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Study: Most American corporations receive failing grades in religious freedom, free speech

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Washington D.C., May 18, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

report that reviewed the policies of 75 major American corporations found rampant disregard for religious freedom and free speech in virtually every company and only saw eight businesses improve from last year.

The report, conducted by Alliance Defending Freedom, rated each business in three separate categories: the market score, which considers its policies toward its customers and vendors; the workplace score, which considers its policies toward employees; and the public square score, which considers its political spending and public positions on free speech and religious freedom. 

Nearly two-thirds of the corporations evaluated in the report scored 10% or lower in ADF’s 2023 Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, which ties together all three categories. Twelve percent of the corporations finished with a rating of 5% or lower. Only five corporations had a rating of 15% or higher.

“Threats to freedom don’t just come from the government but from major corporations like financial institutions and big tech companies that have concentrated power over essential services and communication channels,” ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement. 

“Too often, these corporations de-bank or de-platform Americans, citing policies that give them unbounded discretion to censor people for their views,” Tedesco added. “That needs to change. Companies need to take seriously the way their policies and practices can chill the exercise of speech and religion and deter individuals from participating in the democratic process.”

The best-rated corporation was Fidelity National Information Services, which received 50%. The second best-rated corporation was M&T Bank, which received a 27% rating, and the third best-rated corporation was BOK Financial, with a 17% rating. Both Apollo Global Management and Fifth Third Bancorp tied for the fourth-best rating with a rating of 15%.

Some of the lowest-rated corporations were Airbnb with a 2% score, and Alphabet and Amazon with 4% scores. Several corporations scored 5%: Twitter, Walt Disney, Pinterest, Microsoft, eBay, and PayPal Holdings.

The most improved company was Fidelity National Information Services, which jumped 32 percentage points from its score last year. M&T Bank improved by 11 percentage points, GoDaddy improved by 6 percentage points, and Citigroup improved by 3 percentage points.

Two businesses performed substantially worse than they did the previous year: Paychex dropped by 23 percentage points down to a score of 12%, and Truist Financial dropped by 16 percentage points to a score of 8%. 

Tedesco told CNA that the low scores are primarily caused by left-wing activists demanding policies that restrict freedom of speech and religion. He pointed to S&P and other stock market trackers that use environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) scores, which force businesses to adopt progressive social policies or risk poor ratings in the stock market. S&P famously cut Tesla from the S&P 500 due to its low ESG rating. 

The activists “weaponize [corporations] as tools of censorship” and many have been “badgered and bullied into bad decisions [and] bad policy-making,” Tedesco said. The ADF ranking intends to “have a positive impact on these companies” and “shed light” on the effects of these policies, he added. 

“This is going to be a long-term process,” Tedesco said. “There’s no overnight solution.” 


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