Andrew J. Weaver: Why SMU shouldn't host the Bush library

Roundup: Media's Take

[Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., is a United Methodist pastor and research psychologist living in New York City. He is a graduate of the Perkins School of Theology at SMU. He has co-authored 14 books including "Counseling on Addictions and Compulsions" (Pilgrim, 2007), "Reflections on Grief and the Spiritual Journey" ( Abingdon, 2005) and "Connected Spirits: Friends and Spiritual Journeys" (Pilgrim, 2007).]

"I'm gonna build a fantastic Freedom Institute … an institute that really, you know, just kind of imparts knowledge and deals with big issues." In "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush" by Robert Draper

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was the most influential advocate against slavery in the 18th century. Slave trade was the financial engine that expanded the British Empire in Wesley's age just as "big oil" has expanded the American Empire. In the 1770s as many as 161 slave ships were operating out of the three ports of London, Bristol and Liverpool. Slavery was very big business, especially among the powerful and prominent, including the Prince of Wales. To stand against these forces was to risk your life and Wesley was in great danger many times when mobs, funded by slave merchants, were set against him.

On his deathbed in 1791, Wesley wrote House of Commons leader William Wilberforce, who was converted under Wesley's ministry and became the principal anti-slavery activist in 19th century Britain. Wesley implores him to continue to fight slavery, "that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature." American Methodists, following in the example of Wesley, have been at the vanguard of the abolitionist, suffrage, civil rights and environmental movements. Fighting for justice is deep within Methodist DNA.

It is tragic that George W. Bush, who claims membership in the United Methodist Church, appears to be without a basic appreciation for the Methodist heritage. It is heartbreaking that Bush has acted in profoundly immoral and destructive ways in office while claiming to be a devout Christian. To choose to launch a "shock and awe" war of aggression against the people of Iraq, based upon a series of manufactured falsehoods, is not following Christ. The war is a continuing catastrophe that is making many of his close friends rich on blood money. In addition, Bush has authorized torture, the moral equivalent of slavery.

Documenting this disgrace, on Sept. 15, 2006, the Washington Post published a lead editorial entitled "The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture." The Post reported:

President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.

Torture is not a Methodist value; it is a crime against humanity and a violation of every human rights treaty in existence. It represents a betrayal of our deepest human and religious values as a civilized society. (See books below for full documentation).

Because of this and other instances, immoral conduct from Bush, in February of 2007, clergy and laity of the UMC began a petition. It calls for the SMU trustees and the UMC to reject the Bush project, especially the partisan institute over which the university or UMC will have no oversight. That petition, at protectSMU.org, now has the signatures of 16 UMC bishops, two former presidents of the New Zealand Methodist Church, a former president of the Irish Methodist Church, several hundred SMU alumni and more than 10,800 Christians (mostly United Methodists) and persons of conscience calling for the rejection of the Bush partisan institute.

Here are three comments among the thousands made by petition signers you can read at protectSMU.org:

Michael Fuller, Methodist: "I hold an undergraduate and MBA from SMU. I sent both my boys to SMU. They hold undergraduate degrees and the youngest holds an additional Masters in Math. I have SMU in our family Trust and intended to leave money to the school for scholarships. If the Board of Trustees go through with this, I will change my plans. I cannot support this move to tarnish my school and its reputation by linking to this criminal."

Kimberly Zeller, M.D. former President's Scholar (SMU '89): "I write, not from the point of view of a Methodist, but as an SMU alumnus. I would hate to feel shame to admit that I began my education at SMU, but the establishment of library in the name of a president who has firmly established himself not only as anti-intellectual but as lacking in moral integrity would be unseemly. The name and reputation of SMU would be irreparably tarnished."

Louise M. Tate - "Both my parents graduated from SMU. Both my father's brother (Willis Tate) and my mother's grandfather (Bishop Boaz) are past Presidents of SMU. I am very glad to see and sign this petition."

It is unacceptable that a United Methodist university associate itself with a Bush Institute built to polish his legacy. To make matters worse, U.S. News and World Report confirmed on Sept. 2 that Karl Rove "is planning to take charge … of the design, fundraising, and planning" for the "Freedom Institute" at SMU.


During the summer, 290 United Methodist clergy and laity were elected to represent the 1.83 million United Methodists who live in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Louisiana. They will gather in Dallas, from July 15-19, 2008 to have a debate and vote on the Bush proposal. They are the ultimate authority on this issue. A significant majority of these new delegates are progressives and moderates. They have the power to say NO to Bush and refuse to allow him to use the land at SMU, even after Bush officially declares SMU is his choice. Please help us by signing our petition at protectSMU.org and educating others about the issues.
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