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SBC lifts Disney boycott, urges parental diligence in education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention approved June 22 resolutions proclaiming an end to its eight-year boycott of The Disney Company and urging parents and churches to examine textbooks and programs in “community schools” and affirming their efforts to advocate the removal of “offensive material.”

The Disney resolution, passed in a nearly unanimous vote by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., said Southern Baptists rightly called for a boycott of the conglomerate in 1997 but now it was time to “declare a conclusion” to the effort.

The boycott has been effective in expressing Southern Baptists’ disagreement with Disney “products and policies that violate moral righteousness and traditional family values,” and such an economic action must be “specifically targeted and of limited duration” to be effective, according to the resolution.

The resolution on education came after various organizations outside the SBC mounted a pre-convention campaign in support of a proposal calling on churches to investigate their local schools for pro-homosexual curricula or clubs. Nearly 60 state organizations — many affiliated with either the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum or Focus on the Family — endorsed the proposal.

However, the resolution presented by the committee and approved by the messengers did not call for such an investigation but urged parents and churches to monitor the various influences on children and to “hold accountable” the institutions involved. The resolution also encouraged parents to fulfill their primary roles in their children’s education.

Messengers approved an amendment to the resolution commending students and teachers who believe God has called them to be witnesses for Christ in public schools.

The Disney and education resolutions were two of nine approved by messengers in unanimous or nearly unanimous votes. The other resolutions:

— Affirmed SBC President Bobby Welch’s campaign to focus the SBC on evangelism and encouraged Southern Baptists to share the Gospel of Jesus.

— Condemned stem cell research that destroys embryos and urged the U.S. Senate to oppose legislation to provide federal funds for such experimentation.

— Called for the nomination of federal judges who “interpret rather than make law” and for the Senate to confirm judicial nominees by the traditional majority vote.

— Supported religious freedom and urged pastors and churches to exert a biblical influence on American culture.

— Endorsed efforts to reduce tobacco use by teenagers.

— Expressed gratitude and called for prayer for President Bush and U.S. military personnel, as well as their families.

— Offered appreciation for the public officials and people of Nashville, as well as Southern Baptists in the area and SBC officials, who helped with the annual meeting.

According to SBC polity, resolutions are non-binding and express the viewpoint only of the messengers gathered at a specific meeting.

The 2005 Disney resolution called for the entertainment giant to offer films and other products that support “traditional family values.” It also promised to monitor Disney actions and urged Southern Baptists to continue to be discerning in their media consumption.

The boycott of a company that had a legacy of producing family friendly entertainment began at the 1997 convention in Dallas as a result of a resolution calling for Southern Baptists to practice “moral stewardship.”

The convention had adopted a resolution in 1996 that threatened a boycott if Disney continued its “anti-Christian and anti-family trend.” Among the concerns expressed by the SBC at the time were a 1996 Disney policy extending employment benefits to homosexuals, “Gay Days” at the company’s theme parks and anti-religious movies released through a subsidiary.

Disney has not rescinded its employment policy, and the special days for homosexuals continue at its theme parks. Supporters of ending the boycott pointed to other changes, however, including the removal of Disney CEO Michael Eisner and a more hospitable attitude toward Christians and other religious adherents. In December, Disney will distribute “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” a movie version of a book in C.S. Lewis’ beloved “The Chronicles of Narnia” series.

The American Family Association announced in May it was ending a Disney boycott it began in 1996.

“We felt like we were very effective since 1997 to voice our displeasure in very specific ways and to keep after that,” Resolutions Committee Chairman Gene Mims, Executive Director of the International Baptist Network, told reporters after the resolution passed. “We just felt that had been done. We are hopeful that Disney will do what the resolution calls for.”

Wiley Drake, a Southern California pastor who brought the 1996 proposal initially calling for a boycott, speaking on the floor of the convention in favor of the resolution, said Disney had “made some changes.”

“This old war horse is not ready to quit either, and I’m going to keep fighting Walt Disney Company,” Drake said. “I live within four miles of Disneyland and their headquarters, but it is time for us as Southern Baptists to say what we did was a boycott and it worked. We have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. Michael Eisner himself said, ‘That blankety-blank Wiley Drake cost me $10 million off of my bonus this year.'”

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters Southern Baptists “have made their point.”

“I don’t think we would ever have considered ending the boycott if Eisner was still in operational control,” Land said. “Eisner is the one who demolished any vestiges of Disney being any different than any other sleazy Hollywood entertainment conglomerate.”

In floor action on the education resolution, Bruce Shortt of Spring, Texas, a co-sponsor of the resolution that received so much pre-convention publicity, endorsed the committee’s proposal from the floor.

The committee wanted to emphasize that the education of children is “first and foremost” the parents’ responsibility, Mims said. “We tried to come up with a resolution that we thought would be a very strong encouragement to parents to do whatever they thought necessary.”

The committee received 23 other resolutions prior to the convention. It either declined to act on them or addressed them in resolutions it presented to the messengers.

The subjects of resolutions not acted on by the committee included persecution of Christians overseas, rescinding commendation for the Holman Christian Standard Bible, family planning, child abuse and domestic violence, government interference in SBC churches, and SBC support for the “unjust” war in Iraq.

In addition to Mims, members of the committee were Penna Dexter, member, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; T.C. French, pastor, Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La.; Robert Gallina, pastor, Green Hills Baptist Church, LaHabra, Calif.; Gary Ledbetter, member, Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas; Greg Mathis, pastor, Mud Creek Baptist Church, Hendersonville, N.C.; Jeff Moore, pastor, First Baptist Church, Altus, Okla.; Barbara O’Chester, member, Great Hills Baptist Church, Austin, Texas; Joseph Rodgers, pastor, First Baptist Church, White House, Tenn., and Ida South, member, First Baptist Church, Mathiston, Miss.