Disney’s Religious Liberty Hypocrisy Exposed
Disney’s Religious Liberty Hypocrisy Exposed
James Gottry / Jeremy Tedesco /
The Walt Disney Company has long blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, creating alternate universes and new worlds through its theme parks and films.
But now, Disney is seeking to completely abandon the encumbrances of reality by perpetuating the most fantastic of myths—that words are meaningless. And by claiming to stand on principle, Disney and its friends in Hollywood have served only to put the spotlight on their hypocrisy.
Disney, the Absent-Minded Oppressor
Disney’s latest fairy tale unfolded in Georgia, where the state’s House and Senate recently passed a bill to protect the religious freedom of its citizens.
The Free Exercise Protection Act was crafted, in relevant part, to protect the free exercise of religion of religious officials, and to protect the property or religious institutions from infringement of religious freedom.
Specifically, the bill:
- Provides that religious officials “shall be free to solemnize any marriage, perform any rite, or administer any sacrament or to decline to do the same, in their discretion, in the exercise of their rights to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this state or of the United States.”
- Provides that “[n]o faith based organization shall be required to rent, lease, or otherwise grant permission for property to be used by another person for purposes which are objectionable to such religious organization.”
Oh, and one other bombshell:
No business or industry shall be required by ordinance or resolution of any county, municipality, or consolidated government to operate on either of the two rest days (Saturday or Sunday).
In other words, the bill allows religious organizations and ministers to be religious organizations and ministers—meaning to adhere to the tenets of their faith in what they do and allow to be done on their property.
Here’s what it does not do, in the words of National Review writer David French:
[T]he bill as drafted could not be used to “bring back Jim Crow,” nor could it offer any person, outside clergy and faith-based employers, any effective defense against the enforcement of state anti-discrimination laws. It wouldn’t block a single gay marriage. It wouldn’t deny a single gay person access to the marketplace. Instead, it would merely offer a bare minimum of legal protections to Georgia citizens who are already confronting anti-Christian bigotry and discrimination.
Disney, the great purveyor of all things fantastical, saw the bill differently and threatened to take its ball (and attending princesses) and go home if the Georgia governor allowed “discriminatory practices [to] be signed into state law.” Unfortunately, the “villain” won—and Georgia citizens lost—as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed the bill, choosing to bet Georgia’s future on a script made in Hollywood rather than honoring the principles that were made for America.
If Disney wants to throw its weight around in the political realm, it ought to at least base its opinions on a true story. Instead, Disney embraced the “creative process,” concocted a story about the bill, and proceeded to bellow with outrage. As with Pocahontas, however, the ascertainable truth contradicts Disney’s sensationalized reboot.
One Hundred and One Hypocrites
Not only is Disney’s threat based on fantasy, but it also serves only to expose the company’s hypocrisy.
Disney claims to be concerned about discrimination toward LGBT individuals—so much so that it was willing to pack up and leave Georgia once and for all if the Free Exercise Protection Act became law. One would expect that its principled stand would extend to any location where Disney movies are filmed. One would be wrong.
In the last five years, Disney has produced or released several movies that were filmed in countries that penalize homosexual acts, with penalties ranging from fines to life imprisonment and even death.
- United Arab Emirates – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), “all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is illegal.” Punishments for homosexuality include fines; imprisonment; and, arguably, death. Disney apparently had no qualms about green-lighting the production of this $200 million film.
- Uganda – Chimpanzee (2012)
A Pew Research Center survey in June 2013 reported that 96 percent of Ugandans disapprove of homosexuality. Under Uganda’s penal code, “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” between two males carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment. According to theAfrican Human Rights Coalition, 33 out of 54 countries in Africa criminalize homosexuality, and LGBT people in Africa face “dire religious, community, and state-sanctioned persecution.”
- India – Dangal (2016), Mohenjo Daro (2016), Million Dollar Arm (2014)
In India, homosexual activity is a crime, with punishments ranging from 10 years to lifelong imprisonment.
- Kenya – African Cats (2011)
The U.N. has stated that, in Kenya, homosexuality is “largely considered to be taboo and repugnant to [the] cultural values and morality” of Kenya. Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, and the state punishessame-sex sexual acts as crimes.
