"They can't accuse me of homophobia," says Rick Warren, the celebrity preacher and icon of the "new" or "broader agenda" evangelicals, in a new interview with Beliefnet editor Steven Waldman. Pastor Rick protests that he's not a homophobe because he's given money to people with AIDS. He has gay friends and has even eaten dinner in "gay homes."

Waldman kicked off the marriage segment of a multi-topic interview with Warren by asking him which is a bigger threat to the American family, divorce or gay marriage. Warren said it's divorce -- and proceeded to explain that evangelicals harp on gay marriage rather than divorce because he and his brethren love talking about other people's "sins."

Warren dodged Waldman's question about whether he supported civil unions or domestic partnerships, answering instead, "I support full equal rights for everyone in America," adding that he only opposes a "redefinition" of marriage. He went on to say he's opposed to gay marriage the same way he is opposed to a brother and sister marrying (that would be incest), a man marrying a child (that would be statutory rape), or someone having multiple spouses (that would be polygamy). Pressed by Waldman, Warren said he considered those crimes equivalent to gay marriage.

Warren claimed he supported Proposition 8 because of a free-speech issue -- asserting that "any pastor could be considered doing hate speech . . . if he shared his views that homosexuality wasn't the most natural way for relationships." That's a standard religious right canard: turning pluralism into "discrimination" against Christians. (Or, claiming that saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is a "war" that demeans Christianity.) Not only is it a silly argument logically, it's completely fabricated when it comes to Proposition 8: had it not passed, the free speech rights of pastors in California would have remained intact.

--Sarah Posner

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