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1996-JUN: Threat by the Southern Baptist Convention:

On 1996-JUN-12, almost all of the approximately 13,000 delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted in favor of implementing a boycott of Walt Disney movies, products and theme parks in the future, unless Disney changed its policies. The full text of the resolution is online. The denomination seems to have had five major complaints:

bullet "Establishing of an employee policy which accepts and embraces homosexual relationships for the purpose of insurance benefits" This refers to the policy by Disney to recognize give to committed gay and lesbian couples the same employee health plan coverage as it gives to their married heterosexual employees. Disney was one of the last movie studios to extend health benefits to same-sex partners. This was done only after it purchased ABC, which already offered the benefits. Disney/ABC/A&E/ESPN/Discovery Magazine etc. could stop treating their homosexual employees equally and reinstate their former "special rights" for married employees. But such a move would be considered by most American adults as discriminatory. Disney did not extend coverage to its heterosexual employees who are living with another person. They reasoned that those employees could obtain the benefits by becoming married.
bullet "Hosting of homosexual and lesbian [sic] theme nights at its parks" This objection is not really valid. These are theme days, not theme nights. And they are hosted by gay and lesbian groups, not by Disney. Any organization, from the Boy Scouts to a veterans group, can and do sponsor of theme days. Disney theme parks are open to being sponsored by any organization. The SBC would again prefer that Disney single out gay and lesbian groups for discrimination - a move that many American adults would also see as discriminatory.
bullet "Choosing of a convicted child molester to direct the Disney movie 'Powder' through its subsidiary Miramax Productions" They didn't knowingly choose a convicted child molester. Victor Salva's conviction only became known after the movie was completed. He had been convicted, served his debt to society and has apparently been rehabilitated.
bullet "Publishing of a book aimed at teenage homosexuals entitled 'Growing Up Gay: From Left Out to Coming Out' through its subsidiary Hyperion, connecting Disney to the promotion of the homosexual agenda" This is a rumor widely circulated among Evangelical Christian groups. But it is not valid. The book is not directed at teenage homosexuals. It is aimed at adult gays. The book describes adults' decades-old memories of being gay and a teenager in a society which was even more homophobic than it is today. There is also a basic misunderstanding that underlies the SBC objection; they seem to imply that one can catch a sexual orientation by reading a book. i.e. that a young person can be recruited into changing their sexual orientation. There is a consensus among human sexuality researchers that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not something that one catches; it is part of what one is. Studies have shown that a person's orientation can be detected in children during preschool years, and is unchangeable.
bullet "Producing, through its subsidiary corporations, objectionable material such as the film 'Priest' which disparages Christian values and depicts Christian leaders as morally defective." The movie was not produced by Disney. It was made by Miramax, an autonomous group. 1

Although the vast majority of delegates favored the warning to Disney, there were a few dissenting voices:

bullet Bob Albritton, pastor of Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh NC said: "The talk around our church was that the boycott is silly." 2
bullet Tony Cartledge, pastor of Cary's Woodhaven Baptist Church commented: "It's posturing and ineffective and makes us look foolish." 2

Congregations and individual Baptists would not be required to follow the boycott. A historical principle of the Baptist movement is that their churches are autonomous. Every believer is considered a priest and enjoys full freedom of belief. Therefore the SBC could only recommend that its churches and members follow the proposed boycott.

Many gay and lesbian groups responded negatively to the boycott threat. 3

Some conservative Christians "jumped the gun." Rather than wait to see whether Disney modified its policies during the following 12 months, many individuals and families implemented their own boycott.

The boycott had little initial impact within the first five months following the convention. On 1996-NOV-17, the Daily Brief stated that Walt Disney 4th quarter profits rose 27% to $858 million...cited strength in all three of its major divisions...stock closed up 2 3/4 at 76 1/4."

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1997: Boycott implementation by the Southern Baptist Convention:

In 1997-MAY, Ellen Degeneres came out of the closet as a lesbian both in public and on the "Ellen" show. "Ellen" was broadcast on ABC, a subsidiary of Disney. Conservative Christians have rarely criticized TV programs and movie which portray gays or lesbians as serial murderers or psychopaths. But these same religious folks loudly condemn situations like "Ellen" which show homosexuals as ordinary, lovable and loving people. Religious conservatives are concerned that  gays and lesbians will simply be accepted as ordinary folk with a minority sexual orientation.

Since the 1996 convention, attendance at Disney's theme parks had climbed by nearly 9%. 4 Much of the increase was probably caused by the improving economy and increasing consumer confidence, and is unrelated to the boycott.

The SBC annual convention in Dallas TX was held from 1997-JUN-17 to 19. The American Family Association, a Mississippi pro-family conservative Christian group led by Rev. Donald Wildmon, mailed out over 25,000 anti-Disney information packets to SBC congregations in advance of the convention. 4 Rev. Richard Land, president of the SBC Christian Life Commission, addressed the convention messengers (delegates), saying "Disney is going to find out just how many regiments and just how many divisions of godly people Southern Baptists have." Referring to negotiations over the previous year between the SBC and Disney, Land reported "On good days, the Disney corporation ignored us. On bad days, they contemptuously gave us the back of their hands." [We assume that he did not intended his remark to be taken literally]. The 12,000 delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of implementing the boycott that had been threatened in the previous year. 

