Walt Disney World drops weekly church services
Last Friday, in an article about the forgotten Disney Christmas special "The Small One," Disney archivist Dave Smith told The Orlando Sentinel that Disney cartoons avoid religion for the same reason that Walt Disney himself didn't put a church in Disneyland's Main Street, USA. "He didn't want to single out any one religion," Smith said.
Now, reports the Orlando Business Journal, not only won't there be a church on Walt Disney World's Main Street, but there won't be church services anywhere in the park. The theme park has previously made religious services available weekly; now they'll only be offered on Christmas and Easter.
"As we expanded the number of hotel rooms, it became difficult to provide a single space for all the guests who wanted to worship," Disney spokeswoman Rena Callahan explains. "It's not a question of it being the right thing to do," says Callahan. "We're not saying we don't care about this. It isn't a question of morality. It's a question of being able to accommodate the demand."
The demand mainly came from the Catholic side. There weren't enough priests to offer multiple masses, and too many people to offer only one mass. "We felt we couldn't accommodate it and felt the need to offer more than one type of opportunity to worship," says Callahan. "There are so many faiths, that it would be wrong to have just a Protestant service available."
The news is a bit old: Disney actually stopped offering the services back in August. But conservative Christian groups are angry about it now.
"The largest provider of family entertainment proves once again how out of touch it is with what is important to American families," says Focus on the Family spokeswoman Julie Neils. "We hope that families will consider Disney's policies when they make vacation plans this year. … Disney has made significant efforts to accommodate the gay community, but obviously does not consider families who hold religious convictions to be worth their effort."
"Kicking churches off of the property is exactly the opposite of what Disney needs to be doing," Wendy Wright, senior policy director for Concerned Women for America, tells the conservative news service CNSNews.com (which is run by an organization that reportedly fired one of its leaders for allowing someone to pray in Jesus' name at a fundraising event). "[Disney] is showing that religious families don't need to be accommodated. Disney's decision is very short-sighted because religious communities and activities help set a moral tone."
And Traditional Values Coalition head Lou Sheldon is his usual cheery self, charging, "I'm sure this decision is not based upon finance, but is based upon political correctness and their fear of a few radical people."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando favors the move, noting that there are plenty of churches nearby. "We believe it is truly the responsibility of the individual to seek out a church for services," says spokeswoman Carol Brinati. "Disney's business is in theme parks, and our business is ministering to people through God."
Catholic League President William Donohue, however, sides against the diocese. "The question here isn't whether Catholics should make the effort," he tells CNSNews.com "The question here is, 'Why is Disney discontinuing its service to Christians by now throwing up its arms and saying we have no more room?''
Shorter College standoff intensifies
The battle between Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention for control of the school's board of trustees is going to court as the two institutions are suing each other.
Shorter first sued the convention, seeking $9 million in frozen assets and scholarship funds. The convention sued back, saying college president Ed Schrader is in a conspiracy with the board to "take over and steal Shorter from the GBC."
"The college owns itself," Schrader responded to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "You can't steal something from somebody who doesn't own it."
"We have sought to reach a peaceful resolution to this matter without resorting to legal action," Robert White, the convention's executive director, says on the GBC's website. "But it is now evident that Dr. Schrader and his followers on the Shorter board will not stop until they take away the school and create a crisis for the students, their parents and the faculty."
The Journal-Constitution notes that both institutions "were hesitant to publicize their legal actions — citing New Testament teaching that Christians should never take each other to court." Um, but that injunction is over the suit, not publicity, isn't it?
