Gay rights advocates gathered outside of Rick Warren’s megachurch on Sunday to protest President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to pick the evangelical pastor to deliver the invocation at his inauguration on Tuesday.
About 100 demonstrators lined the streets leading to the Saddleback Church campus in Lake Forest, Calif., waving rainbow flags and signs while chanting “equal rights,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“President-elect Obama made a huge misjudgment,” said one protestor, Jenny Mirmak of Irvine, Calif. “The Democratic Party has always counted on the gay and lesbian community for their votes, then thrown them under the bus once they get elected.”
Obama received strong backlash from the gay community and its supporters after it was announced in late December that Warren, who had publicly supported the anti-gay marriage measure Proposition 8, would give the prayer at the historic inaugural ceremony.
Some had called the decision a “slap” in the face to the gay community, especially since Obama had campaigned promising greater rights to the group.
Rick Warren has also been under a firestorm of criticism for not only supporting Proposition 8, but also for comparing homosexuality with incest and bestiality in a recent interview.
“They have the right to protest, but as Christians we have the right to believe what we want to believe,” responded Kathy Cox, a member of Saddleback Church, to the protestors on Sunday.
Saddleback is one of the largest churches in the nation and draws some 22,000 people each weekend.
Amid backlash from the gay community, Obama has defended his pick by saying that America is about diversity and is made up of people with different opinions. Both Obama and Warren said that they hope to be able to show America that people with contrasting views can get along and show civility towards one another.
In the past, Warren also picked up heavy criticism from conservatives when he invited Obama to speak at his church’s HIV/AIDS conference. Warren had ignored the protest and welcomed the pro-abortion rights senator to the church’s stage to speak nonetheless.
Last year, during the presidential race between Obama and Republican candidate John McCain, Warren again invited Obama to his church for a civil forum about issues that evangelicals care about.
Warren is scheduled to give the invocation Tuesday morning, which will be followed by a performance by Aretha Franklin, the swearing-in of vice president-elect Joseph Biden, a performance by Yo-Yo Ma, and the swearing in of President-elect Barack Obama.