President Bush’s presidential library, which is set to be housed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has received significant criticism because of an attached institute — independent of the university — that will sponsor programs designed to “promote the vision of the president” and “celebrate” Bush’s presidency. The library will even “rely chiefly” on a design firm, rather than historians, to showcase Bush’s tenure.
While SMU faculty have previously criticized and spoken out against the library, the United Methodist Church (UMC) may be following suit. At yesterday’s 2008 Quadrennial General Conference, the UMC’s governing body voted overwhelmingly — 844 to 20 — to refer a petition “for the library’s rejection to the South Central jurisdiction of the church which owns the university property.” The petition reads:
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…
Opposition to the library centers around the the partisan nature of the attached institute. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove has even signed on to advise the project because he is said to be a “critical resource” of administration history. One minister and SMU grad specifically objected to the Bush administration’s use of torture:
“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.
The local UMC jurisdiction will vote on the petition this July in Dallas. Weaver noted the positive outcome of the UMC governing body’s referral, “They’re going to be forced to allow a vote here…There will be a real vote.”