17 August 2008

Candidates Take Part in Massive Church Fundraiser

So, I'm a-Googlin' and a-searchin' for a complete list of the questions Rick Warren asked the candidates last night, as I'd like to answer them myself, and I came across this little nugget of information that stopped me. And I couldn't get around it to move on, so I have to blog about it. This is the Wikipedia entry for the 'debate:'
On August 16, 2008, Rick Warren arranged a meeting between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama at Saddleback called the Civil Forum on The Presidency, where the two alternated speaking and were asked questions by Warren. Held inside Saddleback's Worship Center, the event is notable as the first time the two Presidential candidates met during the campaign. It was broadcast live on national news networks. Tickets were distributed to church members through a raffle with seats listing as high as $1,000 and the event was sold out.
I need more information, because this made me choke on my coffee.

This piece from Aug 4 says:
Last week Saddleback Church folks told us we’d know today how people could get tickets for the Aug. 16 forum where John McCain and Barack Obama will be questioned by Pastor Rick Warren.

Sorry. No go. Today the Saddleback Web site says a “limited number of community tickets will be available Wednesday, Aug. 13.”

What I am being told that they’re still working out how many media spots there will be and what Secret Service says it needs. Not to mention what the campaigns will require in terms of seats for their people.

So, they raffled tickets to their members and whatever might be left over three days before the event goes to the campaigns and then whatever's left over after that goes to the 'community?' Does that sound right? Then there's this from Aug 11:

All general admission tickets to the Saddleback Civil Forum this Saturday have been distributed, according to the Saddleback Church Web site.

A previous posting on their site announced that a limited number of community tickets would be available Wednesday, Aug. 13, but a posting late Monday announced that all general tickets had been dispersed. It is unclear if all tickets are gone.

Okay, so before the date for community dispersal, all tickets are gone. And then there's this put-out YouTuber. And this:

Church officials said they'd hoped to have some tickets available for the public but ran out when they couldn't satisfy demand among church members, who got the first crack at tickets that sold for $500 to $2,000.

Church officials said they decided to charge admission for people who wanted a chance to see the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls because of the expenses to stage the event and provide television feeds to a host of networks.

Now there's mention in the comments of that video that Saddleback had to charge exorbenant amounts of cash for tickets because they needed to pay for High-Def equipment to televise it, and of course the comment above regarding feeds. Hmmm...

First off, they're a massive mega-church and I have a hard time believing they couldn't afford it in the first place. Second, I also find it hard to beieve that networks, who want to televise this, aren't providing their own feeds and what-not. Third, no amount of needing money makes it okay to sell these tickets soley among church members and not to the public--had it not been televised and it was a private function, I could see that, but because they chose to televise it and make it available to the public, it would only have been right to allow the public to participate. And finally, all that expensive equipment...does Saddleback get to keep that, or to they give it to the networks? If they give it all away (not sell it, mind you, give it away) then Saddleback can walk away knowing only that they should have opened tickets up to the public. If Saddleback keeps all of the equipment--if they keep one cent of the money or anything that money bought--it was nothing but a fundraiser. And I have a feeling they won't be giving that stuff away.

So, not only was last night's event hard to watch for its content, it was infinitely more insidious and disgusting than I thought--our Presidential Candidates seemed to have knowingly taken part in a massive church fundraiser at the expense of our Democracy. Good job, guys. The most ironic part: The thrust of this forum was to drill the candidates on their faith and how they interpret it through their lives and leadership. I would suspect that morals and ethics would come into play at some point. Is this ironic, or is it just me?

If anyone knows exactly how much the mega-church raked in off our collective voting backs, please let me know so I can have an aneurysm.

UPDATE: Apparently, cash over production costs goes to the church's PEACE plan. The OC Registry says:

Warren noted that McCain and Obama have endorsed Saddleback's PEACE Plan, a strategy to mobilize churches to fight global problems such as illiteracy, corrupt leadership and disease.

I'm sure this PEACE plan doesn't include an ounce of proselytizing. I'm sure.

h/t to Hess from Feeble Lance.


  1. Must...cover...eyes and try not to read. No! Head exploding now.

  2. Yeah, that's how I felt. I'm still wiping my brains from the ceiling. And, you know, vjack, when we speak up about this sort of thing, we are angry militant atheists. I'm really getting to the point where I'm just willing to accept the label and move stealthily on to wrecking havoc across this faithful land of ours. How much of this shit can we really ignore? *twitch*

  3. Well, make that two folks choking on their coffee. That's disgusting!
    How do these people sleep at night? Seriously!?
    *twitch* *TWITCH* I think I'll happily accept the label of militant atheist if it means I can speak my mind about this kind of thing. It's better than being a mindless sheeple that doesn't even notice that anything's amiss.

  4. Well, another nail in the coffin...

    Two things from the Orange County Registry caught my eye:

    "The original intent was that anything beyond a production costs would go toward the PEACE Plan,'' Ross said. That project funds the church's global missions. "It's a way for Saddleback members to participate in that effort."


    With prices for tickets ranging from $500 to $2,000, the church could take in between $2.5 million and $10 million, based on 5,000 tickets being available.

    While the math may be a bit dramatic it doesn't change the fact that this was a fundraising event.

    The afore mentioned 'PEACE plan' is nothing more then the churches local and global missions project. They can try to make it sound as philanthropic as they like...the church made a mountain of cash on this.

    I expect the actual numbers will never come to light but as this was a political even the information should be available to the public, shouldn't it?

  5. Amusing side note, the men's ministry at that church is called "The HERD".

    Irony is delicious.

  6. Thanks for the info and link, Hess. As soon as I compose myself, I'll link it to the post. *deep breaths*

    I don't know why this pisses me off more than most things...maybe it's just my mood today...

  7. Glad to be of service.

    If it is just your mood, your mood is contagious.

    Thinking about the long-term effects of this election on american politics has rendered my brain near useless.

  8. I've been thinking quite a bit about the whole "militant atheism" thing lately. I consider it a form of anti-atheist bigotry and will likely start blogging about it quite a bit soon.

  9. I found a horribly formatted version of an early transcript.

    Took it upon my self to clean it up and 'PDFamatize' it.

    Enjoy!...or vomit a little if you have anything left in ya'.

    Saddleback Early Transcript

  10. It actually amazing the endless well of vomit I have in me for stuff like this. Thanks for the link. Where do you find the time to drudge all this crap up? :)

    As soon as I have a moment, I will weed the actual questions of out this and post them, so we godless folks can answer them the way we'd like to have the answered. Someone should.

  11. Share the link to the file on your post if you want. It's hosted off my Wordpress storage so it won't be vanishing any time soon.

    I have more time then I know what to do with on some days. Crap-drudging so happens to be one of my many hobbies. ;)

  12. Charitable donations may no longer be strong enough to provide for all of a church's needs anymore. If you need to explore Church Fundraising options I would strongly recommend Easy Fundraising Ideas as a great resource for high profit and no upfront cost fundraisers.