CCU’s Centennial Institute launches ‘Beauty and the Beast’ boycott over ‘gay moment’

Colorado Christian University's Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt talks with students at an event sponsored by the institute on Dec. 7, 2015, at CCU in Lakewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt talks with students at an event sponsored by the institute on Dec. 7, 2015, at CCU in Lakewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado’s Centennial Institute is spearheading a campaign urging Christians to boycott Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” because the film purportedly includes an onscreen “exclusively gay moment” and its openly gay director has demonstrated a “hostile approach to the Bible.”

“What was frustrating about this film was we clearly saw there was an attempt to drive an agenda, and an agenda that was offensive to people who embrace and support traditional family values,” Jeff Hunt, director of the Lakewood-based Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University’s think tank, told The Colorado Statesman.

“We’re not asking anyone to boycott the company,” Hunt, the father of four young children, hastened to add. “In fact, I’m a big fan of Disney. That’s why this kind of hurt. Now you’re taking something we felt we could trust our kids with, and you’re trying to drive an agenda that’s opposed to our values.”

The movie — a faithful live-action remake of the animated 1991 Disney classic — has set tongues wagging at reports the character LeFou, the main villain’s sidekick, portrayed by actor Josh Gad, is gay and has a “gay moment” on screen.

According to the online culture magazine Vulture, the “gay moment” occurs when LeFou dances for “two seconds at the most” with a villainous henchman amid a flurry of celebration at the end of the movie. Other reviewers say there might be a few winks and sidelong glances, but some also insist that reports the movie features Disney’s first openly gay character are a stretch at best.

While Hunt admits he hasn’t seen the movie, which opens nationwide Thursday night, he says a discovery he made about something the director once said — his “radical, anti-God comments,” Hunt says in an email broadcast — sealed his resolve to lead a boycott of the film.

“When we looked further into the director and saw his statements about the Bible, it was clear there was an agenda being driven,” Hunt told The Statesman.

In a 2007 interview with Passport, billed as “America’s #1 gay travel magazine,” Bill Condon, the movie’s director, answered some questions about his travel history and preferences. Asked what he does first upon entering a hotel room, Condon answered, “I wish I could say I’m like Ian McKellen and immediately go rip pages out of the Bible, but there don’t seem to be Bibles in the hotel rooms I stay in these days. So it’s figuring out how to get online.”

“OK, it’s clear he’s so upset with the Bible that he feels he wants to destroy it,” said Hunt, who discovered a link to the archived interview on Condon’s Wikipedia page. “It’s one thing to disagree with the Bible; it’s another thing to want to destroy the Bible.”

And that’s why, Hunt said, he sent an email far and wide Thursday urging Centennial Institute supporters to sign an online petition pledging “that we will not allow our children or grandchildren to be subjected to your radical Left-wing agenda through your latest rendition of Beauty and the Beast.”

“We will not allow you to bully us into going against our Biblically-based beliefs in natural marriage, and we will certainly not let you circumvent us as leaders of our families to force these beliefs on the impressionable young minds of our children,” the pledge concludes.

The petition is addressed to Robert Allen Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, and Hunt said Thursday afternoon that the response has been strong.

Condon, the director of “Beauty and the Beast” — he also directed “Dreamgirls,” “Chicago” and both parts of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” — told the British magazine Attitude earlier this month the movie would depict an “exclusively gay moment” as an homage to lyricist Howard Ashman, who wrote the 1991 Disney movie’s songs with composer Alan Menken. Condon said Ashman decided to make the Beast central to the story — it had been focused on Belle — after his own recent AIDS diagnosis, viewing the Beast’s curse as a metaphor for the disease that would kill him before the film’s release. (Ashman posthumously won an Academy Award and a Grammy for two different songs from the film.)

Hunt stressed that he understands different audiences view entertainment differently, but because “Beauty and the Beast” has been specifically created to reach youngsters, Christian parents should be concerned.

“There might have been subtle moments in previous films,” he said, “but this is different because they’re actually celebrating it, they’re purposely trying to force an agenda. What we’re saying is, ‘You know what, Disney, you can do better with this stuff.’”

He also brushed aside a joke that’s been making the rounds — what’s the big deal about a gay character when the heroine is falling in love with a water buffalo? — since the controversy over the movie’s “gay moment” emerged.

“He’s a man first,” Hunt said with a chuckle, pointing out that a spell has turned a prince into the Beast and that Beauty’s love turns him back into a man.

“If this was a film about a woman falling in love with an animal, I’m sure we would have something to say about that,” he added.

Hunt’s call to boycott the movie but not the entire Disney company sets the Centennial Institute’s campaign apart from others, including one launched last week by evangelist Franklin Graham, who called on “Christians everywhere” to “say no to Disney.”

LifeSiteNews, meanwhile, had gathered nearly 130,000 signatures by Thursday evening on its petition vowing to boycott anything Disney until the company “commits itself to protecting, not harming, the innocence of our children.”

The American Family Association is gathering signatures on a petition of its own, saying, “Parents should be warned that Disney has given the green light to a strong LGBTQ agenda in a movie that targets the 5 to 11-year-old demographic market.”

The owner of a drive-in movie theater in the small town of Henagar, Alabama, posted on Facebook last week that he wouldn’t show the movie.

In Malaysia, Disney reportedly decided to halt the movie’s release even though the country’s censors said they would approve showings after the “gay moment” had been cut. (The country’s national censors allow gay characters in movies but only if they’re “portrayed in a negative light” or demonstrate they have repented.)

And in Russia, an arch-conservative legislator demanded the movie face scrutiny lest it violate a law against spreading “gay propaganda” to minors. The country’s culture ministry slapped a restrictive rating on it, forbidding anyone under the age of 16 from watching.

ernest@coloradostatesman.com

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