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7/30/97 National vote on Disney boycott: 49.5% in favor; 50.5% opposed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The results are in. Those in favor of boycotting The Disney Company: 49.5 percent. Those against: 50.5 percent.
Those are results of a vote initiated by USA Weekend magazine weighing the Disney boycott launched by the 15.7-member Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting in June in Dallas.
According to USA Weekend, in a July 29 news release, a “remarkable 107,000 readers” voted — “the magazine’s highest reader response in 1997.”
“Most of the votes — 95,279 — were unduplicated calls to 800 numbers,” USA Weekend noted. While unscientific, the vote is a sampling of the 41.7 million readers claimed by the Gannett-published supplement for Sunday newspapers across the country.
Voting also was conducted at USA Weekend’s site on the Internet’s World Wide Web and via postcards and the back of envelopes mailed to the magazine’s offices in Arlington, Va.
In the Internet tally, only 28 percent of 11,360 voters endorsed the Disney boycott; 71 percent voted no. Several voters on the Internet questioned whether some people were voting more than once. Via the mails, 421 readers sent in votes.
The vote was announced in USA Weekend’s July 18-20 issue. Via the 1-800 numbers, the first 100,000 calls were to be tallied through midnight July 24.
The office of Disney’s corporate spokesman, John Dreyer, in Burbank, Calif., was sent a copy of the results July 30 but did not issue a response.
Richard Land, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, described the vote as “great news for American families and really bad news for Disney. The results of this poll demonstrate deep and strong negative reaction to Disney’s aggressive tilt to a pro-homosexual anti-family agenda.
“The USA Weekend poll is a dramatic sample of the general public,” Land observed. “Both the unusually heavy response and the fact that virtually half the Americans who responded agreed with Southern Baptists’ stance for traditional pro-family values illustrates that Southern Baptists have raised a standard on an issue of deep and abiding concern to the American people.”
Bill Merrell, vice president for convention relations of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “Current Disney leadership and others in the entertainment media have made a career of misreading those who are pro- family, pro-decency and pro-positive values. The public understands Disney’s direction better than the image-meisters at Disney would like. Arrogant dismissal, protests of innocence and PR sleight of hand have not diverted the attention of middle Americans from the tasteless and offensive elements in the new-but-not-improved Magic Kingdom.
“Our own mail, e-mail and telephone calls, many which have come from those who say they profess no particular religion, are running approximately 15 to 1 in favor of our action. So the results of the survey don’t surprise me,” Merrell continued. “Violence, sacrilege and indecency are not entertaining, and more and more ordinary people are saying so. We applaud their good sense and decency.”
Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, which initiated its Disney boycott in 1995, said he was not aware of the USA Weekend vote until receiving a call from Baptist Press the afternoon of July 29 and, thus, the organization he leads had not initiated any effort to urge its supporters to participate in the national vote.
“This was not ‘religious people’ being polled; this was a poll of the public,” Wildmon said, “and when 49.5 percent of the people say they’re going to boycott Disney, that ought to send cold chills up Disney’s spine. And it’s going to have an impact on investors and whether they put their money into Disney.”
The results from USA Weekend’s Internet voting, Wildmon added, “are heavily skewed, because the homosexuals have a well-developed network of computer activists. They have more money to spend and more time; they don’t have families to take care of, for one thing. They’re into the latest technology.”
An array of AFA concerns regarding Disney have since been reiterated not only by the SBC but also the Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Church in America and other denominational groups, all challenging the company’s drift from family values and its embrace of the homosexual movement, such as Disney chairman Michael Eisner’s membership on the board of trustees of Hollywood Supports, a key homosexual advocacy group in the entertainment industry.
Soon after the SBC’s vote to boycott Disney, conservative commentator Paul Weyrich, a Catholic layman, wrote, “I hope now that other denominations will follow in support. Of course, the leaders of the Southern Baptists can’t control their membership. There are no doubt some Southern Baptists who value Mickey Mouse over their church. But if there are enough moral people left in the country they will join with the Baptists, and Disney will begin to feel the pinch. When that happens, Disney will begin to negotiate.”
Weyrich acknowledged, “Of course the boycott is controversial. The usual suspects are whining that conservative Christians are trying to shove their values down the throats of the rest of the society. Wrong. It is the perversion lobby which has shoved its values down the throats of the American public.”
Columnist Don Feder wrote in the New York Post and other newspapers: “For more than 50 years, Disney had a special place in the hearts of families. It said to parents: ‘You can trust us to provide wholesome entertainment for your children.’ But the toxins it dumps, on and off camera, are absolutely inimical to the social climate so necessary to the moral health of the next generation. Whether or not their boycott succeeds, the Southern Baptists have taken a significant step toward unmasking the face of corruption beneath the Mickey mask.”
To homosexual-rights groups who have complained about the use of a boycott strategy by religious groups, Feder reminded, “Homosexual activists boycotted Colorado when the voters of that state tried to forestall gay-rights laws with a constitutional amendment. They also urged corporate contributors to shun the Boy Scouts of America for refusing to bend the knee to immorality.”
USA Weekend headlined the page announcing its vote July 18, “Gays, Baptists and Disney,” then stated: “The Southern Baptist Convention has urged its members to boycott Disney because of what it calls the company’s pro-gay policies and offensive entertainment.”
“Everyone has an opinion about the Southern Baptist boycott of gay-friendly Disney,” USA Weekend stated. “What’s yours?”
The USA Weekend item included pro-and-con comments by seven individuals on the Disney boycott.
From Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Mo., pastor Delmar McCollum of First Baptist Church, stated: “We don’t do this because we have hate in our hearts. We feel like a wrong has been done. The bottom line for the Disney company is money. If you cut the source of money, then you have gotten to the root of what they see as God in their life.”
In addition to the Missouri pastor, among others commenting in USA Weekend was SBC President Tom Elliff: “We want to encourage Disney to use the privilege of free speech in a fashion that encourages a high standard of morality in our nation. While Disney is free to do as they will, at the same time we’re certainly within our rights to encourage our members to think twice about the manner in which they spend their entertainment dollars. … Right is right, whether the boycott gets the desired result or not.”
The magazine repeated the Disney company’s official response to the SBC boycott: “We are proud that the Disney brand creates more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world, and we plan to increase that production.”
A complete list of Disney subsidiaries may be obtained by writing to the ERLC, 901 Commerce St. #550, Nashville, TN 37203, or visiting its Internet web site: http://www.erlc.com.