Some reactions to the boycott included:

bullet Rev. Tim Wilder, pastor of a SBC congregation near Disney World stated: "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."
bullet Rev. Rick Markham stated from the floor before the vote: "...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."
bullet Baptist Carol Shields, president of the liberal People for the American Way said that "The church hierarchy doesn't speak for all Southern Baptists...Boycotts are as American as the Boston Tea Party. People are free to protest with their dollars. So I'll go out and spend a few extra bucks on Disney as a countermove to support them in their gay-rights policies."

During a PBS interview on 1997-JUN-18 she commented: "Whatever you may believe about homosexuality and whether or not it's a moral issue and in what sense and on what terms, the fact is that we are individuals...we are, by Baptist teaching, all loved by God. And we have to learn to live together in peace and in fairness and all playing by a set of rules that makes sense for everybody."

bullet Rev. Myron Yandle of the First Baptist Church in Morrisville NC preached: "The goal is not to bring Disney down. We're doing this to bring Southern Baptists up to the moral code constituted with the word of God...It's a matter between you and God. I urge you to give up one pleasure to gain an even greater pleasure -- the glory of God." 5
bullet On JUN-19, President Clinton was asked if he was going to observe the boycott. He answered a simple "No." His spokesperson, Mike McCurry, said "He has in the past said that there are times, from time to time, when he departs from positions that his denomination takes, respectfully, as a matter of conscience."
bullet Matt Coles, director of the Lesbian & Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union said that "All Americans should support Disney's decision to keep its park open to everyone, and to give its employees equal pay for equal work...Those two things are in the finest tradition of the civil rights movements of the last 50 years. There is nothing anti-family or anti-religious in treating people equally and respectfully."
bullet Ken Green of the Disney Company issued a statement after the boycott was implemented: "Disney continues to stand by its position. We are proud that the Disney brand creates more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world. We plan to continue our leadership role and, in fact, we will increase production of family entertainment."
bullet David Smith, of the Human Rights Campaign believes that the SBC is "overestimating the anti-gay sentiment in their own organization and the country." He noted that Disney is prohibited by law from discriminating against employees on religious grounds, but that it is legally free to discriminate against gays and lesbians; this makes the company's voluntary policy of equal treatment for gay people all the more worthy of praise rather than a boycott. He stated "The Southern Baptist Convention is at odds not just with gay people, but with the majority of people of faith who--despite their differences -- are united in opposing discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans...Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, most people of faith realize that they can disagree over gay issues and still agree that discrimination against gay people is wrong." 6
bullet An editorial in the Post-Tribune, Gary, IN commented that unless the SBC were willing to boycott all companies that give equal rights to gay and lesbians, by boycotting "IBM and Apple computers, quit using Microsoft, Borland and Lotus software, cut up their ATM cards for Bank of America, quit cheering for the San Francisco 49ers and say no to their kids who want to see "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," the blockbuster by Universal Studios, then their action against Disney is nothing more than mean-spirited bluster." 7
bullet At a cost of over 1 million dollars, Disney pulled copies of a music CD from retail stores on 1997-JUN-24. It was "The Great Malenko" by Insane Clown Posse because of its lyrics. Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, said he was "delighted" that Disney took this step. He called it a "pro-family and pro-decency" decision.
bullet Lou Irwin, a Southern Baptist since the age of 6, wrote a biting letter to the editor titled: "Southern Baptists vote Disney boycott: 'Gay-friendly' policies bashed." He paraphrased Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:29-37). In his version, the injured party is the victim of a gay bashing. A SBC lawyer and layperson ignore the victim. A Disney executive plays the part of the Samaritan. 8
bullet Michael Eisner, the Chairperson of Disney was interviewed on "60 Minutes" on 1997-NOV-19. He quoted an earlier statement by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Liberty Commission that Disney is "pushing a Christian-bashing, family-bashing, pro-homosexual agenda."

Boycott Goals: On 1997-AUG-14, the SBC asked its members to withhold at least $100 in spending on Disney products and services during the following 12 months. Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said: "If a million Southern Baptists sign such a pledge, that would mean a minimum of $100 million that would be lost to ‘The Tragic Kingdom.' " 9

TV Interview: On 1997-NOV-19, Michael Eisner, Chairman of Disney said that the boycott over gay issues has not had a financial impact on his company. 10 When interviewed on "60 Minutes", he said: "When somebody says Pocahontas is anti-Christian or anti-Jewish or anti-black or anti-Native American, I say inside deep down, 'they're nuts.' They really are." Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Liberty Commission was also interviewed on the program. He felt that the lead character in Disney's movie "Pocahontas" should have been portrayed as a Christian. Eisner replied that "she didn't become a Christian in the legend until after our story ended." Eisner stated that Disney does not organize "Gay Days." These were arranged by gay and lesbian groups "themselves...And I think it would be a travesty in this country for us to exclude anybody."

