McCain and Obama Appear at Forum at Rick Warren's Evangelical Mega-Church

Article excerpt

Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama appeared at a forum on faith and values at a California mega-church Aug. 16.

The event, held by Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, attracted a good deal of attention because it is the only time the two candidates are scheduled to appear in the same forum aside from the presidential debates.

Although McCain and Obama briefly shared the stage with Warren, the event, sponsored by the "Saddleback Civil Forum," was not a debate. Warren, author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, spent an hour asking Obama questions and then asked McCain the same ones.

Asked about "faith-based" initiatives, Obama reiterated his view that religious organizations that accept federal funds should not be permitted to engage in hiring discrimination.

Although he lauded faith-based initiatives, Obama added, "We do have to be careful to make sure that we are not creating a situation where people are being discriminated against using federal money. That's not new. That's a concept that was true under the Clinton administration, that was true under the Bush administration."

Asked the same question, McCain said he would "absolutely not" require faith-based group to drop discriminatory hiring policies. "And if you did, it would mean a severe crippling of faith-based organizations and their ability to do things so successfully," he said.

The two also clashed over education policy. Obama endorsed merit pay for public school teachers, while McCain called for vouchers and school choice.

"Look," said McCain, "I want every American family to have the same choice that Cindy and I made and Sen. Obama and Mrs. Obama made as well and that was we wanted to send our children to the school of our choice. And charter schools work, my friends, home-schooling works, vouchers in our nation's capital works." (Actually, independent evaluation of the Washington, D.C., voucher program has shown no academic improvement for participating students.)

The candidates also discussed abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, Supreme Court nominees and their personal religious views.

The same day as the Saddleback event, thousands of conservative, young evangelicals rallied on the National Mall in Washington. …