The Discovery Institute, a group created to promote the theory of intelligent design in society, released a press release earlier this week accusing UMC officials of being “closed minded and intolerant” in their decision to disallow the group to sponsor a table at the 2016 General Conference to be held in May in Portland, OR.
“Preventing United Methodist leaders from even hearing about intelligent design isn’t open-minded, it’s intolerant and exclusionary,” said Dr. John West, Vice President of Discovery Institute. “Mabye United Methodist officials should change their slogan to ‘Closed Hearts, Closed Minds, Closed Doors’?”
“We were just complying with the policies established by the Commission on General Conference on the rental of booth and table space,” said Sarah Hotchkiss, business manager of the General Conference. “The rules clearly stated that the Commission reserves the right to refuse space to groups whose message is inconsistent with the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church.”
“The concern,” said Fitzgerald Reist, secretary of the General Conference, “is that the Discovery Institute’s stated mission is at odds with Resolution 5052 in The 2012 United Methodist Book of Resolutions.” This resolution states that “…the General Conference of The United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools.”
“We are bound to follow the social teachings of our church,” said Reist.
“As a private organization, the UMC has the right to exclude us as an exhibitor,” said West. “But UMC officials’ embrace of censorship undermines their own professed commitment to open doors and open minds.”
The Discovery Institute has created a website to urge supporters to reach out to a variety of United Methodist leaders and urge them to overturn the decision of the Commission on General Conference, however The United Methodist Book of Discipline is clear that the Commission has the sole authority to set policy for the operation of General Conference.