Fifth Third Bank reverses decision, will give to scholarship fund despite Christian schools’ beliefs

A cross was placed at the center of an empty classroom | Wikimedia Commons / Rantemario

Fifth Third Bank has announced that it's reversing a previous decision to stop donating to a Florida school voucher program due to the beliefs of some of the participating religious schools on issues such as homosexuality and transgenderism.

Last month, Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo decided to quit donating to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which is administered in part by Step Up for Students, following an Orlando Sentinel report noting that some of the schools involved in the program held biblical views on LGBT issues.

In a statement released last Friday, Fifth Third Bank explained that it was reversing its earlier decision to halt their donations after meeting with representatives of the AAA Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit that helps to oversee the program.

Following what it described as a “thorough review and evaluation of the program,” Fifth Third said it could support the program once AAA implemented two mutually agreed upon changes.

“AAA has agreed to develop a roadmap to help parents navigate the school selection and application process. This roadmap will include identifying issues parents may wish to consider in choosing a school and informing parents about how they may access school-specific information or policies,” stated the company.

“Additional oversight through an annual meeting with AAA leadership to provide Fifth Third with an opportunity to assess the program and the impact our investment is having in the lives of students, and to ensure our expectation of transparency is being fulfilled.”

Fifth Third also championed its past involvement in the program, noting that for the past three years, they have given “millions of dollars in scholarships through the program directly to 2,500 students and their families so that they could attend the participating school of their choice.”

The two major bank companies previously decided to cut ties with the program following an article by The Orlando Sentinel titled “Anti-LGBT Florida schools getting school vouchers.

According to the Sentinel, over 20,800 students received state tuition scholarships that went to 156 private schools “where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome.”

These included holding official stances against homosexuality and transgenderism, having policies that prohibited students from engaging in homosexual conduct among other sexual activities, and refusal to admit openly LGBT students, explained the Sentinel.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was among the critics of the earlier decision by Wells Fargo and Fifth Third to end their donations.

In an interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins earlier this month, Rubio said their withdrawing of support was only going to hurt lower-income families.

Rubio explained that the program allows parents to choose which school to send their children to and many of the options are schools without official biblical stances on LGBT issues.

“Doing what they did is not going to hurt those schools. Those schools are not going to abandon the Bible over a government program. They existed before this program,” said Rubio at the time.

“Who they are hurting are low-income kids, because they are not going to be able to go to school and probably not go to a school that doesn’t have those policies, by the way.”

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