Monday, June 23, 1997

Week of 06/23/1997

D-I-S-N-E-Y S-U-C-K-S?
If you’re a Southern Baptist, that question holds MANY implications!
- by David Matthews 2

This past Wednesday, the Southern Baptists Convention voted overwhelmingly to boycott Walt Disney and everything owned by Disney. They have determined that Disney is "anti-family" and thus no longer deserve the patronage of their 15 million members.

Before I rip the Baptists a new one, I’d like to point out that this decision is non-binding to their members. There is no special "God Squad" that checks to see the religious denomination of people who show up at Disney World. They aren’t calling for picket lines at all Disney stores and theme parks. Besides, those resources are badly needed to picket abortion clinics. And they aren’t screaming like little babies at their legislators for action. All they’re doing as asking their members to stay away from all things Disney.

Now let’s get brutally honest here. Do you REALLY think the Baptists will hurt Disney? And do they REALLY know what it means to boycott all things Disney?

Disney is a conglomerate business. The Mighty Mickey owns everything from network broadcasts to sports stadiums. Their broadcast facilities produce everything from "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee" to Paul Harvey’s daily radio shows, to even - *GASP* - the Rush Limbaugh show. Now I wonder how many of those Baptists will be willing to turn off their icon?

But the scope goes even further than that. Disney currently has a new movie out in theaters called "Hercules." Obviously this boycott will mean all "true" Baptists will have to avoid this movie, but does it also means boycotting anything having to DO with that movie? McDonald’s currently has a whole line of Hercules-related stuff out. Does that mean all Baptists now have to stop doing business with the fast-food chain? Does that mean Baptists will now have to boycott stores that have Disney merchandise such as Wal-Mart or K-Mart? With some cable companies and satellite services the Disney Channel is part of the basic package. Does that mean unsubscribing to cable or DirecTV if they can’t get the Disney Channel removed from their selection?

In all likelihood, this won’t be a big thing to folks. It certainly won’t to Disney. How many devout Baptists will actually shut themselves out of Disney? No doubt some, but not the huge masses the SBC delegates dream of participating.

That brings me to the next bit of contention - the charge of Disney being "anti-family." The Baptists claim that Disney promotes homosexuality because of the regular "Gay Day" events at their theme parks, the company providing full benefits to domestic partners of their employees be they gay or straight, and for ABC’s "Ellen" show where the character admits she’s a lesbian. Disney has no control over "Gay Day" since they neither organize nor promote it. That simply is when gays and lesbians show up at the theme parks. If Disney had hundreds of bible-thumpers show up and have a "Bible Day" I’m sure they’d be accused of promoting a certain religious sect as well. As for providing benefits to domestic partners, Disney isn’t breaking any ground on this. IBM and several other major corporations provide similar benefits. Will the Baptists want to boycott them as well? As for "Ellen," there wouldn’t have BEEN all the hoopla if the bible-thumpers didn’t go off the deep end when the first heard of it in the first place! They got played for suckers by ABC for some free publicity and it will always stick in their craw for that!

Look, I’m sure Walt Disney wouldn’t recognize his company today. Would Ray Crock recognize McDonald’s today? Or Henry Ford? The truth of the matter is that these corporations have to expand and adapt to a changing customer base. It’s the goal of ANY business to try to reach as many customers as possible, and to simply shut out one group because a pious religious organization decides to pass judgment on them not only is unrealistic but also impractical.

I won’t sit in judgment of the Southern Baptists for their decision to discriminate against homosexuals. That’s not mine to give. (Besides, it makes for a much better topic at a later date.) But I will give some words from the same bible that apparently these folks need to remember: Judge not lest you be judged.

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