Freedom of speech and religion are essential to a free society. But today, our First Amendment freedoms are under threat. ADF’s clients are bravely standing up for everyone’s freedom by challenging laws that dictate what people can or cannot say.
Unfortunately, government officials aren’t the only ones threatening our God-given freedoms. Large publicly traded corporations—including financial giants like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, and Big Tech conglomerates like Meta and Twitter—pose a major threat to the freedom of every American.
Think about it: getting kicked off Twitter is bad enough, but losing access to your own bank account? That’s devastating. No one should fear being punished, deplatformed, or debanked simply because of their political or religious views.
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom partnered with the Christian financial technology firm Inspire Investing to launch Viewpoint Diversity Score. At the center of this ongoing initiative to help corporate America respect fundamental freedoms is the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, the first comprehensive benchmark measuring corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom.
The Business Index provides research for shareholders, employees, policymakers, and others to stand up against corporate cancel culture. Along with calling attention to the threats corporate America poses, the Business Index also provides model policies for companies to correct course and respect the diverse views of their customers, employees, shareholders, and fellow citizens.
The 2023 Business Index
In May, the Business Index scored 75 Fortune 1000 companies on their level of respect for free speech and religious freedom, based on policies, practices, and other relevant criteria.
The 2023 edition found that most major companies—including JPMorgan Chase, PayPal, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Meta—are far behind when it comes to respecting rights and freedom. Only two companies scored over 25 percent in their respect for the foundational freedoms of speech and religion. That means millions of everyday Americans are at risk of cancelation or punishment for their views.
But the Business Index also showed that change is possible.
In fact, eight companies improved their overall scores on this year’s index. The company that ranks as most improved is Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), a Fortune 500 financial services company. FIS raised its score from 18 percent in 2022 to 50 percent in 2023 by participating in the survey portion of the Business Index.
M&T Bank was the second most improved, raising its overall score from 14 percent to 25 percent. Both FIS and M&T paved the way for more firms to follow their footsteps, raise their scores, and become better companies in the process.
Viewpoint Diversity Score sparks change
Viewpoint Diversity Score’s Business Index and model policies serve as a valuable resource for engaging with corporations. Business leaders, government officials and others are relying on information from the Business Index to call upon corporations to make important changes.
Research from the Business Index featured prominently in a resolution filed by David Bahnsen at Chase Bank’s annual shareholder meeting on May 16. A longtime shareholder at Chase, Bahnsen—who serves on the Viewpoint Diversity Score advisory council—was troubled by what appears to be a trend of ideologically motivated debanking at Chase.
Chase has denied payments or canceled the accounts of people and organizations with traditional and widely held values, such as the Arkansas Family Council and Defense of Liberty. Chase also debanked former Ambassador Sam Brownback’s nonprofit, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, and gave multiple conflicting explanations that strongly suggest viewpoint discrimination.
In the lead-up to its annual shareholder meeting, Chase appealed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), asking it to exclude Bahnsen’s proposal from its proxy ballot, but Bahnsen worked with ADF attorneys to convince the SEC to rule against Chase and allow him to present the proposal. That was a major victory and the first time the SEC recognized the importance of debanking. This forced a much-needed public conversation onto the desks of Chase leadership.
For Bahnsen and nine other shareholders who filed similar resolutions, the Business Index was a tool they could use to substantively engage with their companies. In addition to the research the Business Index provides, the survey portion of the Business Index and model policies are actionable steps shareholders can call upon company leadership to take. While change doesn’t happen overnight, Bahnsen’s concerns garnered national media attention, including a front-page story at The Wall Street Journal.
The Business Index also provides a roadmap for state officials seeking to hold corporations accountable for discriminating against accountholders because of their views. This spring, 19 state attorneys general wrote a letter calling on Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to investigate his company’s trend of politicized debanking and participate in the survey portion of the Business Index. That followed on the heels of letters from 13 state treasurers and 60 financial professionals calling on Chase to do the same.
Companies must respect the fundamental freedoms of those they serve—or in the case of shareholders like Bahnsen, of those who own them. Through our Viewpoint Diversity Score initiative, companies have all the tools they need to make lasting, meaningful changes.
For more about ADF’s 2023 Business Index and the latest updates from ADF’s corporate engagement team, visit our website at www.viewpointdiversityscore.org.