- Sri Lanka – Monkey Kingdom (2015)
In Sri Lanka, homosexual sex is punishable by law, and Sections 365 and 365A of Sri Lanka’s Penal Code criminalize “unnatural” sex and “acts of gross indecency,” including homosexuality and lesbianism.
Despite the fact that—unlike Georgia—these countries have policies or legislation that criminalize homosexuality, Disney has given no indication that its relationship with any of these countries is in jeopardy. Instead, Disney chose to focus its wrath on Georgia, and on a law that is designed to provide an environment in which people of different faiths and beliefs about sexuality can peaceably co-exist.
Not to be outdone by Disney, other studios and actors have raced to display their hypocrisy to the world.
Sony Pictures called the Georgia bill “anathema to our studio and to all those who value diversity and inclusion.” Meanwhile, it bankrolled Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, a country that executes homosexuals and believes that women should stay indoors (the female director had to stay in a van “with a walkie-talkie and a monitor” when the crew filmed outdoors).
Lionsgate also condemned the Georgia bill, calling it “deplorable and regressive legislation.” They expressed no similar concerns regarding the locations in which they filmed The Expendables movies, which include China, Romania, and Bulgaria.
In China, according to a 2013 survey by Pew Research, only 21 percent of China’s population favors the “acceptance” of homosexuality, and “a number of clinics in China offer so-called ‘conversion’ shock treatment to ‘cure’ homosexuality.” Romania does not recognize same-sex marriage, and Bulgaria protects one-man, one-woman marriage in its constitution.
MGM Studios stuck to the script as well, calling the bill “hateful and bigoted legislation.” Meanwhile, recent James Bond movies have been filmed in locations including the Czech Republic, Japan, and Turkey. None of these countries allows same-sex marriage. Japan does not offer any national protection for sexual orientation, and Turkey does not allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
Taking their cue from the studios that pay them millions of dollars, some actors, writers, and directors also spoke out against the Georgia bill and pledged to stop filming there if the bill was passed.
Not surprisingly, they have also failed to apply their outrage consistently. Here are just a few examples:
Anne Hathaway: Hathaway has appeared in movies filmed in Russia and France, among other places. Russia criminalizes the “propaganda of homosexuality,” and France has been referred to as the “least tolerant country in Western Europe,” one in which nearly 30 percent of the population would not want a homosexual neighbor.
Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy): MacFarlane’s concern with tolerance is particularly remarkable, considering the Family Guy episode “The 2000-Year-Old Virgin,” which portrayed Jesus as a “lying sex-crazed adulterer.”
Rob Reiner: The beloved director has filmed in Egypt, India, France, and China. In Egypt, “members of the LGBT community are often arrested and charged with pornography, prostitution or debauchery,” including at least 20 homosexual and transgender individuals in 2014. The cultural climates of China, France, and India are described above.
Considering this impressively deep hypocrisy, it seems appropriate that the word “hypocrite” derives from the Greek word for “actor.” And just as you shouldn’t trust your health with an actor who is not a doctor but plays one on TV, neither should you trust the policy recommendations of a hypocritical company that lives in Fantasyland.
An Orwellian Approach to Tolerance
Hollywood attacked—and destroyed—commonsense legislation in Georgia that offered the narrowest of protections for ministers and religious organizations, legislation that essentially served to clarify that the First Amendment does not take a back seat to city ordinances.
In doing so, Disney and others also endorsed the new Orwellian approach to “tolerance,” where the self-appointed tolerant class deems what is intolerant and thus cannot be tolerated—like religious freedom for ministers. Meanwhile, Hollywood continues to turn a blind eye—and open wallet—to countries that imprison or even kill individuals who identify as homosexual.
Disney and its film-making friends care about public perception and about money. They don’t care about diversity and tolerance—not for people of faith, as their opposition to Georgia’s bill demonstrates, and not for LGBT people, as evidenced by their refusal to stop doing business in countries that punish or even kill homosexuals.
At best, it’s naïve to trust the motivation and messaging of entities and individuals that are inconsistently applying their so-called principles. At worst, it’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way to set policy.