Wednesday's New York Times piece about the last-ditch effort to stop President Bush from putting his think tank on the SMU campus prompted plenty of follow-ups -- from The Dallas Morning News to the Associated Press to SMU's Daily Campus. Which is precisely what Brooklyn-based minister Andrew Weaver was hoping for: For a year, the Perkins School of Theology grad has been leading the charge against the library and, especially, the policy center, and he's pushing hard to put the $500-million project to a vote in July, when the United Methodist Church's South Central Jurisdiction holds its conference in Dallas.
"This is the best chance to stop it," Weaver tells Unfair Park. "It would be the ultimate death penalty. I mean, the rest of this country's trying to forget this guy, and you'll be stuck with him forever. It's just appalling. I have strong feelings about this because the seminary there, where I trained, was a tremendous intellectual and emotional experience that gave me a much richer experience in life. I was raised in a conservative Pentecostal church, and [at SMU] they said you don't have to worry about your doubts, just think.
"I feel an indebtedness to keep it from being overwhelmed by the right wing. The library's a ruse. The real piece George Bush and Karl Rove want is the think tank, and putting half a billion dollars on campus will absolutely overwhelm that school. And, worse, without any oversight you'll have the Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby Distinguished Chair in Political Ethics and so on."
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To that end, Weaver and the other bishops, theologians, scholars, professors and ministers who've signed their names to the anti-library petition yesterday sent a letter to the George W. Bush Foundation in Midland, warning Don Evans that this ain't over yet. The letter, signed by "SCJ DELEGATES" and forwarded to SMU president R. Gerald Turner and the SMU trustees, culminates with a paragraph that reads:
"We believe that any signed lease between SMU and the George W. Bush Library Foundation substantiated by a violation of the legal processes of The United Methodist Church ... prior to this Judicial appeal and interpretation is an ill-advised action that breaches the laws, rules, regulations and tradition of our church."
Of course, Brad Cheves, SMU’s vice president for development and external affairs told The Times on Tuesday, “We believe [the foundation is] near completion” on a deal. And Bishop Scott Jones, also a grad of the Perkins School of Theology, told the paper that the jurisdiction’s College of Bishops has already given its blessings to the project. But that ain't stopping Weaver and his band of true believers. Not one goddam ... pardon, gosh-darned bit.
"We need to get a majority plus one" to force a vote, Weaver says. "Te bishops say there doesn't need to be any vote, and they've told the foundation in a written letter not to worry about it. But once the delegates have been told they don't have the right to vote, well, that's something you don't do is tell Methodists they can't vote. George Bush is trying to steal the election. It's deja vu all over again." --Robert Wilonsky