On Tuesday, Alliance Defending Freedom announced the results of its second-annual Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, in partnership with Inspire Insight, a leading investment technology service that provides faith based investing data and ratings to thousands of institutions. The Business Index is the first comprehensive benchmark designed to measure corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom. It scored 75 publicly traded corporations in its year-two edition across forty-two performance indicators.
Eight companies increased their scores year-over-year. That includes large jumps by Fidelity Information Services (50% vs. 18% last year) and M&T Bank (25% vs. 14% last year) largely because they participated in the survey portion of the Business Index.
Unfortunately, this year’s results also underscore that policies and practices at JPMorgan Chase, PayPal, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Meta threaten the fundamental freedoms of every American. Of the 75 major corporations evaluated in this year’s Business Index, only two scored over 25% out of 100% possible in their respect for speech and religion. That means millions of everyday Americans are at risk of cancelation or punishment for their views.
“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,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco. “Too often, these corporations de-bank or de-platform Americans, citing policies that give them unbounded discretion to censor people for their views. 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.”
For the second-straight year, the Business Index focused on industries that have the greatest potential to impact individuals’ or institutions’ freedom of speech or religion. These include industries that provide essential banking, payment processing, and cloud services, or that serve as platforms for third-party speech. The 2023 edition also added media and entertainment corporations Disney (5%), Comcast (7%), Netflix (10%), and Warner Bros. Discovery (8%).
Companies’ lack of participation in the survey portion of the Business Index stands in stark contrast to the same corporations’ celebration of their “transparency” on a host of surveys reflecting progressive priorities like climate change, radical gender identity, and DEI. Another factor driving companies’ poor performance is their widespread reliance on policies that contain vague or unclear terms such as “hate” or “intolerance,” under which they can censor content or deny service based on viewpoint.
Chase, which fell from a 15% on last year’s Business Index to a 9% in this year’s edition, has cited these kinds of policies when denying payments or canceling accounts associated with people and organizations who hold mainstream American values, such as the Arkansas Family Council and Defense of Liberty. Chase also de-banked former Ambassador Sam Brownback’s nonprofit, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, and gave multiple conflicting explanations that strongly suggest viewpoint discrimination.
This year’s Business Index debuts the same day as Chase’s annual shareholder meeting. There, shareholder David Bahnsen—managing partner and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group and an advisory council member for Viewpoint Diversity Score—presented a resolution calling on Chase to investigate and issue a report on the bank’s apparent pattern of political and anti-religious bias. Chase had asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude the resolution from the ballot, but the SEC rejected its request.
A multitude of states and financial experts have also pressured Chase. Two weeks ago, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron led a letter signed by 19 state attorneys general calling on Chase to prevent viewpoint discrimination and participate in the survey portion of the Business Index. That followed an earlier letter by Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante, who led a group of 14 state treasurers calling on Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon to be transparent with customers and shareholders. Last November, Chase was featured prominently in the “Statement on Debanking and Free Speech,” a letter signed by nearly 60 financial professionals.
Mr. Bahnsen’s resolution and each of these letters cited information from the Business Index as evidence to substantiate their concerns.
“All Americans benefit when powerful corporations respect free speech and religious freedom,” Tedesco said. “Our goal is to help the largest corporations implement positive and lasting changes that protect everyone’s free speech and religious freedom from corporate overreach. Each survey completed, resolution filed, and conversation with senior leadership advances the ball.”
View the full 2023 Business Index and report at www.ViewpointDiversityScore.org.