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New survey: corporations failing to respect religious and political diversity

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Alliance Defending Freedom and Inspire Investing, under the leadership of Jeremy Tedesco and Robert Netzly, respectively, have just released the first annual Viewpoint Diversity Index. The index is designed to objectively rate companies on how well they respect a wide range of religious and political viewpoints. The survey uses 42 specific questions which are broken down into three main categories:

“The Business Index evaluates a company’s social footprint in three categories of activity—market, workplace, and public square—to determine its score.”

"Market" refers to how the business deals with its customers and other business with which it works. "Workplace" refers to how the company treats employees. Finally, "Public Square" refers to the company’s dealings with the broader society, especially political engagement and support for various causes.

In all three categories the focus is on viewpoint diversity. If companies ban customers or vendors because they don’t conform with the religious and cultural views of the company, that’s a failure to respect viewpoint diversity. So are employees discriminated against for failing to fall in ideologically. It's similarly a failure if the business offers (for example) LGBTQ employees the privilege of creating and joining mutually supportive gatherings (usually known as Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs), but denies that privilege to specific religions, such as evangelical Christians. And if it publicly endorses legislation which weakens religious liberty, or imposes limitations on charitable giving which exclude religious charities or conservative groups based on vague accusations of “hate,” it fails in its Public Square diversity support.

The results of the first survey are disappointing to advocates of viewpoint diversity (Viewpoint Diversity Score). The average score is just 12 out of a possible 100. The worst company was GoDaddy, the internet domain name vendor, with a score of two. Again, that’s not two out of 10; that’s two out of 100. Even the best of the 50 companies which have been evaluated, Paychex, only scores 35.

This is an indictment of corporate America, but even more it is an indictment of Christian America, which has failed to act as salt and light in corporate boardrooms. This should not merely be a matter of Christians being disproportionately represented among the banned and marginalized voices. If all people are made in the image and likeness of God, than a lack of respect for diversity of opinion is an assault on human dignity, and by extension on God Himself. Of course, many people hold opinions which are wrong, but the answer to that is not to forbid them from holding those opinions. Banning dissenting views short circuits the give and take of debate, which is the only real way, in the long run, to move towards truth.

ADF was drawn into this fight of necessity when it found itself banned from Amazon’s Smile Program. Smile allowed customers to choose charities which would then receive matching grants when the customer completed an Amazon purchase. But after ADF was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center it was banned from the program by Amazon. Even though that policy was challenged by members of congress, and the SPLC was later discredited by media reports as being overly broad and political in its hate group labeling policy, the ban remained in place.

The Diversity Index is not designed as a way to build a list of companies to boycott, nor to use to decide which companies investors should divest from. Instead it is intended as an objective yardstick to take to companies in a strategy of active engagement.

Activists have created a climate of opinion in which religious charities are routinely singled out as being unworthy of matching grants, Christian employee groups are suppressed, charities which simply affirm basic Biblical truths about gender and sexuality are subjected to bans from social media, and books questioning trans-ideology are disappeared from online platforms. This climate is one which came from Christians being disengaged while opposing social factions were hyper-engaged. Retreating further from annual meetings, proxy votes, and conversations with the companies we hold in our 401(k)s will not make things better. Using the voice that comes with ownership and now, the new knowledge which comes from the Viewpoint Diversity Index, is a good place to start in reversing the damage which has come from past neglect.

Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”

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