NOT GOING TO DISNEYLAND
JUNE 18, 1997
Southern Baptists voted today to boycott Disney, accusing its depiction of gays and violence as "anti-Christian and anti-family." After this background report, Jim Lehrer leads a debate.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Delegates to the annual Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly today to urge a boycott of Disney theme parks, movies, stores, books, and television programs. The convention --which represents the largest Protestant denomination in the country--adopted a resolution accusing the entertainment giant of "promoting immoral ideologies, such as homosexuality, infidelity and adultery."
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
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The 12,000 delegates also called on Southern Baptists to "take stewardship of their time, money, and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing the Disney company." A year ago, the same convention was critical of Disney's policies and warned that it might recommend a future boycott if those policies were not changed.
The Disney empire consists of six production and distribution companies; theme parks in Florida, California, Paris and Tokyo; three record companies; more than a hundred magazines; seven daily newspapers; and more than five hundred and thirty stores selling Disney products. On Cable TV, there is the Disney Channel and a partnership with ESPN, A&E, the History Channel, and Lifetime TV.
Through ABC, Disney owns ten television and twenty-one radio stations. The Baptists object to what they term Disney's anti-family and pro-gay policies. Disney offers health benefits to homosexual employees and their partners. It has also permitted gay rights groups to organize gay days at theme parks like Disney World and Disneyland.
Two months ago, Ellen de Generes who plays the lead on the ABC sitcom "Ellen" announced that both she and her character were lesbians. That added to the furor from Southern Baptists and other religious conservatives. One of those supporting today's call for a boycott was a minister whose Southern Baptist congregation is located near Disney World in Florida.
REV. TIM WILDER: We love the company, since we love traditional family values; I feel like, you know, it's just time we as Christians take a stand and say enough is enough, and you're heading in the wrong direction, please come back.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But others objected.
REV. RICK MARKHAM: That if we approve this resolution, you have a moral obligation to go home, cancel your ESPN coverage, get rid of the A&E Channel, stop watching Lifetime Television, and never turn your TV's to ABC, including "Good Morning, America," and I'm afraid I'll have to tell my wife Regis and Kathy Lee are a thing of the past. In typical Baptist fashion, I am afraid, we have reacted to an extreme by positioning ourselves at another extreme.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Though the Disney name is associated with kid-friendly characters like Mickey Mouse, the company also produces movies with adult themes such as "Pulp Fiction" and "Priest." Today's vote was a protest against those productions, too.
The Disney Company, which has had record profits this year, issued a statement in response to the boycott. The statement said that: "We're proud of the Disney brand. We create more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world." Gay rights advocates also reacted to the vote, saying that Southern Baptists are outside the mainstream of American life.
SPOKESMAN: I think that it's rather sad and it's really, you know, a waste of effort, I think. There are so many other things that the Southern Baptist Convention could be concerning itself with.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The resolution is not binding on the country's nearly 16 million Southern Baptists.