LAKE FOREST -- As pastor Rick Warren prepares to deliver the invocation before Tuesday's presidential inauguration, gay-rights supporters are speaking out against the decision.
Nearly 100 gay-rights activists staged a peaceful protest outside Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Sunday to criticize Pastor Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center called on Barack Obama to rescind his invitation to Warren last month.
"Warren played an important role in helping to re-write the California constitution to eliminate our rights," said Darrel Cummings, the center's chief of staff. "If President-elect Obama does not disinvite Rick Warren, then he is defining what inclusion in America will mean under his administration.
"It will mean that the practice of bigotry is acceptable and that as president -- in the name of `inclusion' -- he will provide a place and platform for that bigotry to be expressed and grow."
Demonstrators waved rainbow flags and signs while chanting "equal rights."
After church services, several parishioners said they were pleased -- and honored -- that Warren would be part of the inauguration.
"He will be able to spread the truth about Jesus Christ and how important it is to our lives," said Arlene Hewitt, 46, of Mission Viejo told the Los Angeles Times.
Kathy Cox, 55, of Newport Beach voiced no ill will toward the demonstrators.
"They have the right to protest, but as Christians we have the right to believe what we want to believe," said Cox, a five-year member of Saddleback Church, whose 22,000 weekend parishioners make it one of the nation's largest congregations.
In response to a question from a Chicago reporter Dec. 18, Obama described himself as "a fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans," despite his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Obama later said that "during the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there is going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented.
"That's how it should be, because that's what America is about," Obama said. "Part of the magic of this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated and that's hopefully going to be a spirit that carries over to the administration."
As an example of the diversity of opinions that will be presented at the inauguration, Obama specifically cited his invitation to the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a former president of the civil rights organization the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to give the benediction.
Warren has commended Obama "for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn't agree on every issue, to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony."
"Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America," he said.
Warren, a best-selling author, hosted a forum in August where he asked Obama and his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a series of questions about philosophical and governmental issues.
"The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God's blessing on the office of the president and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America's leaders during this critical time in our nation's history."
Gay Rights Activists Protest Local Pastor's Role at Inauguration
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