Southern Baptists boycott Disney over `gay-friendly' policies

DALLAS (AP) — The Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to boycott all things Disney, including ABC, condemning as immoral and &...

DALLAS (AP) — The Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to boycott all things Disney, including ABC, condemning as immoral and "gay-friendly'' everything from the company's same-sex employee benefits to TV's "Ellen.''

The resolution, passed on a show of hands by the Southern Baptist Convention's 12,000 delegates, urges the 15 million members of the nation's largest Protestant denomination to take action against Disney's "anti-Christian and anti-family direction.''

While the measure is not binding on churches, it asks members "to take the stewardship of their time, money and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing the Disney Co. and any of its related entities.''

Many Southern Baptists object to Disney's policy of giving health benefits to same-sex partners of employees and allowing "Gay Days'' at its theme parks, and the release by Disney subsidiaries of movies with violence and sex, such as "Pulp Fiction'' and "Kids.''

Convention spokesman Herb Hollinger said the last straw was the episode of the ABC sitcom "Ellen'' in which Ellen Degeneres' character revealed she is a lesbian.

"Walt Disney would never have approved this, and I think it's just a slap in his face and to his family that they're taking this viewpoint,'' said delegate Katera McMillan of Rogers, Ark. "I'm hoping that Southern Baptists stand united in this, and I believe it can make a difference.''

In addition to Walt Disney World and Disneyland and the company's TV, movie and music divisions, Disney also owns a chain of Disney merchandise stores and the Mighty Ducks hockey team and has a stake in the Anaheim Angels baseball team. It has holdings in everything from cable networks to newspapers and even Broadway shows.

Some Baptists acknowledged that the entertainment conglomerate is so pervasive, it will be difficult to banish Disney from their lives.

At a Disney store in Little Rock, Ark., music minister Richard Wentz said there's no way he could follow the boycott. He just looked down at his 4-year-old daughter, Taylor, dressed in a pink Hunchback of Notre Dame outfit and clutching her new Winnie the Pooh books.

"If I did, I don't know what I'd do with her,'' he said. "It seems to me that we could find a whole lot of things to throw up our arms and holler and scream about, and I'm not so sure that's at the top of the list.''

Disney said in a statement: "We are proud that the Disney brand creates more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world. We plan to continue our leadership role and, in fact, we will increase production of family entertainment.''

In trading Wednesday on a declining New York Stock Market, Disney fell $1.50, or almost 2 percent, to close at $82.50 a share.

The Southern Baptists last June gave Disney a year to change its ways. Since then, church leaders said, Disney has ignored their complaints.

"Will a Southern Baptist boycott change the Disney company? I don't know. But it will change us,'' Lisa Kinney, a delegate from Largo, Fla., said to a standing ovation. "It will affirm to us and the world that we love Jesus more than we love our entertainment.''

David M. Smith, a strategist for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights organization, said the resolution puts Southern Baptists at odds with most religious Americans.

"Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, most people of faith recognize that they can disagree over whether or not homosexuality is right and still agree that discrimination against gay people is wrong,'' Smith said.

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