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An Open Letter from Bill Merrill

Dear Friend:

I received your letter in reference to the recent Southern Baptist Convention resolution on the Disney Company and family values. Thank you.

News of the resolution has been widely disseminated, if not particularly accurate. One inaccuracy is that the SBC action was principally a protest of employment policies for homosexual employees. In fact, the resolution referred to that as one of five illustrations which indicate the Company "has given the appearance that the promotion of homosexuality is more important than its historic commitment to traditional family values."

These five illustrations could have been expanded to fifteen, or twenty-five. Disney has clearly changed. Whether you personally approve or disapprove of the changes, it is impossible to argue that Disney is the company you and I grew up with.

It boggles the mind as to the depth of change in Disney. From phallic jacket art on one of its children's videos to the inclusion of an 800 number for a telephone sex service in one of its "family" movies, it is plain that someone at Disney clearly has an agenda, and it is not the agenda of the traditional family.

Its newest G-rated offering, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, supposedly aimed at the childhood market, corrupts the original story line to include what TIME magazine has called "lechery and lust." Alan Menken, composer of the Hunchback musical score, told USA Today, "In one song we have (the character) Frollo sing the church liturgy but also sing of twisted sexual fantasies." This is to say nothing of its anti-Christian film, Priest, or its guide for adolescent homosexuals, Growing Up Gay, or its choice of a convicted child molester to direct the movie Powder.

Such changes are of great consequence. We do not approve the direction, and have had the candor to say so plainly. Traditional family values are neither a "tangent," nor is support of them an "extreme," as the Disney Company CEO asserts. We believe that millions of people share those values, and have tired of efforts to undermine them.

Disney has plainly taken the low road in its new corporate direction; a road that some close observers have said company founder Walt Disney would heartily disapprove. Disney Company has been the trusted friend of families for decades. But that well-earned trust and its carefully nurtured image as a trustworthy provider of family entertainment is at risk. It has lost the confidence of many families, and is squandering its hard earned heritage as foremost entertainer to the American family.

I could wish that you were more inclined to accept our seriousness and goodwill and less inclined to view us as self-righteous, or unthoughtful. Our motivation is not hatred, but a love for God and man, and a desire to live out our beliefs in a fallen world. We do believe that homosexuality is a sin, but that churches and Christians need to reach out in love and the offer of forgiveness. That, by the way, is what most churches I know are doing. I have had friends who have been entrapped in this sin, and I know of their pain, and thankfully, have been used by the Lord to help them know the grace, forgiveness, and change that is possible through Jesus Christ. We dare not take the attitude that we are superior to anyone; we are all sinners in need of the mercy and grace of God. But we are not helping each other to excuse or even to applaud what is sinful, whether it is dishonesty, hypocrisy, or sexual immorality, either hetero- or homosexual.

We hope this helps to clarify our position and our reasons for taking it.

Sincerely,

A. William Merrell
Vice President for Convention Relations
SBC Executive Committee

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September 1996 Edition
Volume 4, Issue 10
September 1996