The upcoming meeting of the candidates in Orange County now has a web presence: The Saddleback Civil Forum.

Mega-pastor Rick Warren seems to be following many of the best practices for hosting a candidate event at his church:

All major candidates have agreed to attend. The decision about who to invite is pretty obvious in this situation (except maybe to Bob Barr), but in a more crowded field it can get complicated. The key is to use objective, non-partisan criteria to decide who is included. Measurements such as polling numbers and fundraising levels can be useful.

The event is part of a larger discussion series, in which not all events are overtly political. The Saddleback Civil Forum bills itself as an effort to “promote civil discourse and the common good of all”. An earlier forum meeting featured Holocaust survivors, and next on the schedule is Tony Blair.

November 4 is weeks away. The closer to Election Day, the more a candidate event looks like an attempt to influence votes. The Orange County event will be held even before the parties officially choose their nominees, so the timing is right.

The only possible concern is location: This event is slated to be held in Saddleback’s main auditorium, which is also the primary worship space. A more careful approach would be to hold any political event someplace outside the sanctuary, to avoid the symbolism of the candidates standing and speaking where worship takes place.

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