Presidential contender was only candidate to speak at international AIDS summit.
By MARTIN WISCKOLThe Orange County Register
LAKE FOREST – Many evangelical Christians have taken issue with Hillary Clinton for promoting abortion rights, gay rights and teen condom use, but you wouldn't have known it from the standing ovation that greeted her at Saddleback Church on Thursday afternoon.
Although all leading presidential candidates were invited, Clinton was the only one to show up for the annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church. She delivered a bipartisan message that emphasized the role of the church in addressing AIDS.
"Twenty five years ago when people – mostly young gay men – started dying of an unnamed disease, we didn't talk about it in church," she said. "We've come a long way. Not only can we talk about AIDS in church, but churches can lead the way."
The three-day event leading up to World AIDS Day on Saturday is part of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren's global assault on the disease, with an approach that claims churches worldwide as the most capable network to address the problem.
Besides praising the efforts of Warren and his wife, Kay, Clinton acknowledged the efforts of the current administration.
"I will build … on the leadership President and Mrs. Bush have shown," she said. She has vowed, if elected, to double AIDS spending to $50 billion – a statement that drew applause this afternoon. Clinton also received a standing ovation when she finished her 30-minute speech.
Many in the audience remain opposed to candidates who favor abortion rights.
"From a theological point of view, it's very difficult to embrace abortion," said the Rev. Claude Terry, a 57-year-old Baptist minister from Modesto.
Then there were others who not only found common ground when it came to addressing AIDs, but also found Clinton to be an attractive candidate.
"Those partisan issues have no place when you're addressing a pandemic," said Mission Viejo's Christine Stevens, a 63-year-old Saddleback Church member – and a Republican considering voting for Clinton. "She understands the magnitude of the problem and what it will take to address it. I was very impressed by her."