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BOYCOTT OF WALT DISNEY:

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS

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Sponsored link.

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USA Weekend Public Opinion Poll:

USA Weekend conducted a "quick poll" via the Internet on 1997-JUL-18 to 20, as the Southern Baptist Convention meeting was ending. 11,397 people responded. 71% opposed the boycott; 28% supported it. Their Web site contains many varied comments, some quite amusing: 1

bullet"...don't force me to belive [sic] in something I don't (i.e., the bible). To you it is the word of God. To me it is the word of man. Those are my beliefs and you should respect them even if you do not agree with them."
bullet"After reading the comments of those supporting the boycott, I am leery of calling myself Christian. I am amazed so much hate can be expressed in the name of Christ."
bullet"I SUPPORT THE BOYCOTT. And dont [sic] start calling people KKK members again for making their decision on where to spend their money."
bullet"How in the world can someone claim to be Catholic or Baptist and still believe that God approves of homosexuality? The Bible very clearly teaches that homosexuality is wrong! Read about Sodem [sic] and Gamorrah, or the lessons on marriage (between one man and one woman)."

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Status of the boycotts during 1998:

bulletHispanic boycott ends: In 1998-MAR, a Hispanic media group, the National Hispanic Media Coalition terminated its boycott of Disney and ABC-TV, which began in 1997-APR. Their boycott was motivated by what they saw as discrimination against Hispanics. Chairperson Alex Nogales stated that Disney had hired or promoted 8 Hispanics into directorships or vice presidencies. They had also contracted with more Hispanic-owned companies.
bulletSBC Annual Meeting: The annual meeting was held on JUN 9 to 11, about one year after their boycott officially started. It was located, of all places, in Salt Lake City, UT -- the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paige Patterson was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention on JUN-9, by acclamation. He is a well known leader of the conservative wing of the denomination. He said that the SBC boycott has been misunderstood: "Southern Baptists were speaking as much to themselves as anybody else. It was a reminder that we need to be very careful what we choose for entertainment and, for that matter, how much time we spend with entertainment, period." He noted that there are many organizations who are "as deeply into sin as Disney." He said that Disney "claims to be an organization trying to make family life in America better." He called it a basic integrity problem that needed to be addressed.

James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, delivered a speech during the meeting's closing session. He commented: "Let me just say how much I appreciate Southern Baptists and what you stand for. Thank you. Thank you for taking a position against the Disney Corp. last year."

bulletThe Buycott: A "Stand Our Ground" (SOG) buycott was held at Walt Disney World and at Disney stores across the U.S. Organizers asked that gays and their supporters make purchases at Disney outlets on 1998-JUN-5, using two dollar bills. In this way, they felt that the Disney Company would be able to accurately gage support. The name of the buycott, "Stand our Ground," was derived from two statements from conservative Christian anti-gay groups:
bulletThe American Family Association: "Our goal is to take back the territory the enemy has gained."
bulletOperation Rescue: "We will be confronting the enemy at every gate he is building strongholds."

The SOG organizers criticized the conservative Christian boycott against Disney for trying to "intrude on our right as gay men and lesbians to enjoy the same rights and privileges they would hold for themselves exclusively." 5 Organizers stressed: "This is not a protest. If you are confronted by a protester at Walt Disney World or a Disney store, walk away and notify a Disney employee at once. Security will deal directly with the matter. At the Disney Stores there will be many children - let's avoid confrontation that may frighten them. If you have no need for Disney items many hospitals, clinics or shelters are in need of children's clothing, toys and stuffed animals. Please consider donating some of these purchases." 6

The SOG organizers are declaring the buycott to be a success. Participants visited Disney stores in every state and in some Canadian provinces. As of JUN-28, they are very close to confirming that every store in the U.S. was visited. The average spent by those who reported an amount, was $150. "Hundreds of people, quietly and peacefully, made a statement with their currency or three little letters and then gave their purchases to those in need." 7

bulletCounter Buycott: Operation Rescue is an activist pro-life organization that frequently attempts to close down abortion clinics. They are now enlarging their mandate to include efforts to prevent gays and lesbians from attaining equal human rights. They organized a counter-buycott campaign in Orlando. 160 to 200 protesters turned out.  According to the SOG organizers, "They did receive a lot of media attention, but little if any of it was positive." The American Family Association terminated its cooperation with Operation Rescue over the buycott on JUN-2 for reasons unknown. There are rumors of IRS involvement.
bullet"Stand our Ground" essay: Your Official Disney Boycott Site created an anti-Stand our Ground essay on their Web site, which is a gold mine of misinformation. 8  Almost their entire essay ignores the SOG boycott itself, but instead attacks the SOG director, Alana Hommel. She is an active Roman Catholic, who describes herself as: "a housewife with four kids, two of whom I'm home-schooling. Some of my relatives are gay, and others belong to religious minorities, and I refuse to stand by and allow bigoted organizations to foment hate against those I love."  Ms. Hommel supports two unrelated groups who have been prime targets of religiously motivated hate organizations: gays and Neopagans. Possibly because she supports minority groups and because her husband is an Neopagan, their family's home page had links to both the SOG site and to the CUUPS web page. 9 CUUPS is an acronym for "Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans - a special interest group within the Unitarian Universalist Association. The UUA itself is a liberal religious group which recognizes that its members have obtained spiritual guidance from Christianity, Eastern religions, Judaism, Native American spirituality, Neopaganism, and other sources.

