ABC Stands by `Sacred': Catholic League Puts Pressure on Sponsors

Article excerpt

The ABC television network will not pull the plug on its controversial new drama, "Nothing Sacred," despite intense pressure from religious activists that led two sponsors to quit the show.

A spokeswoman for ABC, a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, said yesterday that the network is not worried about losing sponsorship and that no other advertisers have indicated they will quit the drama, which depicts a Catholic priest who questions his faith and has lustful thoughts.

"The show has been fully sponsored since the beginning and we expect it to remain fully sponsored," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

Under intense pressure from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, American Isuzu Motors and Weight Watchers International this week withdrew sponsorship of "Nothing Sacred."

The League's protest campaign marks the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between Disney and religious groups that think the company is producing too much entertainment that goes against religious doctrine on abortion and sexuality.

Religious groups including the League and the Southern Baptist Convention were offended when Disney subsidiary Miramax produced such films as "Pulp Fiction" and "Priest."

Religious activists were particularly offended this spring when ABC hyped its sitcom "Ellen," in which the lead character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, announced she is a lesbian.

After complaining to Disney for more than a year about its entertainment, the SBC voted overwhelmingly to boycott all Disney enterprises and condemn the company as "immoral" and "gay-friendly."

"Sacred," now into its third week, depicts an inner-city priest named Father Ray who toils with his faith and is ambivalent about Catholic doctrine on issues such as abortion and celibacy.

"That is not the picture you think of when you think of Catholicism," said Tamara Collins, a research analyst for the League, which launched its protest campaign months before the show first aired.

"This program is clearly a political statement against religious teachings on sexuality, and we decided to fight it."

Weight Watchers spokeswoman Linda Carilly said her company pulled out after receiving "a tremendous amount of feedback from the public about the show, and we just decided it wasn't necessary for us to be on that program. …