Alliance Defending Freedom’s Jeremy Tedesco recently appeared on David Bahnsen’s Capital Record podcast to discuss the Viewpoint Diversity Score 2023 Business Index.

Even though ADF is known mostly for litigation, Tedesco said the initiative plays a crucial role in furthering ADF’s goals of free speech and free religion.

“Our concern is that concentrated power in the hands of just a few private corporations… is actually an equal or maybe greater threat to free speech and religious freedom... than government power,” Tedesco told Bahnsen—who serves as a member of the Viewpoint Diversity Score Advisory Council.

Tedesco described concentrated corporate power as a means for progressive activists to achieve their goals without interference from the Constitution or the democratic process. According to Tedesco, politicizing business allows activists to “marshal power and quickly and efficiently get the political outcomes… [they] want without the electoral… accountability.”

The Business Index was designed to counter all this, Tedesco said. Its goal is to “cast a positive vision for what a business culture looks like that respects free speech and religious freedom both internally and externally.”

ADF’s goal is not to turn companies into zealous right-wing advocates, Tedesco stressed, but to encourage companies to stay out of politics altogether.

Nor is the Business Index designed to “name and shame” companies, but to help companies meet an objective free speech standard.

“We’re more than happy to come alongside these companies and help them figure out how to adopt policies and practices that are going to not just increase their score on our Index but turn them into companies that have a reputation for being tolerant of a broad diversity of views and religious convictions,” Tedesco said.

However, many companies aren’t willing to do this. According to Tedesco, the biggest challenge is getting companies to participate in the survey portion of the Business Index, which accounts for a large percentage of a company’s overall score.

“It’s critical that companies are transparent about their practices,” Tedesco said. “Our survey is not about trying to get information we shouldn’t have or turn them into activists for our side – we’re just trying to get at information that helps us honestly score them based on an objective set of standards on whether they respect free speech or religious freedom.”

Many of the same companies that have declined to participate in the survey portion of the Business Index routinely tout their perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s so-called “Corporate Equality Index,” which increasingly requires companies to make radical ideological commitments that are far out of step with everyday Americans.

However, there is a bright spot in all this:

“The shareholder engagement has been the most promising… development in getting the corporations to fill out the survey. The two corporations that filled it out this year… [did so] because we had shareholders file resolutions.”

Tedesco said he believes that shareholder engagement will encourage companies to not only fill out the survey portion of the Business Index, but ultimately show more respect for ADF’s values of freedom of speech and religion.

Listen to the whole podcast here.