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AFA ends Disney boycott it launched in mid-1990s

TUPELO, Miss. (BP)–The American Family Association, which led the charge against the Walt Disney conglomerate over moral values in the mid-1990s, is ending its Disney boycott.

“We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point,” AFA President Tim Wildmon said in an article in the ministry’s June 2005 newsletter.

In a May 23 news release, Wildmon said boycotts are a “last resort” for the AFA. He said AFA is not shrinking back from the issues it had raised with Disney but is taking the opportunity to address the same issues more broadly “on a crowded cultural battlefield.”

AFA, in launching its Disney boycott in 1996, criticized the entertainment conglomerate for what the AFA described as a decline in moral and family values from the days of founder Walt Disney. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., primarily focuses its energies on the influence of television and other media on families.

A year earlier the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights had called for a boycott of Disney products, parks and the company’s cable channel over the Disney/Miramax film “Priest.”

The boycott shifted into high gear nationwide when messengers to the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution, “On Moral Stewardship and the Disney Company,” in which Southern Baptists were urged to “take the stewardship of their time, money, and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing The Disney Company and any of its related entities.” The resolution criticized Disney for “increasingly promoting immoral ideologies such as homosexuality, infidelity, and adultery.”

Following the SBC’s 1997 action, Focus on the Family, the Assemblies of God, Concerned Women for America and other religious groups joined in the boycott.

Wildmon said Disney now appears to be more aware of how much its reputation had been damaged among one of its primary constituencies — Christian families. He said it is harder than ever before to find “evidence of new missteps by Disney.”

The article cited three hopeful signs that contributed to the lifting of the boycott: the pending departure of Disney chief Michael Eisner; the split between Disney and Miramax films; and Disney’s involvement in the film production of the Christian classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis.

“Disney has become one of the less egregious perpetrators of the homosexual agenda, so we have decided to focus our resources on more pivotal issues related to the same concerns we had with Disney,” Wildmon said.

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said American families are more sensitized than ever to the entertainment industry’s ways.

Anyone who says the economic action against Disney lacks punch isn’t looking at the full picture, Land said. “The Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution on moral stewardship may well have ushered in a whole new era of corporate awareness and activism among evangelical Christians,” he noted. “The resolution made the point — straight out of God’s Word — that Christians have an obligation to take account of what enterprises they are supporting.”

Land said it is his belief that many dollars had been diverted from the company’s coffers because of the boycott and that Disney’s perspective had changed as a result of the increased scrutiny being paid to its releases and corporate decisions.

“The intention of the resolution was never to put the Disney Company out of business, but to awaken and energize families to the fact that Disney and every other Hollywood studio has changed course over the past 20 years,” Land said.

Any action by the SBC on the Disney boycott would have to be taken by Southern Baptists during their annual meeting.

“It may well be that the Southern Baptist Convention this June decides to declare victory in this matter and move on,” Land said, “but I learned a long time ago not to predict what a Southern Baptist Convention meeting in session may or may not do.” The next Southern Baptist Convention will be June 21-22 in Nashville, Tenn.

The entertainment company is not out of the woods, Wildmon added, saying Disney is still on “probation” and that AFA will continue to monitor the company’s productions. Wildmon also encouraged individuals to “continue boycotting if they believe that to be the right thing to do.”

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  • Dwayne Hastings