The government board of the National Council of Churches voted last week in New York to join a boycott of the Nestle Co. in an attempt to force the Swiss-based corporation to stop promoting its infant formula in developing countries.
The resolution also calls on the U.S. government "to encourage breast feeding and to refuse to support the promotion of infant formula" in U.S. development assistance programs for Third World countries.
For the last several years, religious groups in the United States and Europe have led a move to curtail promotion of infant formula as a substitute for breast feeding in Third World countries where many of the groups have missions.
Church leaders have maintained that promotional practices of formula manufacturers seek to convince mothers in the Third World that their babies will fare better if they substitute the formula for breast feeding.
A Nestle vice president told the NCC governing board that "Nestle is not involved in aggressive promotion of infant formula anywhere in the world."
Church groups argue that the following items militate against promotion of formula sales in Third World countries:
Primitive conditions of sanitation and storage.
Inability of many mothers to read and follow directions for preparation of formula.
The cost to low-income families of a nutrient generally considered inferior to breast milk.
In another action, NCC, which includes 32 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations, condemned as unconstitutional the growing number of state and city laws to restrict chariable solicitations.
Such regulations usually are aimed at restricting fund-raising of cult groups such as Hare Krishna or the Unification Church, the council resolution acknowledged. NCC has been highly critical of such cult groups.
Nevertheless, NCC maintained that laws "purporting to regulate the charitable solicitations undertaken by churches" are "beyond the duty proper to civil authorities and restrictive of the free exercise of religion."
In other action, the governing board:
Adopted a policy statement on Indian affairs that supports the right of Indian nations to maintain sovereignty and calls for U.S. adherence to ancient treaty rights.
Reversed a 22-year policy on religious broadcasting and recognized rights of church groups to purchase broadcasting time.