DES MOINES, Iowa — Coming off a three-day swing in Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign announced that Rick Warren, the pastor of the eighth-largest megachurch in the United States, has been added on as an adviser to his 2016 campaign.
Eric Teetsel, who serves as the Rubio campaign's director of faith outreach, announced Warren's addition to the team while rolling out a long list of faith-based and religious leaders. In a statement, Teetsel said the campaign intends to "take full advantage" of the "input and wisdom" from the group.
"In the last few years we have seen a debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens," Teetsel said in a statement. "Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America's foremost defenders of religious liberty. This diverse group represents men and women of many faiths and perspectives, including academics, pastors, and advocates. We intend to take full advantage of their input and wisdom as Senator Rubio fights to protect American's religious liberty in the 21st Century."
Although the announcement does not equal an endorsement from Warren, the Rubio campaign hopes the news helps in Iowa, where evangelical Christians make up a significant segment of caucus-goers, with only 26 days until the caucuses. According to Rubio spokesman Alex Conant, Warren does not formaly endorse political candidates.
Warren, who is the founder and paster of Saddleback Church in Southern California, gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, and also hosted Obama and Sen. John McCain for the Civil Forum on The Presidency during the 2008 campaign.
In addition to Warren, the Rubio campaign also announced that theologian Wayne Grudem and Thomas Kidd, a noted author and history professor at Baylor, were also joining the advisory board.
Inquiries to Warren and Saddleback Church were not returned.