Your Official Disney Boycott Site has reached a number of fascinating conclusions based on what they view as an interlocking web of conspiracies:

bulletbecause a Roman Catholic woman in New England supports both a gay and a Neopagan site, they conclude that the SOG buycott is run by Witches. That is one massive leap of logic!
bulletWiccans practice an evil form of Witchcraft - a religion in which its adherents cast evil curses to harm people. While there are some groups and individuals who do this, Wiccans and other Neopagans are not among them. To blame Wiccans is pure fantasy, with roots in the Burning Times when Christians burned heretics alive. In fact, Wiccans are prohibited by their Wiccan Rede from creating evil curses.
bulletBecause the director of SOG personally supports Neopagan concerns, all "statistics or numbers this group has published on their web" are unreliable. We have difficulty following this logic, and write it off as pure religious bigotry.
bulletThat the "Church of Unitarian Universalist" (the correct name is the Unitarian Universalist Association) is a cult. We suspect that this will come as quite a surprise to the UUA's 300,000 members. Thomas Jefferson, a Unitarian, would be even more surprised.
bulletThat the UUA operates a religious conspiracy: they act "as the front door to pull in people with little or no religious faith." This is a surprising comment, based on ignorance of the very strong faith that most UUs have.
bulletThe UUA identifies new "members that can be converted to Paganism. The CUUPS organization then finally helps to convert these people...to Paganism." All of this sounds very sinister; however it is all fantasy.
bulletGay positive website: A website "The Value of Families" temporarily became the top rated religious site on the Internet by 1998-SEP.  It "supports equal rights for Gay and Lesbian people and supports Disney against the Southern Baptist Boycott." 4,5
bulletStock Price: Disney's stock price reached US$109 on 1997-FEB-7. This is a significant gain from its value of approximately $65.00 shortly after the SBC boycott was announced. It later reached a peak of about $121 on 1998-MAY-15. The boycott certainly does not appear to have had an effect on Wall Street's confidence in Disney.
bulletFinancial impact: As the end of 1998 approached, MSNBC reported financial data which indicated that the various boycotts had failed to damage the Disney Company: 2

"Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest entertainment company, on Tuesday reported its best quarterly results ever, fueled by growth in television and video distribution, strong advertising revenues, and record crowds at Walt Disney World. Disney’s net income in the fiscal fourth quarter, ended Sept. 30, rose 18 percent from a year earlier to $411 million on a five-percent increase in revenues to $5.5 billion."

Neal Horsley, a commentator at the conservative Christian Creator's Rights Party observed: "Well, the 'Christians' showed them all right. And the message is clear: If your company wants to have its best quarter ever, get boycotted by millions of Christians!" 3

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Sponsored link:

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Status of the boycotts during 1999:

bulletArab boycott: During 1999-SEP, "Arab officials had announced the possible Disney boycott because they feared the Israeli exhibit at the Epcot millennium celebrations would call its capital Jerusalem, the east of which Palestinians have claimed for themselves." 10 The 22-member Arab League decided to not implement the boycott, after Disney assured the Arab foreign ministers that its millennium exhibit would not refer to Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Disney Chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner, wrote: "It was never our intent to offer a political point of view. We are an entertainment company." 10
bulletInternet Activity: In 1999-MAR, we did a quick survey, using the AltaVista search engine, scanning for news items related to the boycott. We found on the first few pages of printout the following hits:
Date Number of "hits"
1997-JUN 13 (SBC boycott announced)
1997-JUL 2
1997-AUG 3
1997-SEP 2
1997-OCT 1
1997-NOV 3 (Disney states boycott has no effect)
1997-DEC none
1998-JAN 1
1998-FEB none
1998-MAR 2 (both anti-boycott)
1998-APR to 1999-MAR none

It would appear that the boycott of Disney has largely fizzled out by the end of 1997.

With the exception of the Presbyterian Church of America, mainline and liberal Christian churches appear to have remained silent on the boycott. We find this surprising, because there are fundamental moral issues of fairness involved - particularly the desire by the religious right to force Disney to revert to earlier discriminatory policies against gays and lesbians.

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Status of the boycotts during 2000: 

In 1999, the Yahoo search engine had an entire current events section devoted to the Disney boycott Their most recent news items was dated 1997-AUG-27. When we checked back on 2000-DEC, the section had been discontinued, presumably because it was no longer current news. In its place were: 

bulletA pro-boycott page listing three web sites:
bulletRadically Saved's Boycott Disney Page (last updated 1999-FEB)
bulletSouthern Baptist Convention's Case Against Disney (1997-JUL)
bulletWhy Boycott Disney? (1997)
bulletAn anti-boycott page listing four web sites:
bulletFight Back Against The Religious Right's Disney Boycott (constructed "a few years ago")
bulletGLAAD Press Release (last updated 1997-AUG)
bulletPro-Disney Campaign (1997-JUN; discontinued)
bulletValue of Families (1998-JUL)

The Disney boycott appears to have be largely defunct during the year.

