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Baptists end boycott of Disney

Thursday, June 23, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Southern Baptists ended an eight-year boycott of the Walt Disney Co. for violating "moral righteousness and traditional family values" in a vote during the last day of the denomination's annual convention Wednesday.

The Disney resolution, passed at the SBC's 1997 convention in Dallas, called for Southern Baptists to refrain from patronizing Disney theme parks and Disney products, mainly because of the entertainment company's decision to give benefits to companions of gay and lesbian employees.

Disney officials in California had no immediate comment.

"We have cost them (Disney) hundreds of millions of dollars," said Wiley Drake, an SBC member from California, who spoke in favor of lifting the boycott because Disney had made corporate changes, including the March announcement that longtime Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner would leave the company in October.

A spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights advocacy group, said Disney continues to be one of more than 8,200 companies that offer domestic partner benefits to gay employees.

The resolution on schools says "homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle."

Houston lawyer Bruce Shortt, who co-sponsored the measure, said many public schools promote gay acceptance through officially sanctioned gay clubs, diversity training, anti-bullying courses, safe sex and safe schools programs.

"It's just devastating to me what's happening to our children," said Robert Dreyfuss, an SBC member from Florida. "We're going to look very much like Europe looks."

Charles Warford, 71, a retired Southern Baptist pastor who spoke at a Human Rights Campaign news conference, said the resolution that passed wasn't as harshly worded as the original.

"I think most Southern Baptists realize the importance of public education," Warford said. "And many pastors' wives teach in public schools. I think it's very unfortunate that homophobia is still very much promoted in the Southern Baptist Convention through publications and other means."

With more than 16 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is second in size to only the Roman Catholic Church among U.S. religious bodies. Resolutions approved by the convention are nonbinding, and all member churches are autonomous in their ministries.

SBC members approved all nine resolutions on the group's agenda, which included a commendation to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for "defending the appointment of fair and impartial judges to the federal bench and insisting upon their right to a vote of confirmation to the full Senate."

Southern Baptists also came out in support of stem cell research that did not require the destruction of human embryos or put them at risk in obtaining human stem cells.


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