News Articles

7/29/97 Methodist board to ask Disney for a ‘response to allegations’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Concern about The Disney Company now has reached into a mainline denomination, the United Methodist Church.
The corporate and fiduciary responsibility committee of the UMC Board of Pension and Health Benefits has asked agency staff members “to contact Disney for a response to allegations brought to the board’s attention by the American Family Association, a television and media monitoring organization based in Tupelo, Miss.,” according to a United Methodist Communications news story released July 23.
The news story continued, “The association has complained about increasingly negative treatment of family values in Disney films and programs and about the company’s policy providing spousal benefits to gay and lesbian partners of employees.”
“We need to know what the facts are about Disney’s policies,” Bishop William W. Morris of Montgomery, Ala., was quoted as saying.
Morris also asked the pension board staff to contact Southern Baptist Convention officials to inquire what prompted the SBC vote to boycott the Disney corporation, approved by messengers to the June annual meeting in Dallas.
The American Family Association, which initiated a Disney boycott in 1995, was founded by United Methodist minister Donald Wildmon 20 years ago.
The pension board, based in Evanston, Ill., owns 202,000 shares of Disney stock, valued at $69 million. The board committee took its action during a July 22 meeting in Stokie, Ill.
Wildmon’s reaction to the pension board action: “I think United Methodists around the nation would applaud such a move, and I look forward to it becoming a reality. Christians have no business at all funding all the pornography, filth and anti-Christian bigotry put out by Disney.”
The United Methodist Church divested stock holdings during the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, Vidette Bullock Mixon, UMC director of corporate relations and social concerns, told the Nashville (Tenn.) Banner daily newspaper. The pension board has issued protests in recent years against other companies, including one involving Disney shareholder resolutions filed at the company’s annual meeting regarding “inordinately high salaries and bonuses paid to its top-level executives,” according to the United Methodist News Service story.
Bullock Mixon told the Nashville Banner, “We have a process to go through” in considering moral stances related to its stock. “Traditionally, we don’t divest without monitoring companies closely,” she said. Before taking any action, she said, “We try to work with the companies that we are monitoring.”
In other news from the Disney-SBC controversy, nearly three out of every 10 people favored a boycott of Disney, in voting via the Internet initiated by USA Weekend in its July 18-20 issue.
No results have been released, however, in the overall USA Weekend vote, which included responses by toll-free telephone numbers and U.S. mail. The first 100,000 calls were to be tallied through midnight July 24.
In Internet voting, 28 percent favored the Disney boycott among 11,397 voting by computer, while 71 percent were against the boycott, according to a tally on USA Weekend’s World Wide Web site.
The USA Weekend poll, while unscientific, will be a sampling of Gannett-published magazine’s claimed 41.7 million readers. Several of the voters on the Internet questioned whether some people were voting more than once.