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Southern Baptists vote for Disney boycott

Disney graphic

June 18, 1997
Web posted at: 5:50 p.m. EDT (2150 GMT)

DALLAS (CNN) -- Leaders of the Southern Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, voted Wednesday to boycott Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiaries for what it called the company's "anti-Christian and anti-family direction."

The boycott includes the company's films and theme parks and its television network, ABC.

An overwhelming majority of delegates voted in favor of the measure at the Southern Baptist Convention, an annual meeting held by the denomination. The vote is not binding for the nation's 15 million Southern Baptist members.

Many Southern Baptists object to Disney's policy of giving health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, "Gay Days" at theme parks, and the release by Disney and its subsidiaries of controversial books and films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Kids."

Disney officials declined to comment on the potential impact of any boycott but said the company had nothing to be ashamed of.


"We are very proud that Disney creates more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world, and we plan to increase that production," spokesman Ken Green said.

Gay rights activists say Disney is one of a growing number of companies that have dropped discriminatory policies and that the Southern Baptists are out of tune with mainstream American society.

"They are overestimating the anti-gay sentiment in their own organization and the country," said David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign gay rights group, which lobbies Congress and big U.S. companies.

"We don't think people are so anti-gay that it would prevent them from taking their children to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disney World," he said.

Year's deadline expires

Last June, Southern Baptists gave Disney a year to change its ways. Since then, the church leaders have said Disney has ignored their complaints and even increased its "anti-family, pro-gay" policies and programming.

Attempts to limit the boycott were beaten back. There was virtually no opposition except from the Rev. Rick Markham of Snellville, Georgia, who said the convention was reacting to an extreme position by adopting another extreme themselves.

A convention spokesman has said that the decision to have Ellen Degeneres' character on the ABC program "Ellen" reveal that she is a lesbian was a major affront to the Southern Baptists.

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