By Mark Silva
Southern Methodist University says it has all the permission it needs from the United Methodist Church to proceed with negotiations for the placement of President Bush's planned presidential library and public policy institute at the university campus in Dallas.
The protest that some Methodist bishops plan to carry to a regional meeting of church officials in Dallas next summer will have no bearing on those negotiations, SMU says. The bishops and others who oppose the library complain that the building of a conservative think tank with the library will compromise the academic freedom of the university.
"We're not concerned because we fundamentally disagree with what the possibilities are of their actions," Brad Cheves, SMU's vice president of development and external affairs, told the campus newspaper.
"SMU and Bush are 'dead certain,' but they are dead wrong,'' said Andrew Weaver, a Methodist minister in New York who is among the protesters of the Bush library plans. The 290 members of the Methodist southern regional council are "mostly progressives and moderates,'' Weaver says, suggesting that their vote of approval for the library is "up for grabs.''
This is the report today from SMUdailycampus.com:
SMU officials said they have all the permission they need from the Methodist church to proceed with negotiations for the George W. Bush Presidential Library complex. The statement came the day a group of Methodist ministers began a second push to challenge SMU's authority to build parts of the complex on campus land.
"We're not concerned because we fundamentally disagree with what the possibilities are of their actions," said Brad Cheves, SMU's vice president of development and external affairs.
The group of Methodist ministers announced on Tuesday in an opinion piece in The Daily Campus and a story published in The Dallas Morning News (and noted by a posting here in the Swamp) that they would seek to overturn the March decision of the Mission Council. It allowed SMU to sign a long-term lease for the library, and more importantly to the group, a policy institute.
"The president needs to understand this is not a foregone conclusion,"said the Rev. Andrew Weaver.
The group said it has analyzed members of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and has decided whom to target on the panel. The panel is scheduled to meet in Dallas from July 15-19, 2008, and needs to approve the decision of the Mission Council.
Rev. Weaver is asking for supporters to make contact with those on the panel and talk to them about his group views as a huge problem for SMU - having a policy institute located on campus that has no ability to be controlled by the school.
The group is also seeking more people to sign its online petition at protectsmu.org. It will present the petition at the United Methodist Church's general conference in May. The group is seeking a resolution urging the conference to block SMU from obtaining the library, although the conference has no such authority.
He admits the task is a tall one and will require a lot of work. But he said his group would be more prepared than it was when the Mission Council met.
Cheves said that the school respects the right of the group to choose different forums to express its opinions. But he reiterated that the Methodist church has already given its approval through the appropriate channels.