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Dozens of major corporations have abysmal protections for free speech, religion: study

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Amazon | Reuters/Mike Segar

Dozens of major corporations lack adequate protections for free speech and religion even as several companies have improved since last year, a new study suggests. 

The nonprofit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom released its second annual Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, which evaluates 75 publicly traded corporations across 42 performance indicators based on their respect for free speech and religious freedom on a scale from 0 to 100.

The study was conducted in partnership with the investment technology service Inspire Insight, which provides faith-based investing data and ratings to thousands of institutions.

Only two of the 75 companies examined had scored over 25 in their respect for speech and religion. ADF contends that "millions of everyday Americans are at risk of cancelation or punishment for their views."

The bottom five companies when it comes to respecting free speech and religious freedom rights are Airbnb (2%), Amazon.com (4%), Alphabet (Google) (4%), eBay (5%) and Microsoft (5%). Those companies saw their scores drop by 3%, 2%, 5%, 2% and 0%, respectively, compared to last year.

"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 ADF 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."

Only one of the companies analyzed, Fidelity National Information Services, received an overall score of 50%. This marks a 32% jump from last year, when it received a score of 18%. M&T Bank received an overall score of 25%, an 11% jump from the 14% it earned last year.

Businesses studied in the research include those in "industries that have the greatest potential to impact individuals' or institutions' freedom of speech or religion," including banking companies, payment processing services and social media platforms. Scores were compiled based on responses companies provided to a survey commissioned by ADF.

Higher scores were given to companies that have "terms of use/service" that "avoid unclear or imprecise terms" and "avoid viewpoint discrimination" as well as "harmful conduct policies" that "apply equally."

Additional factors that give corporations higher scores on the index include "harmful conduct policies" that "apply equally," the presence of a "public anti-viewpoint discrimination policy," "notice of content or service restrictions," as well as policies promoting "respect for diverse beliefs at work" and religious discrimination.

A corporation's score is also impacted by its advocacy on behalf of political spending, specifically whether or not it spent money in support of laws or litigation that are "harmful to speech or religion." A company's policy regarding written religious accommodations, or lack thereof, also factored into its score.

Other companies that saw slightly higher scores compared to last year include Citigroup, whose score rose to 11% from 8%; Morgan Stanley, 9% to 11%; Meta, 9% to 10%; Apple, 7% to 8%; Adobe, which scored 6% in 2023 compared to 5% in 2022; and GoDaddy, which rose from 2% score to 8%.

Besides the bottom five, a handful of other notable companies saw their scores decrease from last year: Rackspace (14% to 13%), Capitol One (13% to 12%), Visa (11% to 10%), Wells Fargo (13% to 10%), Citizens Financial Group (10% to 9%), JP Morgan Chase (15% to 9%), Mastercard (10% to 9%), Bank of America (10% to 8%), Discover (13% to 8%), Oracle (9% to 8%), PayPal (7% to 5%) and Twitter (6% to 5%).

Tedesco maintained that "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."

"All Americans benefit when powerful corporations respect free speech and religious freedom," he added. "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."

Examples of troubling policies listed in the detailed report about the research, obtained by The Christian Post, include Twitter de-platforming The Babylon Bee under a "hateful conduct policy," Netflix holding employee training promoting critical race theory and Bank of America's restriction on donations to religious charities.

Twitter also de-platformed The Christian Post for nine months last year for factually reporting that a Biden official is a man and not a woman. CP's account was reinstated after Elon Musk took over. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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