Thursday, May 1, 2008 , Updated 10:54 p.m., May 1, 2008
UPDATED and corrected: Bush Library at SMU rebuked by United Methodist Church petition; decision in hands of South Central Jursidiction
The rejection passed matter was passed on to the South Central Jurisdiction on Wednesday morning at the 2008 Quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Fort Worth.
UPDATE: The General Conference of the United Methodist Church did receive a petition asking it to block SMU’s decision to lease land for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center. Its decision was only to refer it to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. In no way did it reject the decision already made by the South Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Council. The action was merely procedural because the General Conference said the decision belonged at the Jurisdictional level. The overwhelming nature of the vote was due to the fact that it, along with 11 other petitions, was on a consent calendar of things approved overwhelmingly in committees that recommended referrals.
Ed note: Below is the original reporting and analysis.
The governing body of the United Methodist Church has come out against the George Bush Library being constructed on the campus of Southern Methodist University. This rejection overwhelmingly passed 844-20 on Wednesday morning at the 2008 Quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church that is still meeting in Fort Worth.
Here is the petition submitted by Diane Smock, Greenville, S.C.:
SMU Bush Presidential Library Rejection (80089-MH-NonDis)
I hereby petition the UMC General Conference to prevent leasing, selling, or otherwise participating in or supporting the presidential library for George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University.
We should support separation of church and state and if the Bush library goes on the SMU campus or property it will appear to the country and the world as an endorsement of that president by the United Methodist Church. Texas is a big state; surely there are other venues…
The proposal had already been adopted in a committee vote, with 51 voting in favor, 5 against and 1 not voting.
The group’s opposition is centered around the partisan think tank that will be attached to the library. The institute reportedly under the control of Karl Rove will have no academic oversight by SMU. But there may also be some concerns about associating the school with some of Bush’s policies.
“Many are offended by the contempt shown by the administration in areas like torture,” says Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D. a minister and psychologist in Brooklyn, New York. “Torture is not a value of the Methodist church.” Rev. Weaver is a graduate of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, and told Dallas South that torture in today’s terms would be the moral equivalent of slavery.
See more of Weaver’s thoughts in his article Slavery, Torture, and the Methodist DNA.
The decision now lies in the hands of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. The land on which the library would be built is owned by the South Central Jurisdiction. A body of approximately 290, many of whom voted in the general conference, will take a final vote on the sale of the land. The 2008 South Central Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled for July 16-19 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The North Texas Conference of the UMC will play host to the event.
If torture is in fact an issue, then it seems pretty cut and dry on where the administration stands. Just look at President Bush’s March 8, 2008 veto of a measure that would have banned waterboarding and other torture tactics used by the CIA.
According to the Washington Post, Bush claimed the legislation “would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror.” He went on to say “This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”
I’ve always thought that the library is a good idea, but not the think tank. But I’m thinking about from a Dallas standpoint, the school should have much broader concerns. Some faculty members have threatened to leave the university if the library and think tank are built, and some students have reportedly returned their SMU diplomas in protest to the school’s decision.
So what’s been reported as a done deal may not actually be the case. I hope to get some reaction from the General Conference at some point, but if not, we will follow the developments at the South Central Jurisdiction Conference in July.
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Shawn Williams publishes Dallas South Blog; his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.