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The FAQ on the Saddleback Event Saturday

Got this courtesy of the good folks at Saddleback Church.

with Sens. John McCain & Barack Obama
August 16, 2008


What is the Saddleback Civil Forum?

The Saddleback Civil Forum is a monthly forum for Southern California intended to promote personal responsibility, social civility, and spiritual maturity, held on the 120 acre campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.  World leaders in science, business, education, the arts, entertainment, government, health, and religion are invited to speak on subjects of community interest. Sometimes speakers are ordinary people with extraordinary stories, such as a recent forum when five Jewish holocaust survivors shared how they survived the World War II death camps.

How did the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency come about?

On July 2nd, after efforts by another organization failed to get the two candidates together, Dr. Rick Warren personally contacted the candidates out of his relationship with both men, and invited them to Saddleback’s Civil Forum for August.  Both agreed to participate on two conditions: 1) that Dr. Warren ask all the questions — instead of a panel, or from the audience — and 2) that it be open for all national media to cover as news or carry via live video feed from Saddleback, as opposed to co-sponsorship by any one network or outlet, as was done during the primary campaigns.

After so many debates among candidates throughout the primaries, what makes this event unique?

This will be the first joint appearance of the two presumptive nominees of both parties for President, and one of only four joint appearances of the campaigns, including three debates planned for later this fall.  It is also the final general appearance by either candidate before they go into hiatus prior to their respective conventions.  And, as far as we know, it is the first time that a church pastor has ever moderated an event, in a local church, featuring the two major candidates for President.

What will be the format of the Forum on the Presidency?

The two-hour format will be held in a non-debate format, from 5 pm to 7 pm PDT.  Dr. Warren will have a separate long-form conversation with each candidate for about 50 minutes.

To avoid bias, and give America a true and fair comparison the questions to both candidates will be identical to provide a fair comparison, although the follow-up questions may differ, based on their response.

Sen. Barack Obama will be interviewed first, as determined by a flip of a coin. To insure fairness, Sen. McCain will not hear the questions during the first hour. Between the two interviews, the candidates will appear together on stage for photographs.

What kind of questions will Dr. Warren ask?

Dr. Warren has been soliciting and considering questions from leaders representing all sectors and sides for over a month.  First, he invited the 250,000 American pastors and church leaders who subscribe to his weekly newsletter to email their “heartland” questions. Next, he put together a team of experts in various areas to help him shape the questions on their area of expertise (i.e. religious persecution, AIDS, hiring freedom, abortion, etc.)

Questions from debates and town hall meetings typically deal with hot political topics like the war, the border, the price of oil and reaction to campaign statements. While important questions to ask, these tend to be short-term issues on which the candidates have repeatedly stated their positions.

The Saddleback Civil Forum will focus on the core convictions of each candidate that would shape how each one would lead and their views on America’s role, direction, and culture.  Each interview will be segmented into four themes:

STEWARDSHIP: Questions on the constitution, the role of government, security, education, and energy.

LEADERSHIP: Questions on personal character, competence, convictions, and experience to be president.

WORLDVIEW: Questions on life, family, evil, freedom, Christianity, and Islam.

AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD: Questions on going to war, on America’s responsibility to bless other nations, poverty and disease, human rights, religious liberty, corruption, and their vision for America.

Is this event a violation of church and state?

When asked this question in media interviews, Dr. Warren has given this response:  “Of course not — it has no government sponsorship. I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is simply a worldview and everyone has some type of worldview. Whether you are an atheist, secularist, Buddhist, communist, Christian or any other faith, you have a worldview. Your worldview is your personal database that you reference to make every decision. Any leader who claims that he will “not allow his faith to influence his decisions” is either ignorant or dishonest, as that is impossible to do.  Leaders make decisions based on their values, or worldview, so it is entirely appropriate for voters to want to know what a candidate’s worldview is.”


Does Dr. Warren intend to endorse either candidate?

No. First, the law prohibits non-profit 501(c)3 organizations such as churches from making official endorsements. Second, Dr. Warren believes it is inappropriate for pastors to make personal endorsements of political candidates, since pastors must shepherd all the flock, regardless of their political persuasion.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have both been friends of Dr. Warren before they began their run for President.  He knows many leaders from both parties, including six of the candidates who ran for the Presidency, but he has never endorsed any candidate. 

At the 2006 Saddleback Global Summit on AIDS and the Church, Barack Obama participated as one of 60 speakers.  At that annual event the following year, Hillary Clinton appeared in person. John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama and John Edwards joined via video to share their plans for addressing HIV/AIDS if elected to national office.

Why did Dr. Warren invite the candidates to the Saddleback Civil Forum?

Dr. Warren wanted to provide a different context and climate for the candidates to let the faith community and the entire electorate know who they are and how they will lead — sharing not just what is in their heads, but also in their hearts.  He is not a political pundit, but a pastor who deals with the real life, daily life concerns of average Americans, and he wants to ask objective, but tough questions about those issues. Dr. Warren intended for a panel to interview the candidates, but both presumptive nominees asked that he alone ask the questions, expressing their trust in him to provide a fair and civil format.

How many people will attend the Forum? 