- A hollow Christmas | People used to wait in expectation of the 25th, but not anymore (Digby Anderson, The Wall Street Journal)
- Christmas is more than fairy lights and presents | I can't be doing with not going to church at Christmas (Jane Shilling, The Times, London)
- Happy kitschmas | The problem isn't that Christmas is too materialistic — but that it isn't materialistic enough (Giles Fraser, The Guardian, London)
- Season's songs have meaning, stir memories joyful and sad | "People come who normally wouldn't come to church on Sunday morning because many people can relate to the songs of Christmas" (The Washington Post)
- Mommy, is Santa Jesus's uncle? | I'm supposed to be their guiding light, but what do I believe? (Patricia Pearson, National Post)
- Taking the Jesus story back to basics | O come, all ye faithful, this seasonal sentiment is not peace (Giles Fraser, The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Season's greetings with meaning | Sending Christmas cards is a way to express warmth, love and sometimes outrage (The Washington Times)
- Area churches make Western Christmas merry | Since Dec. 24 and 25 are regular working days in Moscow, it can take a little effort to create all the trimmings and trappings of a Western Christmas (The Moscow Times)
- Charity's poster 'could backfire' | A charity has launched a controversial Christmas poster campaign in Sheffield with the slogan "I wish the baby Jesus had never been born." (BBC)
- Also: Samaritans poster of Jesus 'may offend' (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- The last wild man | Behind Santa's genial smile lies a 70,000 year old animist tradition of a beast man (Fortean Times)
- Christmas not linked to pagan holiday | Andrew McGowan, a specialist in early church liturgy, thinks the key to dating Jesus' birth may lie in the date of his death at Passover (UPI)
- Bible doesn't give Jesus' birth date, so why Dec. 25? (Associated Press)
- Christmas documentary questions the virgin birth | Christian wrath risked (The Guardian, London)
- Jesus was asylum seeker, says bishop | A Church of England bishop has attacked "sentimental" Christmas card portrayals of the Nativity, saying that Jesus's family were asylum seekers and the three Wise Men were part of an assassination plot (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Also: Bishop rewrites Christmas (The Times, London)
- Also: Bishop attacks 'false' Christmas image (BBC)
Holy Land at Christmas:
- Arafat again barred from Bethlehem for Christmas (The Washington Post)
- Arafat barred from Bethlehem at Christmas (UPI)
- A Christian in the Holy Land | Interview with the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah (Newsweek International)
- Christian-right Zionism | The Christian Right clergy continues to cite Israel as the clearest proof that the end is nigh — and continues to express the expectation that Jews will then die or convert (Gershom Gorenberg, The New York Times)
- Oh, little town lies still indeed | No decorations or festivities are marking this year's Christmas in Bethlehem. It's 'the most unhappy' the mayor can remember (Los Angeles Times)
- Palestinians to restrict Christmas observance | Jesus' traditional birthplace is under Israeli occupation during the holiday for the first time since 1994 (Associated Press)
- Taking faith to a fault | Bush's religious fervor is no doubt genuine, but his policies show a lack of respect for the religious—and constitutional—principles of millions of other Americans (Editorial, St. Petersburg Times)
- Bush's order fills a void | No one can argue that equal treatment for charitable groups is not a desirable goal (Editorial, South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Faith-based aid; a fight worth having (Richard Benedetto, USA Today)
- Keep federal funds out of faith-based programs | President Bush last week attacked one of Jefferson's most important contributions to mankind and to this country — the concept of religious liberty (Editorial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Bush targets religious discrimination | The current president makes things happen and it drives those who want to protect the status quo absolutely crazy (Jim Kelly, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Bush circumventing Congress on domestic policy | His goals such as advancing the faith-based initiative cheer his core constituency. He looks to broaden GOP's appeal (Los Angeles Times)
- Faith-based by fiat | There is a thicket of difficult questions to be hashed out here, pitting the principle of religious freedom against that of anti-discrimination (Editorial, The Washington Post)
- Help fund religious charities but not religion | Further action by Congress would be both unnecessary and divisive. (Editorial, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
- Gotta have faith | The Bush administration's executive order removing longstanding barriers between church and state contains the seeds of a future uproar. (Paul Krugman, The New York Times)
- Faith-based initiative is a terrible idea | This is by far the worst of Bush's presidency (Zev Chafets, New York Daily News)
- With Bush's help, you can leap pesky church-state divide | The federal government has a handy brochure to answer any questions your faith-based organization might have (David Waters, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- No favor to the faithful | President Bush's executive order promoting key pieces of his faith-based initiative not only usurps congressional power but is a slap in the face for religious organizations that have struggled to do good work for the needy in their communities without government manipulation (C. Welton Gaddy, Naples Daily News)
New York Times series on The Ten Commandments:
- Unending journey through faith and heartbreak | The first article in a series on how the Ten Commandments intersects with modern lives looks at one family's struggle to make sense of a daughter's death. (The New York Times)
- A quest for rapture leads a 'Phish Head' astray | There was a point in Beth Senturia's life when all that mattered was the band. She hitched rides from one Phish concert to the next and saw 207 shows. And then she crashed.
