- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

DALLAS (AP) — A group of Methodist ministers from across the nation started an online petition drive yesterday urging Southern Methodist University to stop trying to land George W. Bush’s presidential library.

The petition, on the Web site www.protectsmu.org, says, “As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate.”

“Methodists have a long history of social conscience, so questions about the conduct of this president are very concerning,” said one of the petition’s organizers, the Rev. Andrew J. Weaver of New York, who graduated from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology.

Brad E. Cheves, SMU’s vice president for external affairs and development, said yesterday that the Methodist church is diverse in its membership and opinions and that those involved with the petition reflect only one view.

“We believe the vast majority of the Methodist membership, university and community support the library and that it will benefit the faculty, students and community for generations to come,” Mr. Cheves said.

SMU emerged as the apparent winner in the library competition last month when the site selection committee said it was entering into further discussions with just SMU, the 11,000-student private university, which is first lady Laura Bush’s alma mater. The Bushes are Methodists.

Some SMU professors have opposed Mr. Bush’s foreign policy, mainly the war in Iraq. Some faculty members also have complained that the library complex’s think tank dedicated to the philosophy of the Bush administration would hurt the school’s reputation.

At a faculty meeting Wednesday, SMU President R. Gerald Turner said those fears were unfounded. He said that among the library’s benefits were increasing the school’s visibility nationwide and spurring economic development in the city.

The project will be financed with a private fund drive aimed at raising at least $200 million.

SMU’s president said his university’s exclusive talks with the selection committee would resume in a few days. The other finalists are Baylor University in Waco and the University of Dallas. A decision is expected in a few months.

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