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Disney’s Eisner upbeat as company faces 5th year of religious boycott

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Walt Disney Company has “entered the new millennium headed in the right direction,” Michael Eisner, Disney’s chairman and CEO, declared after the company posted a one-quarter increase in operating income after its worst-ever fiscal year.

Disney’s 5 percent first-quarter increase in operating income (October-December 1999) breathed hope into the entertainment conglomerate after its worst-ever fiscal-year loss of 21 percent for 1999 (October 1998-September 1999).

Regardless of the company’s ups and downs in income and on Wall Street, the boycott of the entertainment conglomerate by various religious groups continues.

A key endorsement of the Disney boycott appears in the new book by evangelical author and Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, “How Now Shall We Live?” and co-worker Nancy Pearson. The book, which seeks to enunciate a Christian worldview in the face of America’s moral collapse, has garnered strong reviews in the evangelical press.

Colson, a Southern Baptist church member, in a reference to the boycott, noted that “my own denomination, the Southern Baptists” and others are boycotting Disney products and attractions.

“… I support their decision,” Colson wrote, “for whether or not the boycott has a significant economic effect on Disney, it does serve an important educational function in the church and for the public at large. Until this boycott was publicized, many people — including many Christians — did not know that lurking behind Disney’s family-friendly image is a secular, naturalistic philosophy hostile to Christianity.

“The company offers spousal benefits to employees’ homosexual partners,” Colson continued, “and its theme parks hold a special ‘Gay Day.’ Disney owns the Miramax film company, which has produced movies like ‘Priest’ and ‘Sirens,’ which viciously attack Christianity. Disney owns ABC, which openly celebrated homosexuality on its program ‘Ellen’ and mocked Christianity in the sitcom ‘Nothing Sacred.’

“Parents may still decide to let their children watch Disney films or take their families to Disney World, but at least they should be aware of the anti-Christian worldview their children are being exposed to so they can deal with it appropriately.”

Eisner, in a Jan. 24 Disney news release, said the first-quarter earnings “came in ahead of expectations.” Among the factors in the gains, he said, was such “innovative programming” as ABC’s prime-time game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which has carried the network to the top of the Nielsen ratings for the first time in several years.

The 57-year-old Eisner, who has led Disney for 15 years and was the nation’s top-compensated CEO last year, at more than $589 million, said the company will “remain vigilant in our efforts to continue to create greater shareholder value” in such areas as “our under-performing home video and consumer products groups.”

Eisner voiced comfort, however, in a Disney news release last November over “the continuing strong performance of our theme parks and feature animation.” Recapping the fiscal year’s struggles, Eisner made no mention of the boycott.

Donald Wildmon, president and founder of the American Family Association, which launched its Disney boycott in 1995, said in the January edition of the AFA Journal, “We applaud the endurance of the countless boycotters who have committed to sending a message to that once family-friendly company.”

He added, “People at this point seem a little hesitant to surrender their trip to Disney World. Still, the boycott is progressing nicely.”

Concerning the Disney theme parks, however, the Washington-based Family Research Council noted a report by the USA Radio Network last year that Disney’s catering to the homosexual community has resulted in at least 50 percent fewer families attending during “Gay Days.” Observers from the Florida Family Association, an AFA affiliate, witnessed about 600 families, mostly young adults with children in hand, rapidly exiting Disney World within two and a half hours of the park’s opening, USA Radio Network reported, noting that a number of those leaving expressed disgust at the antics of the homosexual patrons to the park.

Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto, who had taken his family to Disney World during Gay Days, observed, “Gay Day is a political statement. It’s thousands of men and women … groping and grabbing their way from one fantasy land to the other. … What they were saying was that if you didn’t like their vulgarity, then you were somehow a smaller person.”

This year’s Gay Days at Disney World — and other attractions in the Orlando area — are slated from May 30 through June 5. A “Gay Days 2000” Internet site notes that more than 100,000 “gay men, lesbians, bisexuals” and others are expected for this year’s “10 Years of Magic” 10th anniversary. “It’s not just Disney anymore!” the website declares. “Universal Studios, Sea World and Busch Gardens have joined this exciting event.”

Colson’s affirmation of the Disney boycott should answer the question sent to one Southern Baptist agency from an Atlanta-area couple, who wrote:

“We have not watched their movies or TV stations … or bought the toys or gone to any of their stores … . [T]he only news we hear about [the boycott] is an occasional slander from the press against the SBC. So what is happening? Are we still boycotting as an SBC body or are we alone?” The couple also noted that their pastor opposes the boycott, though they otherwise “maintain a great relationship with him despite our differences.”

Trustees of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also answered the question in a resolution last September asking messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s upcoming June 13-14 annual meeting in Orlando “to support our Convention’s boycott of the Disney corporation’s theme parks.”

Trustees acknowledged the proximity of the 2000 convention site might make it tempting for some convention-goers and their families to make the short drive down the interstate to the Magic Kingdom and other Disney attractions. In their resolution, however, they noted that the 1997 SBC resolution calling for Southern Baptists to refrain from doing business with Disney has not been rescinded.

In addition to the AFA, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights also began a Disney boycott in 1995 over the Disney/Miramax film “Priest.”

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

The SBC boycott resolution in 1997 noted, “… this is not an attempt to bring The Disney Company down, but to bring Southern Baptists up to the moral standard of God,” because: “Everything Christians possess of time, money, and resources is given to them by God as a stewardship for which they will give an account before a holy God … .” The resolution urges “all Southern Baptists to graciously communicate the reasons for their individual actions to The Disney Company and other companies,” noting Disney “is not the only such provider” of morally objectionable movies and televisions programs.

In the fall of 1998 for the first time, Disney’s involvement in the nation’s largest soft-core pornography cable channel, Viewer’s Choice, was revealed in the book, “Disney: The Mouse Betrayed.” Disney has since sold its interest in the pornography channel. Husband-and-wife authors Peter and Rochelle Schweizer reported Viewer’s Choice officials would not disclose Disney’s ownership status, but the officials said no other company held a larger stake in the channel.