Bush Demands Methodist Bishops Overturn Church Law
Rev Andrew Weaver, one of the Methodist leaders of the movement to prevent the Bush Library and Propaganda Training Center from being placed at Southern Methodist University, writes that the latest sleezy move from the Bush forces is an attempt to by-pass a vote on the siting. From the emailed press release (ignored by the media, as far as I can tell):
In a conference call held on January 9, 2008, the eleven active United Methodist bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction were asked to issue an interpretation of United Methodist church law that would circumvent a vote by lay and clergy delegates and permit the immediate establishment of a partisan Bush institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) along with the planned Bush presidential library. The request to the bishops came from the George W. Bush Foundation.
The controversial institute, dedicated to promoting the domestic and international views of George W. Bush, would not be under the supervision of SMU and would hire without regard to university policy. No other university with a presidential library has permitted such an institute on its campus.
Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks of Little Rock, Arkansas, said, “My reason, conscience, and experience tell me that the bishops do not have authority to circumvent the right of the 290 delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference to vote on a 99-year proposal for land use of this nature. I encourage my fellow bishops to honor the voting rights of the Jurisdictional delegates.”
It’s nothing new for George W Bush to demand that exceptions be made to any rule he finds inconvenient. He has pioneered the use of unilateral signing statements to ignore any laws passed by Congress that he doesn’t care for and has willfully, deliberately and repeatedly broken laws expressly forbidding certain acts (torture, wiretapping) that he endorses, telling both Congress and the Supreme Court that he is, in effect, above and beyond any law he doesn’t like and there’s nothing they can do about it. (Read John Dean’s Worse than Watergate for specifics of just how arrogant a lawbreaker Bush is.)
So the news that he is demanding that Methodist church law be “interpreted” contrary to that law’s clear and unambiguous meaning is no particular surprise. In fact, it’s pretty much par for the Bush course. It’s What He Does. In this case, what he wants is to avoid allowing the almost 300 delegates to vote – as Methodist Church Law says they have the right to do – at the next Jurisdictional Conference.
In the conference call, the eleven active bishops were asked to interpret church law to declare that the decision of the Mission Council, a 21-member interim body which approved the use of SMU land for the institute after heavy lobbying in March, 2007, is final. This would permit the Bush Foundation to avoid submitting the matter to the 290 Jurisdictional Conference delegates meeting in Dallas in July, 2008, where the outcome of such a vote is in doubt.
“In doubt.” Bush doesn’t want to chance losing his choice of a site just because a few hundred delegates are appalled that a torturer and imperialist authoritarian wants to use the imprimatur of the Methodist Church for the “institute” that will defend torture and advocate perpetual war, the abandonment of social responsibilities to the poor, and an anti-democratic state – all of which are contrary to Methodist thinking and beliefs.
Reverend David Severe, Director of Mission and Administration for the South Central Jurisdiction, wrote to an SMU professor on October 6, 2007, that “All actions taken by the Mission Council interim the Jurisdictional Conference must be ratified by the next Jurisdictional Conference session.”
“To not protect their right to vote on the use of land by the George W. Bush Foundation is a violation of the democratic and open processes of our church,” said Bishop Hicks. “I am worried that the disenfranchisement of Jurisdictional Conference delegates will undermine our ministry together as a church.”
It should worry those Methodist delegates that the president who will be represented by this institute at a university that used to pride itself on its law school, has so little respect for Church Law that he wants it overturned for something as minor as his convenience.
“I can understand why the George W. Bush Foundation does not want the Jurisdictional Conference to vote on this issue,” said Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and graduate of SMU. “In recent months, colleagues and I have spoken to dozens of delegates who are increasingly questioning the wisdom of placing a partisan think tank on the grounds of a United Methodist institution. The George W. Bush Foundation wants to prevent the vote because it fears the outcome. It appears that the Bush Foundation has no respect for the laws and procedures of the president’s own denomination.”
Well, it has no respect for laws passed by Congress or for the Constitution. Why would Methodist Church Law be treated any differently? The law to George W Bush is an irritating nuisance to be ignored whenever it gets in his way.
It would be nice if, just this once, he learned that wasn’t true.