Features

Nixing Scripture

National | General Mills and Disney snub Christians, while the national media savage a Christian businessman

Issue: "Locking up the big guns," Aug. 12, 2000

In America, even lots of atheists own Bibles. In fact, 92 percent of American households own at least one copy of God's Word, according to studies by Barna Research. Still, General Mills late last month deemed it necessary to apologize to all Americans for attaching a free software copy of the New International Version of the Bible to more than 12 million boxes of its trademark breakfast cereals (WORLD, Aug. 5).

Some pro-family groups see the food giant's national mea culpa as another example of family values turned upside-down. Tim Dailey, a cultural analyst with the Family Research Council, called General Mills' apology "mind-boggling" in light of a July announcement by four major national health associations that media violence, including PC- and video-games, is linked to increasing violence among children.

"On the one hand, there is a proliferation of software that's promoting violence and bloodshed," said Mr. Dailey. "On the other hand, we have here a software program that is nonviolent and promotes good values. Yet somehow it is the Bible that is considered offensive. It is disappointing that General Mills feels including the Bible on their CD is somehow undesirable."

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General Mills' shying away from Scripture comes as other major U.S. corporations are rushing into the sanctuary of political correctness. On May 8, Proctor & Gamble announced it would become the first major sponsor of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's upcoming fall television show. But a week later, the firm caved in to gay-activist pressure and, due to Dr. Laura's vocal opposition to homosexual behavior, yanked its sponsorship. In June, DaimlerChrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Corp. agreed to extend company benefits to the "domestic partners" of their homosexual employees. The "Big Three" automakers joined companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Disney that already offer such benefits.

Indeed, in the case of the cereal CDs, Disney beat General Mills to the anti-Christian punch. Prior to the food-maker's learning about the NIV on its discs, Disney had demanded that the Scriptures be removed from the CDs that also carried one of its products. In negotiating content for the disc, Wisconsin-based CD publisher Rhinosoft Interactive, a subcontractor in the General Mills deal, had purchased the rights to a PC version of Disney's cash-cow game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Rhinosoft then physically merged Millionaire onto the General Mills CD with other software titles, including the Bible. But when Disney reviewed the total contents of the disc on which Millionaire would appear, the company nixed the Bible.

"The people from Disney didn't want [the Bible] on their CD-ROMs," said Ken Patterson, a Rhinosoft software developer. "It held up production when Disney had us pull it from their discs."

How did the Bibles wind up on the CDs in the first place? It happened when Lightdog, a Minneapolis-based promotions firm hired by General Mills, obtained free licenses from Grand Rapids-based publisher Zondervan to publish 12 to 13 million software copies of its New International Version on the premium CD. After General Mills had already approved the rest of the CD's content, including PC games, an encyclopedia, a thesaurus, and a Miriam-Webster dictionary, Lightdog gave its subcontractor Rhinosoft the green light to put the NIV on the CD.

What Lightdog didn't do was tell General Mills.

"Lightdog added the Bible to the CD and did not clear it with General Mills," Lightdog spokesman John Anderson acknowledged to WORLD. "We thought it would add value to the CD. It was incumbent on us to let them know and we didn't."

General Mills learned about the politically incorrect content it had unwittingly sponsored when Rhinosoft, a Christian-owned company, and Zondervan went to work on a joint press release announcing what would be the single largest one-time distribution of Bibles in history. When the two Christian companies sought a quote from General Mills to include in the release, the cereal-maker balked-and told America it was sorry.

"This was a very big surprise to us, to hear that General Mills didn't know about the Bible on the CD," Rhinosoft's Kathy Backus told WORLD. "We did not deal directly with General Mills on the issue, but we had worked very openly with everyone on the project. Based on what we were told, we thought General Mills had approved everything on the CD. In fact, [Rhinosoft founder] Greg Swan had asked in March that the presence of the Bible be clearly indicated on the packaging."

In the wake of General Mills' public penitence, Lightdog immediately owned up as the surreptitious CD content-adder, even issuing a printed statement to that effect. But it was Rhinosoft that was left swinging in the wind-courtesy of the national media. In a newspaper version of the "telephone game"-the party game where a message told to one player is passed down the line until it emerges in hilarious shreds at the other end-reporters across the country nearly scuttled Rhinosoft's relationship with both Lightdog and General Mills through inaccurate reporting. Within only a few days, press portrayals turned Rhinosoft founder Greg Swan from an upstanding Christian businessman into a Bible-smuggling stealth evangelist who had tried to foist his faith on unsuspecting American consumers.

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