The separation between media mogul Ted Turner and his wife, Jane
Fonda, was prompted in part by Fonda's stunning embrace of "born-again"
evangelical Christianity, sources close to the couple tell
The split was announced yesterday in a statement, which indicated the
couple remains "committed to the long-term success of our marriage." The
two have been married since Dec. 21, 1991.
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Friends say the path of Fonda's spiritual conversion began two years
ago when her chauffeur began witnessing to the actress about his faith
in Jesus Christ. At first, Fonda was reportedly troubled by those
conversations. Later, she began to welcome them and attend church with
"Her faith is very real, very deep," said one insider. "Of course,
with any celebrity conversion, the pressures can be enormous, But she is
serious about her faith and regularly attends Bible study and church."
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The idea of radical political activist Jane Fonda embracing
Christianity is sure to create a stir. Fonda has been a high-profile
political target because of her open support in the 1970s of Communist
North Vietnam. She has been an outspoken supporter of abortion on demand,
and Turner once attacked Christianity as a "religion for losers."
Fonda has made at least one public statement that alluded to her
Christianity in June 1998. In response to a question about why
conservative Christians object to promoting sex education, she told the
National Press Club: "I want to say this just based on the letters I
get, OK? When I talk about the Christian Coalition, I'm not talking
about all the members of the Christian Coalition. I am a Christian. I am
talking about the leadership that sets the agenda, creates the message
and builds these various sophisticated campaigns. I think that ... Well,
I'll just tell you a story. I met one of the leaders of the Christian
Coalition, in, in Atlanta a few years ago. And, we were arguing about
this issue of contraception and sex education and so forth. And I said:
'But what do you do about the fact that two-thirds of teen-agers have
sex before they graduate high school?' And she said ... she looked both
ways, and said: 'We're gonna lose them.' Well, I ... you know, I try to
go into things thinking: 'We're really on the same team.' You know, we
may be different, you know ... and stuff, but we're all working for the
good of the children. That meeting showed me that I was completely
naive. I'm talking about the leadership. I'm not talking about the
people who hear the message that sounds good and goes along. They don't
care about children that don't look like them. They don't care about
children that are not white, middle-class Christians. As far as they are
concerned, others can be eliminated. This is a holy war. And everything
for our children is at stake. And we have to get just as involved as ...
People who are on a crusade are passionate. We have to be on a crusade
and be just as passionate on behalf of our children, but not use the
same tactics -- not use lies, not use misinformation and scare tactics."
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Yet, insiders say Fonda's spiritual faith, since then, has matured in
a way that affects her entire worldview. Recently, for instance, she
refused to "meditate" at an environmental conference, suggesting to
those involved that they would be well-advised instead to "pray to Jesus
"While we continue to be committed to the long-term success of our
marriage, we find ourselves at a juncture where we must each take some
personal time for ourselves. Therefore, we have mutually decided to
spend some time apart," said the Turner-Fonda official statement. "We
ask that you respect this decision."
In building his media empire, Turner started with Turner Broadcasting
Systems and, through acquisitions and the creation of new companies,
expanded his holdings to include Turner Network Television (TNT), CNN,
CNN International, CNN Headline News, CNN/SI (with Sports Illustrated),
CNNfn, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks and the Thrashers -- all
sister companies to CNN.com. His television operations were acquired in
1996 by Time Warner Inc., Turner becoming its vice chairman. In 1998,
the New Yorker reported that he was considering a run for the White
House in 2000, and quoted him saying, "I am very serious about running
for president, but Jane doesn't want me to do it."
Fonda's family ranks among the aristocracy of the United States film
industry. She and brother Peter are the children of screen star Henry
Fonda. Her niece, Bridget Fonda, is also a popular actress. Jane Fonda
won an Academy Award for her performance in "Klute" (1971), but has
largely stepped away from acting since marrying Turner.
Turner, married three times, has five children. Fonda also has been
married three times, and has three children from her earlier marriages.
Turner and Fonda have several residences, including a 7,000-acre spread
in Montana, where they raise bison.