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Education Reporter

Texas Education Board Takes No Stock in Disney
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AUSTIN, TX - The Texas State Board of Education voted 8-4 in July to divest its Permanent School Fund of approximately $45 million worth of stock in the Walt Disney Corporation. The board's action came after a year-long effort led by the American Family Association (AFA) to educate members about the sex, violence, obscene language, and immoral themes contained in Disney-produced films, television programs and song lyrics.

Education Board Chairman Jack Christie said he was persuaded to sell the stock after viewing clips of the Disney film "Pulp Fiction," which features graphic violence, drug use and sadomasochism. "Pulp Fiction" was produced under Disney's Miramax brand name. Another board member, Richard Neill, characterized Disney's entertainment as "garbage."

Last summer, AFA/Texas chairman, Wyatt Roberts, presented the Board of Education with song lyrics produced by Disney's music label, Hollywood Records, that "advocate everything from suicide to setting people on fire." Roberts called Disney "the corporate equivalent of Jekyll and Hyde," and accused the company of "doing some very nasty things through its lesser-known subsidiaries."

Disney's portrayals of gay and lesbian characters have created further controversy, including those depicted in the ABC sitcom "Ellen" and the movie "Priest" about a Catholic priest who had a relationship with another man. One Disney film touched off a storm of protest when it became known that the director was a convicted child molester. Disney has also been criticized for extending company insurance benefits to live-in partners of homosexual employees, but not to unmarried partners of heterosexual employees, and for allowing homosexual celebrations in its theme parks.

Despite the fact that the corporation failed to blink at the news of the stock sale and publicized a stock price increase, Roberts says the divestiture could have serious implications. Other Texas agencies that invest in Disney include the Teachers Retirement System and the Texas Employment Retirement System, whose combined stock portfolios total nearly $300 million.

In 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a well-publicized boycott of the corporation's movies, theme parks, and the Disney-owned ABC television network.

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