speaker who supports violence against women and children?”

“Having Sen. Barack Obama speak on issues of social justice is like having a segregationist speak on civil rights. Mr. Obama supports partial-birth abortion and has voted against bills prohibiting taxpayers paying for abortion. It is hypocritical at best for him to speak out against the horror of AIDS on children and then support abortion which has killed 50,000,000 children in America alone,” Mahoney said.

The Who’s Who list of names joining in the call to Warren included Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Judy Brown of American Life League, Tim Wildmon of American Family Association, Joe Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League, Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, Chris Rosebrough of Capo Valley Church in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Kevin McCullough of WMCA Radio, Ingrid Schlueter of Crosstalk Radio, Vic Eliason of VCY American Radio Network and Cal Zastrow of Christian Action for the Preborn and others.

The Saddleback statement noted that to date, more than 25 million have died of AIDS, leaving 16 million orphans in Africa alone. But pro-life organizations note that in America alone, the abortion industry has cost an estimated 45 million to 50 million lives.

The church statement said there will be almost 60 speakers from a wide range of interests, from medicine, science, the church and government. The statement said Obama and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., represent two different political perspectives.

“In fact, the following disclaimer is printed at the front of the Summit syllabus: ‘We do not endorse everything every speaker might say. With nearly 60 speakers representing different backgrounds and expertise, you’ll undoubtedly hear statements you disagree with. We will, too.”

The statement said Obama was invited only to talk about AIDS, not abortion.

“Let it be made very clear that Pastor Warren and Saddleback Church completely disagree with Obama’s views on abortion and other positions he has taken, and have told him so in a public meeting on Capitol Hill. Anyone who has read The Purpose Drive Life, specifically chapters two and 22, knows the Warrens are staunchly pro-life, because it’s the biblical position.”

The statement said to truly be pro-life “means far more than opposing abortion. It also means doing everything in our power to keep people alive, so they might respond to the grace of Jesus Christ. Sometimes that means working with people you disagree with. With AIDS killing 8,000 people a day, saving lives is more important to us than political alignment.”

“Our goal has been to put people together who normally won’t even speak to each other. We do not expect all participants in the Summit discussion to agree with all of our Evangelical beliefs. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by Evangelicals alone. It will take the cooperation of all – government, business, NGOs and the church,” the statement said.

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