Two sides digging in over Bush library

The debate is heating up over whether Southern Methodist University should host the future George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Some time ago, a group of United Methodist bishops and clergy started an “Internet petition”: to oppose the library being set up at SMU.

More recently, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative think tank trying to stem the liberal tide in mainline Protestant denominations, began a “petition”: in support of the library.

Now three retired United Methodist bishops who oppose the library are calling on eight SMU trustees to recuse themselves from deliberations concerning the library — seven because they have contributed big money to Bush and one (a minister) because he is a longtime friend of the Bush family.

The First Lady also sits on the SMU board, but has said she will not participate in any decisions regarding the library.

The Bushes are Methodists (although the president could probably be described as an evangelical Methodist). They attend a United Methodist church in Dallas when they’re back in Texas.

The three retired bishops who are upping the ante are C. Joseph Sprague, Joseph H. Yeakel and Kenneth W. Hicks. (You might remember that Sprague was accused of heresy a few years back after saying that he did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, among other things.)

The three said in a statement today:

“We believe those trustees who have had long term personal, financial, and/or political relationships with President George W. Bush should recuse themselves from this project rather than permit questions to be raised about whether they have interests that conflict with their fiduciary duty as trustees of the university.

“We call upon these eight trustees to recuse themselves, along with any others who have had noteworthy personal, political, or financial dealings with George W. Bush. The proposed Bush Complex will significantly affect SMU and The United Methodist Church that founded it. Such a decision requires objectivity unencumbered by personal considerations.”

This thing does not appear to be going away any time soon…

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.