Even President George W. Bush’s right-wing Christian base is showing signs of dissastisfaction with his administration’s extremist policies.
President Bush on Saturday championed faith in American society, but ran into some criticism as he courted his Christian base in a commencement speech at a Michigan college.
“We need to support and encourage the institutions and pursuits that bring us together. And we learn how to come together by participating in our churches and temples and mosques and synagogues,” Bush told graduating seniors at Calvin College, a Christian liberal-arts college.
The college describes itself as a “center of faith-anchored liberal arts teaching and scholarship,” and Bush has aggressively sought to reinforce his support among religious conservatives who helped deliver him a reelection victory in 2004.
But anti-Bush ads that ran in the local newspaper, protests outside the event and buttons worn on graduates’ robes made clear that many students and faculty objected to Bush’s policies.
“We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq,” said a letter signed by about one-third the college’s 300 faculty members and published in Saturday’s Grand Rapids Press.
“As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort,” it said.
The letter criticized economic policies that it said favored the wealthy over the poor, and faulted Bush for mixing religion and politics and exhibiting and “intolerance” for others’ views.
It cited “conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration.”
The letter followed an earlier ad by students, alumni and faculty who said they were troubled that Bush was to be the commencement speaker.
Bush’s speech emphasized community service and he urged graduates to volunteer. “This isn’t a Democrat idea. This isn’t a Republican idea. This is an American idea,” he said.
Some graduating students wore buttons that said “God is not a Democrat or a Republican.”
A few dozen protesters gathered outside, carrying signs that read, “Conservatives and moderates reject extremism” and “Thou shalt not torture.”
But there were also many Bush supporters, with placards that said, “We love Bush” and “Cutie pie.”
Bush, a Methodist, often talks of the importance of faith in his life. Some critics see this as crossing a line between religion and politics.
Bush said his emphasis on religion does not make him intolerant of those who do not share his beliefs.
“I don’t condemn somebody in the political process because they may not agree with me on religion,” he said.
Calvin College is the venue for one of two commencement speeches Bush will be delivering this year. He is scheduled to speak at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on Friday.