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July 18, 2000 07:01am
AT&T Urged by Religious Investor Coalition To Reconsider 'Misstep' in Pornographic TV Deal
Source: MMA Praxis Mutual Funds
by: Company Press Release

(GOSHEN, IN) -- Twenty-seven religious and socially concerned institutional investors controlling over 2.8 million shares of AT&T stock are calling upon AT&T to reconsider its recent decision to partner with The Hot Network, which distributes sexually pornographic material for broadcast on cable television systems.

The diverse coalition led by Mennonite Mutual Aid, home of the MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, this week sent a letter to AT&T that calls upon the telecommunications giant to return to its traditions of responsible corporate behavior.

The group's letter states: ``We're disturbed about the management issues this action raises. In particular, reports in the media, quoting AT&T officials, that present the alliance with the Hot Network as a strategic business decision designed to beef up flagging cable business and 'remain competitive in the market' raise some serious issues. What management missteps are behind a situation where AT&T must turn to strategies appealing to the basest elements of our culture - violating a corporate tradition of positive social behavior?''

The coalition of concerned institutional investors is a multi-denomination alliance. Members include:

Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA) Praxis Mutual Funds
United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits
Presbyterian Church (USA)
American Friends Service Committee
Women's Division of Global Ministries General Board, United Methodist
Church

Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment
Catholic Healthcare West
The Parnassus Fund
The Aquinas Funds
Pax World Funds
Reformed Church in America
Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Springfield Dominican Sisters
Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
Sisters of Saint Joseph
Sisters of Charity of New York
Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful
Sinsinawa Dominicans
Society of Mary
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Catholic Health East
Christian Brothers Investment Services
Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth
Catholic Health Initiatives
United Church of Christ, Pension Boards
Citing workplace benefits, community relations and charitable giving, the coalition's letter to AT&T points out that the blue-chip corporation has a long-established reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. The signers also emphasize that they are not calling for censorship and, instead, are simply exercising their right as owners to discourage irresponsible corporate behavior.

Mark Regier, social research and advocacy coordinator at Mennonite Mutual Aid, explained: ``We're surprised, actually. AT&T has established itself as a front-runner among socially responsible companies. Why they'd choose to embarrass their employees, shareholders and the company in such a way is unfathomable to us. Both Time Warner and Comcast took a pass on adding The Hot Network to their cable packages. Shouldn't that tell AT&T something? Ma Bell just does not belong in the hard-core pornography business.''

Vidette Bullock Mixon, director of corporate relations and social concerns for the General Board of Pensions of the United Methodist Church, said that her group is ``troubled by the company's partnership with the Hot Network. This partnership has the potential to prompt state and municipal officials to invite the company to a court hearing claiming the Hot Network violates local community obscenity standards. As a shareholder, the Board of Pensions believes this is not an appropriate use of its shareholder dollars.''

Reverend Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, Associate for Mission Responsibility Through Investment for the Presbyterian Church (USA) added: ``We have appealed to media corporations for voluntary actions to reduce the availability of pornography in society. AT&T's decision flies in the face of this request. It even represents questionable moral judgment as it will escalate the trend toward making hard-core pornography more accessible. Corporations should serve the public interest. Instead, AT&T's decision to distribute hard-core pornography undermines morality, and violates the trust we place in companies to serve the common good.''

For The Full Text Of The Coalition Letter, Contact: Stephanie Kendall, 703/276-1116 or go to http://www.thehastingsgroup.com/att/index.htm.

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