|Bishop rules request for SMU library decision 'moot'|
Plans to build the George W. Bush presidential
library complex on the campus of Southern Methodist University have
taken another step forward with a decision of law by United Methodist
Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. on questions related to the lease agreement. A
UMNS photo courtesy of Southern Methodist University.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Sept. 12, 2008
A United Methodist bishop has ruled that a request for a decision of law
about Southern Methodist University's right to lease campus property to
the Bush Foundation is "improper, moot and hypothetical."
Oklahoma Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. rendered the decision after
examining actions of the church's South Central Jurisdictional
Conference in favor of the private Dallas school's lease agreement for
the President George W. Bush Presidential Center. The jurisdiction owns
SMU, and the school’s bylaws require the church to approve the sale or
lease of campus land.
Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr
Conference delegates voted 158-118 on July 17 to affirm the lease for
the Bush presidential library, museum and policy institute. The
jurisdiction's executive committee, called the mission council,
initially gave the green light to the lease in March 2007, and school
officials approved the agreement last February. The lease charges the
Bush Foundation $1,000 for 99 years, renewable for up to 250 years.
Hayes, who presided during the jurisdictional vote, was asked by the
Rev. Jeannie Trevino-Teddlie, director of the Mexican-American program
at SMU's Perkins School of Theology, for a decision of law on the lease.
Specifically, Trevino-Teddlie asked: "Is the approval of the lease of
property of Southern Methodist University by the South Central
Jurisdiction and Southern Methodist University, at less than market
value, to the Bush Foundation for the purpose of establishing a policy
institute, in conflict with the articles of incorporation of Southern
Methodist University, the rules of the South Central Jurisdiction and/or
The Book of Discipline, specifically (Paragraph) 2503.4, which requires
all United Methodist property to be ‘kept, maintained … for the benefit
of The United Methodist Church and subject to the usages and the
Discipline of The United Methodist Church' and said lease would
subsidize a specific political and ideological point of view?"
In his Aug. 12 ruling that was recently obtained by United Methodist
News Service, Hayes said the first portion of Trevino-Teddlie's request
goes beyond church law and involves secular, corporate and real estate
law. "I do not believe I have before me a proper request for a ruling on
church law," he wrote.
Decision to be reviewed
Decisions of law from bishops are automatically reviewed by the United
Methodist Judicial Council, the church's supreme court, and Hayes has
forwarded his ruling to that body for its decision. However, as of Sept.
12, the issue had not been placed on the council's docket for this
October. After that, the Judicial Council is scheduled to meet again in
the spring of 2009.
Trevino-Teddlie said she was disappointed but not surprised by Hayes'
ruling. She noted that most of the jurisdiction's bishops had supported
the actions of the mission council, which in a closed executive session
voted 10-4, with one abstention, in favor of the lease.
" It did not surprise me that Bishop Hayes would rule the way he did,"
she said. "I look forward to the Judicial Council reviewing the
“The request for a decision of law is posed
in a manner that asks if things were done correctly. And they were.
Everything was in order.”Officials at SMU were pleased with Hayes' decision.
–Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.
Since "we followed established procedures in obtaining permission of the
mission council to lease the land in question, we obviously concur with
the bishop's decision," said Brad Cheves, the school's vice president
for development and external affairs.
The library proposal has been debated since SMU was placed on the Bush
Foundation's short list of potential sites in December of 2006. Critics
have questioned the appropriateness of linking the Bush presidency with
the 11,000-student, United Methodist-founded school. They argue that
many policies of the Bush administration, particularly the war in Iraq,
are contrary to United Methodist teaching.
Library opponents have argued that the mission council did not follow
church procedure and that the matter should have gone before the South
Central Jurisdictional Conference, which meets once every four years.
In a Sept. 11 interview with UMNS, Hayes said the substance of
Trevino-Teddlie's request was not a question that would hinder the
continuation of the Bush library project. "It was a question on whether
SMU had the right to use it the way they did," he said. "It was not a
direct dispute but whether the approval was in conflict with the
articles of incorporation of SMU."
Hayes wrote that the request had been extensively debated by the
jurisdictional conference, and that the vote affirming the lease "is in
opposition to the position of the person submitting this request for a
Decision of Law." He stated that the conference did not concur with
other petitions on the SMU issue, including one referred by the 2008
General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.
The Rev. Jeannie Trevino-Teddlie
The bishop also ruled that the request for a decision of law was framed
in a manner that suggests "matters of purported fact that seem to me to
be hypothetical and speculative," he wrote.
"The request for a decision of law is posed in a manner that asks if
things were done correctly," he told UMNS. "And they were. Everything
was in order."
The jurisdictional conference vote affirmed that the regional mission
council, which conducts business on behalf of the conference in between
its sessions, was authorized to act on the lease.
Hayes said that his "decision of law was mindful and respectful to
previous Judicial Council decisions regarding the right of trustees to
have unlimited power in deposition of real property."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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