PROCTER & GAMBLE: WHY EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS CAN BE DISCOUNTED
by David Sisler
The saga of "Procter & Gamble and the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Television Show" is easily outlined. Understanding P&G's unfolding corporate strategy is puzzling.
Paramount Television Network announced plans to broadcast Dr. Laura's conservative talk show. Procter & Gamble was the first major company to promise sponsorship. Almost immediately, the homosexual lobby began protesting Dr. Laura's statement that homosexuality is deviancy and her claim that homosexuals are "products of a biological error." Protestors turned up the heat, ignoring Dr. Laura's statements that homosexuals are "entitled to love and respect." On May 24, 2000, P&G said, "We've decided not to sponsor the Dr. Laura Schlessinger show and we'd like to explain why... Our withdraw was not based on ‘votes' for or against her show. We're simply seeking a positive, non-controversial environment in which to advertise our brands."
Since that time, announcements have been forthcoming from other advertisers. United Airlines will stop running Dr. Laura's ads in their in-flight magazines, and Xerox will not renew its contract. No doubt there will be more.
Within days of making the "No Dr. Laura" announcement, Procter and Gamble declared that they would support Cincinnati's Gay Pride Parade on June 11. In their announcement P&G stated that they were only supporting their employees, not the parade itself (a distinction missed by many).
Last fall I wrote a column entitled Procter & Gamble: When Christians Spread Lies." You remember the rumors – P&G's corporate symbol is the devil's own design and the company is controlled by Satan and satanists (and so are McDonald's and Liz Claiborne). I concluded that piece with the statement, "Circulating these rumors is nothing less than spreading lies. We Christians do enough things to give God a ‘black eye' without this."
On May 29, 1998, Dr. Victor B. Nelson, executive director of the Billy Graham Association, wrote a letter stating, "This rumor... has no verifiable credibility." Dr. Nelson's letter was no doubt appreciated, but more was needed. Trying to protect its corporate image, P&G appealed to the Christian community for help.
Between July 2, 1999 and August 5, 1999 four leaders from four diverse Christian confessions came to P&G's defense.
The Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarcyzk, Archbishop of Cincinnati called the spreading of the rumors "insidious dishonesty." Jerry Falwell said, "These rumors need to be squelched." Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention said, "Let me urge those in the Christian community not to be part of any false accusations." Thomas E. Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God urged his members, "not to become part and party of promoting this false rumor."
Within recent days, Jerry Falwell has written, "When Procter & Gamble needed leaders of the conservative religious community, we were there to defend them. Now Procter & Gamble has determined that they cannot be associated with another leading conservative spokesperson – Dr. Laura Schlessinger."
Procter and Gamble spokesmen said, "There has been controversy surrounding Dr. Laura on a number of topics. We've chosen not to be involved with a show that will require time and resources to deal with this kind of controversy."
Falwell asks, "You mean, like the time and resources that many conservative ministries gave to Procter & Gamble? I must say that I feel a sense of betrayal ... a company that once desperately appealed to conservative ministries for help" is now unwilling to support a spokeswoman for conservative principles.
Under protests from homosexual lobbyists, the Disney corporation extended employment benefits to same-sex partners. The Mouseketters' bosses ignored the protests and boycotts by Southern Baptists (and surveys indicate that most Southern Baptists ignored the boycotts as well). Why is it that sponsors, and organizations, are more ready to back off when gay and lesbian groups protest than when evangelical Christians do? Martin Marty writes, "Companies want to sell products, and they calculate their risks in a day when it seems that someone will protest anything. The Christian risk is low."
A recent column by Jim Kirk of the Chicago Tribune makes Marty's comment even more puzzling: "Fragmentation of TV audiences and competition in the grocery aisles has taught the maker of Tide and Crest that it cannot ignore groups of customers, no matter how small."
How small is the group called "evangelical Christians" that we can be overlooked in Procter and Gamble's $2 billion advertising budget? Maybe small is not the point, maybe ineffective is the point. Or maybe ineffective is not the point, maybe toothless is the point. Or maybe toothless is not the point, maybe we have so dishonored our Lord by our walk, that they know they can ignore our talk. If a sacrifice lasting longer than 30 minutes is required, count us out.
Published in The Augusta Chronicle 6/10/2000
Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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