Each campaign was provided 100 seats, and approximately 5,000 more tickets are being distributed to Saddleback Church members and regular attenders through a drawing in seven categories.  For security reasons, only individuals with tickets and accredited, credentialed working media will be allowed on the church campus.

Will there be an opportunity to meet the candidates?

There will be no opportunity for autographs, photographs, shaking hands or meeting with either presumptive nominee.

Who is handling the security for the event?

The Secret Service.  No phones, cameras, purses, or recording device will be allowed. The Campus will be closed the day before.  This is a church event, not a public event, and only those with tickets will be allowed on campus. 

Will there be media facilities?

Yes, though due to Secret Service requirements for background checks, the deadline for media credentials closed on August 8.  Media with credentialing questions or requiring additional information are asked to contact A. Larry Ross Communications.  Phone: 972-267-1111.  Email:  

Is any other organization involved with the Saddleback Civil Forum?

No. This is a Saddleback Church event.

What else is happening related to the Civil Forum this weekend?

Dr. Warren had hoped to host an interfaith reception prior to the Forum but scheduling prevented that from happening.

The morning after the Civil Forum, Sunday, August 17, Dr. Warren will deliver a non-partisan message at Saddleback Church entitled “The Kind of Leadership America Needs.” National news agencies have expressed interest in broadcasting it.

What will be the focus of Dr. Warren’s Sunday morning message?

The message will be about the necessity and nature of effective leadership. Dr. Warren has advised many presidents and world leaders. “The Kind of Leadership America Needs,” will be based on what the Bible says about servant leadership, his 35 year personal study of leadership, and his experiences in having trained more than 400,000 leaders in 162 countries over the past 28 years.  Dr. Warren has taught on leadership at Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, The University of Judaism, the Davos World Economic Forum, the Aspen Institute, the United Nations, and at many international congresses.  He was selected by “U.S. News & World Report” as one of America’s 25 Best Leaders. (See biography below).

Both candidates have publicly endorsed and supported the Global PEACE plan and the PEACE Coalition started by Dr. Warren.  What is it?

The PEACE Plan is a strategy to combat five global problems that affect billions of people: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases and illiteracy/poor education. P.E.A.C.E. is an acrostic for Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.   The PEACE Coalition is a network of networks, creating partnerships between the public, profit, and faith sectors — governments, businesses, and churches.

Currently, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan is being developed in 68 countries.  Over the past four years, Saddleback Church has sent 7,776 members on more than 1,000 PEACE teams to work internationally in 68 countries. For additional endorsements and information visit

Endorsement of the PEACE Coalition by Sen. John McCain

“The consistent message of the Gospels calls us to recognize that all life is sacred because all human beings are created in the image of God, and Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The billions affected by poverty, diseases, illiteracy, and oppressive or corrupt governments are our neighbors and they deserve our compassion, support and comfort.  They are living without hope, happiness or good health.  This is why we need the PEACE Plan and the PEACE Coalition. Together as individuals, churches, corporations, and countries we must do all we can to cooperate in eradicating these ‘giant problems.’  The mobilization of local churches to aid, educate and empower others through the PEACE Plan has already made an impact on these problems and will only increase. I am so grateful for the PEACE Plan and I thank Rick and Kay Warren for their leadership worldwide.”   

Endorsement of the PEACE Coalition by Sen. Barack Obama

“Through the PEACE Plan, thousands of partners are acting on the belief that the challenges we face today are not simply technical problems in search of a ten-point plan. They are moral problems, rooted in both individual callousness and societal indifference, due to the imperfections of man. The PEACE Plan marshals the hard work and good will of churches, placing trust in the limitless power of a living and awesome God.  It proclaims with loving witness that the weary and heavy-laden across the globe can find rest and strength in the arms of their brothers and sisters — ordinary people empowered by God to change the world. Michelle and I will be praying fervently for the success of the PEACE Coalition. Moreover, as partners, and as friends we will be working with Rick and Kay Warren and all Americans willing to see that the aims of this great plan are realized. God’s call to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper requires of us nothing less.”


“It has taken a man of God to do what nobody else has been able to do since the general election season began: Get Barack Obama and John McCain together on the same stage.”                         The New York Times

The most prominent mediator of late is Pastor Rick Warren, who has wrangled John McCain and Barack Obama for their first joint appearance… The bookies of the political game are referring to the matchup as ‘The Rumble Before the Humble.’ “                                               The New Yorker        


  1. Eric Eric August 13, 2008

    All Obama supporters should meet at Portola and El Toro at the shopping center at 3pm for info and instructions on the pro-Obama rally. But be very aware that anti-war groups, the Gilchrist Minutemen Organization and anti-abortion groups are also going to be there–as will the Orange County Sheriff Dept.

  2. just...asking? just...asking? August 13, 2008

    I’ll be at this event and look forward to hearing from both presumtive party nominee’s. I have asked many if they could take my seat, “who they would want to meet”? 90% want to meet Obama, 70% are reep’s!

    Don’t think this is a good omen for McBush (McCain)!

  3. Eric Cooper Eric Cooper August 14, 2008

    Good that you will get to see him, but the way things are shaping up, I think that the all the fun will be happening in the streets outside the church property.

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