Internet Mailing List: The Northway Christian Community of Wexford PA is a non-denominational church that is "Biblically based, in doctrine and practice." They maintain a NWCC Forum to promote the free exchange of views on various religious topics. is the initial page of a discussion on the Disney boycott. Postings ran from 1997-JUN-25 (a week after the SBC convention) to NOV-18. Some points raised were:

bullet "The boycott will most likely cause Disney to be even less receptive to conservative Christian suggestions in the future."
bullet "The boycott will make conservative Christians look arrogant and close minded to the rest of the public."
bullet There is an analogy between the Disney boycott and a letter to the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) The Biblical passage is critical of the Nicolaitans, a Christian group that had "worked out a compromise with the pagan society. They apparently taught that spiritual liberty gave them freedom to practice idolatry and immorality."
bullet "Official boycotts have a lot of potential to turn into little more than media events, for which there is a lot of initial publicity, but little follow through."
bullet "While I do not approve of homosexuality, what kind of message are we sending? It does not sound like that of Christian love."
bullet "I agree that Disney was irresponsible in promoting a "Gay Day" without notifying the public what was planned, thus giving families the option of choosing to visit the parks on another day." 
bullet "Jesus told us that we are to be good stewards with all that He has given us. We will be held accountable. This requires us to use wise judgment."
bullet " are saying Christians should not judge anything that others do. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God that provides us with absolute values as to how God wants us to live our lives."
bullet "Those who are boycotting are doing something noble, but those who do not participate in the boycott are not necessarily 'unwilling to stand up for what is right.'"
bullet "Most of these [Disney] companies produce filth, anti-family and anti-Christian products...I choose to not support Mr. Eisner's agenda."
bullet "Disney keeps the family movies under the Disney name and the movies for adults under other production company's names... At least Disney separates [sic] its family movie from it's rated "R" movies."
bullet "Disney does NOT sponsor GAY DAY at Disney World . It's just a day that the Gay community of Orlando decides to visit WDW. It's the same as 'Southern Baptist Day' at 'Six Flags.'"

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  1. A copy of the 1996 SBC resolution is at:
  2. Yonat Shimron, "Baptist boycott not binding," Triangle Guide Online, 1996-JUN-21. See:
  3. "National [Gay/Lesbian] Groups Respond to Southern Baptist Convention's Disney Boycott," Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD) (™), at
  4. "Southern Baptists Vote for Boycott of Disney," American Atheists, at:
  5. D. Jackson, "Baptist Boycott of Disney Wares Comes Home," The News and Observer, Raleigh NC, 1997-JUN-23 at:
  6. The Human Rights Campaign news release is at:
  7. "Southern Baptist Boycott of Disney is Unprincipled Hypocrisy" Post-Tribune, Gary, IN, at:
  8. Lou Irwin, "Southern Baptists vote Disney boycott: 'Gay-friendly' policies bashed", Times-Picayune, 1997-JUN-19, at
  9. "Disney Boycott Escalated by Baptist Group" The Washington Post, 1997-AUG-14
  10. Reuters Ltd., "Eisner Says Southern Baptist Boycott Having No Effect," 1997-NOV-19. Available at:
  11. The CEO of the Disney Company can be reached at: Michael Eisner, c/o The Walt Disney Company, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521-1010. You can leave a recorded message at (818) 560-2413.

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Additional essays and web sites about the Disney boycott:

In favor of the boycott:

bullet The American Family Association, Inc. has a home page at: An essay on the boycott, titled "The gnats are swarming around Dumbo," is at: They have a list of Disney subsidiaries at: that you can consult to follow (or oppose) the boycott.
bullet Citizens for a Better America's at:
bullet American Guardian at:
bullet Concerned Women for America has a press release on their decision to boycott Disney at:
bullet The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has an essay on Disney at:
bullet The Congregational Holiness Church, Inc. has a homepage under construction at:
bullet Focus on the Family  has a home page at: They have an essay "Beware of the Magic Kingdom: The 'Families Can't Trust Disney' Boycott" at
bullet A brief description of the Free Will Baptist's resolution is at
bullet Tom Strode, "Disney ‘Stonewalling’ Brings Women’s Group into Boycott," Southern Baptist Convention, at
bullet Christian Financial Concepts' home page is at:
bullet A web site promoting the boycott is "Your Official Disney Boycott Site!"at:
bullet CATHOLIC LEAGUE for Religious and Civil Rights at

Opposed to the boycott:

bullet A web site which supports Disney is: "The Value of Families" at: They were once registered as the #1 religion-based site on the Internet by Web Side Story at
bullet The CUUPS site is at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflict > Disney boycott > here

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Copyright 1997 to 2000 incl. and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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