Last we heard from the Bush Library fight, the Methodist General Conference had just rejected the Bush plan for a library and propaganda center at Southern Methodist University, and the Bishops, kowtowing to pressure from the White House, had agreed to ignore that vote. The fight goes on, however. Rev Andrew Weaver & friends have just started a new website called What Would John Wesley Do? that is assembling the arguments and evidence for rejecting the Library/Propaganda Center as well as making the case for the legal necesssity of accepting the GC’s decision. One of its first additions is a scathing letter from Tex Semple, an SJC Delegate for 20 years.
On March 14, 2007, Southern Methodist University asked the Mission Council, a meeting of SCJ representatives, for permission to lease campus property to the Bush Foundation as the site for the President George W. Bush library, museum, and policy institute.
In January 2008, following the Mission Council meeting, the SCJ College of Bishops interpreted the action of the Mission Council and gave the assurance, requested by the Bush Foundation, that the Mission Council had authority to approve the lease of the jurisdictional property on the SMU campus.
But the College of Bishops does not have this authority according to Paragraph 56, Article II.4 of the constitution of The United Methodist Church (p. 38). In the 2004 Book of Discipline, it specifically states: “The Judicial Council shall have authority to hear and determine the legality of any action taken therein by any jurisdictional conference board or body, upon appeal by one-third of the members thereof in a Jurisdictional Conference.”
By giving their interpretation, the SCJ College of Bishops not only preempted the authority of the Judicial Council but also set the stage for the lease signing and for closing the door to a Jurisdictional Conference vote.
(emphasis in the original)
Which was, of course, the whole point. The Bush forces would probably lose the SJC vote the same way they lost the GC vote, which went overwhelmingly against them, 844-20. Their solution is the usual Bush Solution: go around the will of the majority and use raw power to bring leaders more sympathetic to your position in line. The Bishops, like everybody else who comes in contact with the Bushes, knuckled under, violating their own laws and procedures. Mr Semple suggests they couldn’t have picked a worse subject to support.
The greater problem is the partisan multi-million dollar Bush Institute, which will be totally under the control of the Bush Presidential Foundation, not SMU. While any viewpoints expressed by Institute Fellows will accordingly be identified with the Foundation, it nevertheless makes SMU the location and signifying marker of this partisan think tank. Furthermore, the purpose of this Institute is to promote the politically partisan and ethically questionable ideas and policies of George W. Bush.
The influence of neo-conservative and supply-side economic thought and policy has been dominant in the United States now for more than 35 years, and the Bush Administration the most disastrous example of it. These politics and economics have contributed to a sharply growing inequality in income and wealth, a tax system that serves the rich, an increasing insecurity for middle class families, the flattening of wages for workers while their productivity increases, growing concentrations of power in corporate America and in the media, and the loss of regulation of corporate activity resulting in devastating disruptions of our national life, such as Enron and the sub-prime loan housing crisis. This list names only a few of the problems with neoconservative politics and supply-side economics.
Furthermore, commitment to a so-called “free market” without regard to the common good is a violation of Christian teaching. Not to mention that commitment to a “free market” oblivious to concentrations of economic power is delusional fantasy when it is not a self-serving worldview committed to the interests of the few at the expense of the many. What we have in neoconservative politics and supply side economics is what someone has called “feeding the horses so the birds can eat.”
Mr Semple’s point isn’t that he doesn’t like trickle-down and thinks it doesn’t work. His point is that the very idea goes against Methodist teaching, a point I wish the hell somebody had brought up 30 years ago when Reagan sold it to a country not paying much attention to what he was saying. He goes on to quote the Methodist Book of Social Principles to show how Bush has been systematically ignoring them.
Even worse, Bush’s pre-emptive war against Iraq, the complicity of his administration in torture, and the serious disregard for human rights in the Bush administration campaign against terrorism raise even more sharply the question of why we would permit this institute on the SMU campus. The Social Principles state: “We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ…” (165, C). Is this not even more so when the war is pre-emptive? The Social Principles further declare: “the mistreatment or torture of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching” (164, A). The complicity of the Bush administration in torture stands clearly in opposition to this teaching.
Further, the Social Principles assert that “We strongly reject domestic surveillance” (164, A), yet this has become policy in the Bush administration. I have not mentioned at least five other violations of The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles by the Bush Administration: environmental abuses (Par. 160), the health of children (162, C), the death penalty (164, G), social services and poverty (163, E), and freedom of information (164, D).
All in all, it is one of the most cohesive indictments of the Bush Administration’s disastrous policies that I’ve read in months, and the only one I think I’ve ever read that identifies his actions as anathema to specific religious teachings, something else I wish someone had done a long time ago because Mr Semple is quite right: the Bush/Cheney Administration has done so many things forbidden by any number of religions that they’re beyond the pale. Had anyone else done what they’ve done, Bill Clinton for instance, they would have been excommunicated.
Not Bush. Bush buys off the Bishops – or scares them, or manipulates them – and gets his Rove-run propaganda center on the campus of a college that used to pride itself on teaching Methodist principles. If the bishops have their way – by breaking their own Methodist law – they won’t be able to say that much longer.