LOS ANGELES, August 15, 2008- Atheists United, an organization dedicated to advancing the cause of atheism and secular government, criticizes the choice of both presumptive presidential nominees to submit to being questioned by Evangelical preacher Rick Warren as part of his ongoing “Civil Forum” series at his congregation, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. The event, which will be carried live by CNN and will be covered by all major news networks, has the distinction of being the first joint appearance by Democrat Barak Obama and Republican John McCain in this closely watched campaign. Many secular Americans will see the candidate’s participation in this forum as an implicit endorsement of Evangelical political clout and a sad indicator of the diminished tradition of the separation of church and state in today’s politics.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, in this event's official press release, admits that his primary goals for hosting the Saddleback Civil Forum include, "...[to] proclaim the Gospel Truth of salvation in Jesus Christ,..." and "...helping the Church regain credibility..." With such stated goals at the heart of Warren's ongoing forums, one wonders why any candidate running to be the president of this secular nation would agree to make this forum the first on the campaign trail or agree to participate in such an event, controlled by one preacher whose views represent a narrow segment of our diverse country, at all.
“There are good reasons for the separation of church and state,” says Stuart Bechman, President for Atheists United, “ and by appearing in this forum, the two candidates and the two political parties are clearly showing a preference for the religious practices and beliefs – and the political agendas derived from those beliefs - represented by this church and its pastor. The church and its pastor couldn’t buy better coverage to promote its own narrow sectarian message.”
Bechman also serves as vice-president for Atheist Alliance International.
Brian Parra, Atheists United’s Director of Communications and Membership says, "Certainly the Evangelicals are an important voting block and I don't fault the candidates for courting them, but the impropriety of scheduling this as the first joint appearance of the two candidates in this historic election, whether it's officially a debate or not, demonstrates a lack of commitment to the separation of church and state and highlights the disproportional ascendancy of Evangelicals in our political process.”Media Contacts for Atheists United:Stuart Bechman-President Brian Parra- Director of Communications and Membership