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Fifth Third Bank Abandoned the Trend of Politicized Banking… Why Wells Fargo Should Follow Suit

February 19, 2020

I probably look at my bank account a lot more than the average person. My husband and I are Dave Ramsey disciples, so we do a monthly budget, have cash envelopes, and track our spending.

But in my regular perusal of our checking and savings accounts, I don’t often ponder the political opinions of my bank. I should, after all, reasonably be able to expect my bank to remain neutral. My bank shouldn’t be able to penalize me or decline my card because they don’t like the organizations I donate to (or the organization I work at, for that matter).

There is a frightening trend developing, however. Large banks are using their immense power to influence the national conversation, promoting certain ideas and silencing others.

We, as individual citizens, as businesses, and as a nation, depend on banks for everyday, essential services. That’s a lot of power in the hands of just a few large corporations. And left-wing activists have discovered how to use this power to their advantage, persuading these corporations to refuse essential business services to the people and groups with whom they disagree. Problem solved. The viewpoints they disagree with are suddenly silenced and marginalized.

This recently happened in Florida, when Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank announced they would be pulling millions of dollars in donations from Florida’s Step Up for Students school choice program.

This came in response to an article in the Orlando Sentinel which “uncovered” that the Christian schools that participate in the school voucher program operate according to their beliefs—including their beliefs on sex and gender identity. And they ask their faculty and students to live according to biblical principles.

Based on this article, some politicians and activists pressured corporate donors such as Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank to stop funding the school choice program until these Christian schools are barred from participating. Unfortunately, the banks quickly relented.

But then, Fifth Third Bank did something encouraging…

The banking company actually listened to the parents and children that would be impacted by its decision.

And you know what? After Fifth Third Bank looked into the situation further, it changed course. It decided to stop throwing around its weight to advance a political agenda at the expense of children. Fifth Third Bank decided to continue funding Florida’s school choice program.

It’s amazing what happens when a variety of beliefs and opinions are given a voice.

Take note, Wells Fargo. That is how things should work in a tolerant and diverse society.

There are a lot of good reasons to support this program, and Wells Fargo needs to weigh all of these factors before simply bending to the will of left-wing activists and engaging in politicized banking.

For one, Supreme Court precedent is on the side of including these private, Christian schools in such programs.

Alliance Defending Freedom has litigated—and won—two cases before the Supreme Court that support the right of parents to send their children to a school that shares their beliefs and the participation of these schools in Florida’s voucher program.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn that certain taxpayers could not challenge such a program because the money donated is private funds, which allowed parents to continue to choose the best school for their children, including private schools that share their religious beliefs. And in 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, that the government cannot treat people of faith as second class citizens and exclude them from generally available public benefits, such as a school choice program, simply because of their beliefs.

But if Supreme Court precedent is not enough evidence of equal treatment for religious organizations, Wells Fargo should, at the very least, take into account how its actions will impact the children who participate in this program.

This program benefits more than 100,000 students, 70 percent of whom are black, Hispanic, or multiracial. Many come from single-mother homes. Removing funding from this program simply forces these kids back into failing, inadequate schools.

We must allow a diversity of opinions and beliefs to flourish—even if we disagree. Our pluralistic society relies on it.

But if we allow powerful corporations such as Wells Fargo to police which ideas are welcome in society and which are not, that threatens freedom for us all. You might agree with those in positions of power now, but what happens when that power changes hands? What happens when it is your beliefs being targeted?

Fifth Third Bank got it right when it abandoned this trend of politicized banking. Wells Fargo should follow suit.

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