WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) -- Pastor Rick Warren says he's canceled plans for a "civil forum" featuring the presidential candidates because their campaign is so uncivil.
Neither the Obama campaign nor the Romney campaign says their candidate had committed to appearing at the forum at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., near Los Angeles. However Warren said that both candidates had indicated they were interested and the church had started traffic and security planning. The forum had been planned for this week.
In an interview published Wednesday by the Orange County Register, Warren said the forum's goal was to promote civility and personal respect between people with major differences. He said that's not been the climate of the presidential campaign and that he doesn't expect that to change.
"We created the civil forums to promote civility and personal respect between people with major differences," Warren told the paper. "The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling. But that is not the climate of today's campaign. I've never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don't expect that tone to change before the election."
"It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day," he added.
But that isn't the only reason. In a question-and-answer format published on the Register's site, Warren reveals there's another larger issue that led to the cancellation [emphasis added]:
Q. You said you canceled the presidential civil forum because of the negativity and a larger issue. What is that?
A. It is the crumbling of our constitution's first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion. This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America's future. People have forgotten that America was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. Freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights - before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and every other freedom.
And yet today, at the city, the state, and the federal levels, government bureaucrats are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions, and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals, and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean "You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere."
The constitution doesn't just guarantee your freedom to worship; it guarantees you freedom from government intervention in you daily living out what you believe. That's why we've chosen to host a civil forum on religious freedom in September instead of the presidential forum. It's a fight for the constitution, not a personality.
Warren held a candidate forum in 2008 with Obama and Republican John McCain.