The United Methodist Church (UMC) has come under fire for banning the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent design group, from presenting at the its General Conference in May.
A survey conducted by the Discovery Institute through SurveyMonkey found that 70 percent of the 1,946 respondents believed that the UMC made the wrong decision, while 78 percent thought that the ban was inconsistent with the UMC’s commitment to “open hearts, open minds, open doors," Religion News Service reports. The results of the survey were released on Jan. 26.
The Discovery Institute advances the belief that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection,” according to the organization’s website. The UMC, a worldwide Protestant Methodist church, rejected the group’s proposal to manage an information booth at the church’s conference, citing a lack of congruence with the purpose of the event.
"The Commission on the General Conference determined that the application by the Discovery Institute did not meet the guidelines established for exhibitors in that it was not consistent with the purpose of the exhibitor program," Diane Degnan, a spokesman for the UMC, said in a statement to the Christian Post. "[The program] states that exhibits are not to provide a platform to survey or test ideas but to provide products, services and resources which are credible and proven to help local church ministries, and, in their opinion, it conflicted with our social principles."
The Discovery Institute has been criticized for advocating the teaching of intelligent design in public education. However, John G. West, vice president of the Discovery Institute, stressed that the information booth was meant to focus on discussion and presentation of resources rather than a push for policy.
"I would point out that the UMC's slogan is 'open hearts, open minds, open doors,' and UMC leaders claim to be in favor of open dialogue,” West told the Post. “But banning us from even having an information table is not open-minded. It's close-minded in the extreme."