Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday, 19 June 1997


Church to Punish Company for Gay Day & Ellen
GayToday Says: Thank Disney for Resisting Hate

By Jack Nichols


In a decision made June 18, the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, a multimillion member affliation of churches, has decided to punish the Walt Disney Company because, on certain days, it has allowed a "gay friendly environment."

Last year's Disney Gay Day gave the Southern Baptist Convention pause, and it was then decided by attendees at the denomination's meeting that Disney would get a year's probation to see if it would mend its gay-friendly ways, thereby making itself less friendly.

Disney responded by going ahead with 1997's highly successful GayDay. The Disney-owned ABC network responded April 30 with the history-making TV coming-out episode of Ellen, a cheerful and instructive sitcom event that was watched by over 42 million people.

Not all Southern Baptist leaders were pleased with this year's punitive convention vote, notably those whose churches are situated in central Florida, host to Disney World and in California which hosts Disneyland. The Reverend Dan Wilkerson said that Baptists are unlikely to abide by the Convention's anti-Disney call. "Southern Baptists are notorious," he said, "in that they don't take orders from anyone." The minister reflected that "sometimes they don't take orders from the Lord. We are very much an autonomous group." Tourists and individual Baptists interviewed by Central Florida TV network news affiliates laughed at the convention vote as "behind the times."

Some scholars, like Steve Yates, say that the Southern Baptists have wandered far afield from their original Baptist roots, those planted in the days of Roger Williams, who is generally recognized as the founder of the first Baptist church in America. "In Williams' day," Yates told GayToday, "there was to be absolute freedom of thought with respect to the Bible. Williams put his emphasis on personal experience. No Baptist could then claim that a particular interpretation of scripture was the last word in truth.

"At the founding of our country the horrors caused by scriptural infighting was an obvious evil that Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others worked to eliminate. The early Baptists made it clear that individuals alone are given the privilege of reading the Bible and interpreting it for themselves. Roger Williams opposed infant baptism too, incidentally." Yates said that Southern Baptists who insist on literal and fundamentalist Biblical interpretations, have created an "heretical Baptist cult."

The Reverend Wiley Drake, addressing the assembled Baptists in Dallas, attempted to whip up anti-gay sentiment. He said: "From June of '96 when we first began this, until December of '96, three million subscribers dropped their subscriptions to the Disney Channel. Those are Disney's numbers. Those are not Wiley Drake's numbers or Southern Baptist numbers, those are Disney's numbers. We need to vote with our pocketbook, keep on fishing but we need to keep the boat and we need to fish or cut bait. Lets fish, but let's take a stand."

Deploring this fishy commentary, another Southern Baptist preacher, the Reverend Rick Markham, addressed the same audience: "In typical Baptist fashion, I'm afraid, we have reacted to an extreme by positioning ourselves at another extreme, and in doing so messengers were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. O.S. Hawkins told us this week: 'An US verses THEM mentality is deadly,' and I believe that's what we're doing."

The Reverend Markham's appeal to more genuine Christian principles, however, went down to defeat as the Southern Baptists decided not only to boycott Disney, but to look into taking action against McDonald's and Walmart, both major companies which sell Disney products.

GayToday is asking its readers to thank Disney's executives for resisting Southern Baptist pressures. A letter of appreciation may be sent to Walt Disney World Company, P.O. Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 32830.

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