Two Christian groups are spearheading a boycott of the Walt Disney Company because of the unbecoming portrayal of Catholic clergy in the new film Priest, released by Disney's subsidiary Miramax Films.

The New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the American Life League (ALL), headquartered in Stafford, Virginia, are urging supporters to boycott all Disney products, Disneyland, Disney World, and cable TV's Disney Channel.

The organizations also are asking constituents to write letters to Disney demanding that the movie be withdrawn, that company chief executive Michael Eisner be fired, and that Christians be issued a public apology. Fifty other ministries have joined the boycott, including the American Family Association, Christian Defense Coalition, and Eagle Forum.

ALL president Judie Brown calls the film "smut," "sacrilegious," and "blasphemous." She says, "The minds of the American people should not be poisoned against the very church that has consistently stood up for moral values."

Five fictional clerics are portrayed in the R-rated film, including one involved in a homosexual relationship and another having a sexual affair with his female housekeeper. Catholic League president William Donohue says the other priests are depicted as "a drunkard" and "a madman," while a bishop "is simply wicked."

"Not one priest is depicted as well-adjusted and faithful to the church," Donohue says. "Had such a priest appeared in the movie, it would have made inexplicable the film's theme of blaming the institution of the church for the maladies of its priests."

The groups persuaded Miramax to delay the film's opening from Good Friday until five days later, April 19. But the studio says it will make no more concessions. Disney says it has no control over Miramax, even though it has demanded that the studio make editing cuts on the forthcoming Kids (about an HIV-positive teenage boy obsessed with having sexual intercourse with virgins) in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. Miramax is not known for offering family-friendly fare. Recent releases have included Sirens, Pulp Fiction, and The Crying Game.

Ted Baehr, chair of the Atlanta-based Christian Film & Television Commission, warns that boycotts that are too broad often fail. Baehr says a better approach would be to encourage Disney and Miramax to produce more family films.

Baehr gave Priest the highest-quality rating in the Movieguide he publishes. He says critics of the film should be more accurate in pinpointing their attacks, because it is not "pornographic, prohomosexual, or proadultery." He calls Priest a "profound film theologically" and says it clearly shows the problem of sin, the power of God's grace, and the importance of prayer.


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