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Status of the boycotts during 2001:

bullet2001-MAR-14: Report by Focus on the Family: Focus mentioned:
bullet"...the boycott against Disney isn't on the front page of the newspaper anymore."
bulletFocus on the Family, the American Family Association (AFA) and other groups continue to promote the boycott.
bulletDisney was criticized for being pro-choice on abortion, in favor of equal rights for gays and lesbians, critical of religious abuses, and for including excessive violence in their movies. [Actually, it is ABC and  Disney's subsidiary movie companies that they are criticizing.]
bulletDisney was criticized for allowing all groups, including gay and lesbian associations, equal access to hold events at their theme parks. They feel that Disney should target homosexual groups for exclusion.
bulletDr. Richard Land, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is quoted as continuing his personal boycott. He claims that Disney stores are being closed in the southern U.S., and that video sales and rentals are in decline.
bulletThey offer a free information sheet "The Disney Boycott" at 1-800-A-FAMILY. [This number can only be dialed from the U.S.]

The report did not mention any of the G-rated movies that Disney has recently produced for children.

bullet2001-JUN-16: Report by the Southern Baptist Convention: The Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission issued its annual report. Responding to a motion made during the Baptist's annual meeting in Orlando during 2000, they listed four "specific, measurable expectations" that the Disney Company must meet before Southern Baptists would consider terminating their boycott:
bulletCease promoting "Gay Days" at its theme parks. [Actually, Disney does not promote these; they simply allow outside groups to hold special events of all types. The SBC probably means that Disney would have to ban sponsorship of events by gay or lesbian groups.]
bulletHalt the publication of pro-homosexual books. [Actually, Disney does not publish such books. Only one independent subsidiary of Disney does.]
bulletRefrain from advocating the "radical homosexual agenda" through its broadcast wings.
bulletEstablish an advisory committee which would include Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to provide Disney "advice and counsel." 12

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The boycotts end:

bulletThe American Family Association (AFA) terminated its boycott in 2005-MAY-24. AFA President Tim Wildmon said:

"We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point. Boycotts have always been a last resort for us at AFA, and Disney’s attitude, arrogance and embrace of the homosexual lifestyle gave us no choice but to advocate a boycott of the company these last few years......I guess one could say that, as far as we’re concerned, Disney is on probation." 13

bulletFocus on the Family dropped its boycott shortly after the AFA. 14
bulletThe "messengers" at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting voted on 2005-JUN-22 to end its boycott.  14

Alex Johnson of MSNBC commented:

"Critics said Christian groups were throwing in the towel, noting that Disney, which had no immediate comment Wednesday (2005-JUN-22), maintained that it never changed any of its policies or practices in response to the boycott."  14

Disney's "gay days" and equal family benefits for homosexual employees continue.

A major factor in the decision to abandon the boycott may have been Disney's decision to produce a movie based on C.S. Lewis' "The lion, the Witch and the wardrobe" -- a story with a strong Christian theme.

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References:

  1. The USA Weekend poll is at: http://www.usaweekend.com/respond/quickpolls/
  2. MSNBC News report, 1997-NOV-18
  3. Neal Horsley, "The Evidenced [sic] is in! Christian 'Resistance' to Abomination is a abysmal failure," The Creator's Rights Party, at: http://www.christiangallery.com/boycott.html (The Christian Gallery website was removed by their Internet service provider because it included the Nuremberg Files. The latter website was found guilty of threatening abortion providers and was severely fined.)
  4. A web site that is totally devoted to supporting Disney is: "The Value of Families" at: http://www.valueoffamilies.com/main.htm They were temporarily registered as the #1 religion-based site on the Internet by Web Side Story at http://www.hitbox.com/wc/world.100.Religion.html
  5. Dwayne Hastings, "Two-dollar bills to show homosexual support of Disney," SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, at: http://www.erlc.com/Culture/Disney/Articles/
  6. News Flash, at: http://www.valueoffamilies.com/standourground.htm
  7. The "Stand our Ground" website is at: http://www.net1plus.com/users/notelrac/
  8. Your Official Disney Boycott Site is at: http://www.laker.net/webpage/Boycott.htm
  9. The CUUPS site is at: http://www.cuups.org/
  10. "Staying with the mouse: Arab foreign ministers decide against Disney Boycott," 1999-SEP-24, ABC Newsat: http://204.202.137.111/sections/world/DailyNews/ 
  11. Stuart Shepard, "Disney boycott proceeds," at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0015202.html 
  12. "Disney 'Gay Days' key to SBC boycott," 2001-JUN-16, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/01a/20010614e.shtml
  13. "AFA ends Disney boycott. Positive signs, 'crowded cultural battlefield' led to decision," American Family Association, undated, at: http://www.afa.net/
  14. Alex Johnson, "Southern Baptists end 8-year Disney boycott. Company seen as more 'family-friendly'," MSNBC, 2005-JUN-22, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-JUL-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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