SunTrust Banks has reversed its decision to end its relationship with real estate entrepreneurs, the Benham Brothers, following a strong backlash from conservative customers threatening to take their business elsewhere.
News broke early on Friday that SunTrust Banks had dropped all its listed properties with David and Jason Benham's real estate group. However, by Friday afternoon the bank had swiftly performed a U-turn after receiving widespread criticism from conservative customers, many of whom threatened to drop custom with SunTrust.
SunTrust spokeswoman Beth McKenna released a statement saying, "We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate," according to The Daily Caller.
McKenna added, "Mid-2013, we consolidated the management of certain residential assets with a third party vendor, which has the relationship with Benham Real Estate.
"While we do not publicly comment on specific vendor relationships, we don't make choices on suppliers nor base business decisions on political factors, nor do we direct our third party vendors to do so."
In a move to convince conservative customers that SunTrust is a supporter of freedom of speech and religion, McKenna concluded: "SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion."
SunTrust did not offer any specific details about why it had initially cut ties with the Benham Brothers, and earlier corporate spokesman Mike McCoy refused to specify whether the brothers' conservative views were behind the decision.
"We continuously review our supplier relationships and changes to the list of companies we rely on for services is a natural part of our business, however we do not publicly comment on specific vender relationships," McCoy said.
The Benham Brothers have become regular features on news pages recently after their planned reality TV show was canceled because of their conservative views on homosexuality.
After news broke about SunTrust's initial decision, Jason Benham emerged resolute that the new apparent attack on their Christian morals would not alter their course.
"If our faith costs us our HGTV show and our business, then so be it," Jason Benham said on Facebook Friday.
Speaking about the SunTrust's initial decision to drop them, David Benham said, "This came without warning or explanation from SunTrust and took place over a 15 minute period on May 15, 2014."
David Benham said earlier Friday, "Keeping us off television wasn't enough, now this agenda to silence wants us out of the marketplace."
"As Americans we find ourselves at a crossroads and are forced with a decision to either stand up or sit down," David commented. "Evidently, SunTrust's longstanding commitment to diversity must not include our historic Christian values."
Conservative Christian group Faith Driven Consumer criticized SunTrust earlier on Friday, claiming it was punishing the Benham Brothers for their Christian beliefs.
"This sends a loud and clear message to people of faith in America, you're not welcome at SunTrust, take your business somewhere else," Faith Driven Consumer founder Chris Stone had said.
"SunTrust's actions have effectively put into place a belief-oriented litmus test for its business partners seeking to compete in the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas. This is discriminatory, intolerant, and in direct opposition everything that America is about."
Following SunTrust Banks' U-turn, Stone released the following statement: "SunTrust Banks' reversal of this morning's decision to cut ties with the Benham Brothers is a testament to the power of Faith Driven Consumers and all fair-minded Americans who took a swift stand against discrimination and intolerance in any form. We applaud SunTrust for recognizing our concerns and responding quickly to address them.
"We are grateful to those many thousands who came together and collectively raised their voices in a united call for tolerance, fairness, and equality for all Americans. This also applies to those who hold to a biblical worldview, which includes respect for life and natural marriage."