Christian groups protest ''SpongeBob.'' The undersea cartoon character appears in a video targeted at schools and advocating tolerance
SpongeBob Squarepants

SpongeBob SquarePants may be too soft and squishy for some Christian organizations. The popular cartoon character appears in a video about tolerance that is being distributed to 61,000 schools, the New York Times reports, but the American Family Association and Focus on the Family both say that SpongeBob is actually trying to indoctrinate kids into accepting homosexuality.

What Focus on the Family chief Dr. James Dobson calls a ”pro-homosexual video” is a music video produced by the We Are Family Foundation founder Nile Rodgers, the disco-era hitmaker who wrote the Sister Sledge smash that the group is named after. ”A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality,” says an article Ed Vitagliano wrote about the video for the American Family Association. Actually, there’s no mention of sexual identity in the video or its accompanying educational materials, but a tolerance pledge on the We Are Family website includes sexual orientation alongside such factors as race, beliefs, abilities, and culture. Of the criticism of the video, Rodgers told Reuters: ”That is so myopic and harsh. You have really got to look hard to find anything in this that is offensive to anyone.” Still, Dobson assistant Paul Batura told the Times that Focus on the Family stands by its complaint. ”We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids,” he said. ”It is a classic bait and switch.”

In 2002, the Wall Street Journal ran an article questioning SpongeBob’s sexuality, noting that he had a large fan base among gay men, maybe because the yellow fellow is often seen holding hands with a pink starfish named Patrick, has a prissy pal named Squidward who talks like Paul Lynde, and enjoys watching a TV show called ”The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.” To viewers attuned to camp, he may have seemed more overt than even Tinky-Winky, the purple, purse-toting Teletubby outed in the pages of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s National Liberty Journal in 1999. SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg told the Journal, ”I always think of [the characters] as being somewhat asexual,” but said he understood why gay people appreciate the Nickelodeon cartoon series. ”I do think that the attitude of the show is about tolerance. Everybody is different, and the show embraces that.”

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