Interfaith Council Calls on Disney to Cancel A&E Show that Promotes Religious Hatred
Group delivers second letter to Disney CEO Robert Iger calling for cancellation of Leah Remini: Aftermath, after murder of Church of Scientology staff member and escalating threats and violence aimed at the Church of Scientology and other religions.
A Los Angeles interfaith coalition Tuesday demanded the cancellation of the Walt Disney Co.-owned Leah Remini/Mike Rinder Aftermath series, in response to a significant increase in acts of religious hatred, including the murder last month of a Church of Scientology staff member in Sydney.
The assailant spewed vicious hatred and propaganda, incited by the Remini/Rinder program, prior to the vicious crime where he stabbed a young staff member to death outside a Scientology Church in Sydney.
The program, on Disney subsidiary A&E Networks, has incited more than 600 threats and violent acts documented by the Church of Scientology. Many other religions also decry the upswing in threats and violence based on religious hatred, including arson at five separate Kingdom Halls following Remini’s announcement of an episode of her A&E program targeting Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Church of Scientology has repeatedly warned executives at A&E and Disney that the show spews lies that incite and promote religious hatred.
Leaders and members of diverse local faiths joined with the Church in a roundtable and a demonstration outside the Disney Co. in Burbank, California, on Tuesday.
A letter was delivered by the Los Angeles Faith Coalition to Disney CEO and Chairman Robert Iger as a follow-up to a letter in December—which received no response. Written by Los Angeles Faith Coalition leader Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, the original letter called the A&E show “one-sided,” and declared that “by condoning the airing of this series, Disney makes itself a party to the violence resulting.”
In his December letter, Rev. Murray, pastor emeritus of First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, wrote, “That Disney would sponsor programs that incite hatred against religions from my perspective is unconscionable. ... Do you have to wait until something worse happens to stop this hatemongering?”
“That Disney would sponsor programs that incite hatred against religions from my perspective is unconscionable.”
— Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray
Since December, something worse did happen—the January 3 killing of a 24-year-old Taiwanese staff member at the Church in Sydney and the injury of a second staff member. The crime was perpetrated by a 16-year-old. “His murderer had been exposed to and inspired by the content of A&E’s Aftermath show,” Rev. Murray’s letter states.
“I asked in my last letter that you act with courage and compassion and put an end to the hate. Yet I received no answer,” the pastor wrote in the January 29 letter. “The FBI reports religious hate crimes have risen 23 percent.” Rev. Murray noted. “We live in an era in which anti-religious threats and murder are claiming lives at an alarming rate—from Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, in which nine innocent lives were lost, to the recent Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history.”
Rev. Murray reminded Iger that he personally had a long history of working with the studio, and former Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who covered the cost of rebuilding the First AME Zion Church in Los Angeles after it was burned to the ground in 1997. And before that, when the First AME Church was under bomb threat “by Fourth Reich Skinheads—individuals operating on the same kind of hate which Leah Remini today spews on your network,” Disney was among the first organizations to provide support.
“I do not understand what I am witnessing today from your institution,” Rev. Murray continued. “This is the first time in our history we have not heard from Disney’s leader at a time like this. Enough is enough. We are family.”
The rally in front of Walt Disney Co. followed a day of meetings and services focused on interfaith commitment to end religious hatred. A morning memorial service for the murdered Australian staff member and others “fallen in attacks on houses of worship” was held at the Church of Scientology Valley in North Hollywood and attended by religious leaders representing diverse Christian denominations, and the Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities.
The L.A. Faith Coalition of California Roundtable on Religion, Media and Hate followed the memorial service and was attended by religious leaders, political leaders and educators who unanimously called for an end to media that continues to foment religious hatred.
The religious leaders then traveled to Burbank and gathered before a crowd outside Redeemer Baptist Church across the street from the Disney entrance. Surrounded by banners that read #DisneyStopTheHate, Grammy award-winning choirmaster Brent Jones conducted a gospel group whose songs included the religious hit, Open Your Mouth and Say Something.
Earlier in the day, Michael Feeney, A&E chief spokesman, called the interfaith leaders asking them to cancel the rally. The coalition denied his request.
In closing the demonstration, Rev. Edward Parkin of the Church of Scientology read a quote to the crowd, before identifying the author:
“I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storms and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.”
He then urged Disney Co. to live up to the words of the author—Walt Disney.