- Swindlers take God's name in vain by lying and cheating | They search out victims such as the elderly or the gullible. They egg people on to falsify financial information to get the loans. And then they take off with most of the money. (The New York Times)
- A family follows its own rituals | A family's interpretation of the ritual of keeping the Sabbath holy is an effort to reconcile the demands of modernity and faith (The New York Times)
Cardinal Law's resignation:
- 'I have no hatred,' Law says | On return to US, cardinal talks of uncertain future (The Boston Globe)
- Scandal eclipses a far-reaching record | Once, Bernard Francis Law was among the Catholic Church's mightiest princes (The Boston Globe)
- Leader's fall challenges church | Scholars compare it with other crises in Catholic history (Boston Herald)
- No 'lightning rod,' but a storm | Cardinal Law's resignation appears unlikely to end problems for church (The Washington Post)
- Law's departure won't end crisis | Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation was long overdue (Editorial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Boston's cry is heard | In a city of strong and deep Catholic faith, the people and the priests have said, enough. (Paul Wilkes, The New York Times)
- Cardinal Law says resigning was best way to serve church | Cardinal Bernard F. Law made his first public comments since he resigned as archbishop of Boston, admitting to wishing that he could have stayed in his job (The New York Times)
- A resignation in Boston, finally | If anything, Law's departure ought to give impetus to the painful but essential process of self-cleansing by the church, just getting under way, to purge from its ranks not only sexual predators but, equally important, those in positions of power who would countenance such depravities (Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
- New celebrant, and new tone, at a Boston mass | Bishop Richard G. Lennon, appointed the temporary leader of the archdiocese after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned, made his first public appearance Sunday (The New York Times)
- Bishop asks Catholics to keep faith | Law's interim successor calls for healing as Boston protests rage on (The Dallas Morning News)
- Boston greets new bishop | Catholics urged to unite in faith amid abuse crisis (Chicago Tribune)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Vatican approves revised plan on sexual abuse by U.S. priests | The Vatican approved a revised American plan, saying the new rules balanced the needs of victims with the rights of accused priests (The New York Times)
- Vatican shift mixes signals | Was the church hierarchy poised to respond with a new degree of assertiveness, flexibility and public accountability? Or was this an isolated course of action, compelled by extraordinary circumstances? (The New York Times)
- Final OK given to U.S. bishops' child-protection policy | The approval, which was expected, was accompanied by the Vatican's most detailed reaction to the scandal rocking the Catholic Church (The Boston Globe)
- Law plans life outside archdiocese | He plans to settle somewhere outside the Archdiocese of Boston after taking a retreat at a monastery (The Boston Globe)
- Vatican approves revised sex-abuse policy (Associated Press)
- A Cardinal offense | After a year of controversy over his handling of sex-abuse cases, Bernard Law quit. How it happened. What it means (Newsweek)
- Catholic Church must lose the psychobabble | Let the healing begin. (George Weigel, Los Angeles Times)
- Vatican approves policy revisions for U.S. church | Those accused of abuse to get hearing (The Washington Post)
Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
See our past Weblog updates: