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Viewpoint Diversity Score

Description:  Viewpoint Diversity Score brings together leaders from business, civil society, and academia who are committed to preserving the freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief in the market, workplace, and public square.

An empty board room
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Alliance Defending Freedom announced the results of its third annual Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index. The first comprehensive benchmark designed to measure corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom across 43 performance indicators, the Business Index scored 85 publicly traded corporations in its year-three edition.

As reported by Reuters, the Business Index has proved to be an important tool to bring about meaningful change at JPMorgan Chase, which holds its annual shareholder meeting Tuesday. The largest bank in the nation, Chase provides an important case study for the Business Index’s effectiveness. Drawing on data provided by the Business Index, a sustained campaign has resulted in a major policy change that could reshape the broader financial sector’s approach to protecting free speech and religious freedom.

Even with Chase’s progress, the bank has more work to do, scoring just 9% out of a possible 100%—tied for second lowest among 29 commercial banks on the Business Index.

“Threats to freedom don’t just come from Big Government, but Big Banking and Big Tech that have concentrated power over essential services,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco. “We commend Chase for these initial, positive steps. But it needs to do more. Chase’s Index score is still unacceptably low. Measures it could take to improve its score include participating in the survey portion of our Index, expressly protecting against viewpoint discrimination in its customer Code of Conduct, and allowing employees of faith equal access to employee gift-matching opportunities and the employee resource group program. We look forward to working constructively with Chase and other market leaders to respect the fundamental freedoms of every American.”

In 2022, Chase canceled the account of former U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback’s National Committee for Religious Freedom without explanation. The cancelation and Chase’s two denials of payment processing services to conservative groups Defense of Liberty and Arkansas Family Council in 2021 are part of a rising trend of apparent politicized de-banking by Chase and other major banks like Bank of America. Last year, 19 state attorneys general and 14 state financial officers sent letters calling on Chase to provide transparency by participating in the survey portion of the Business Index, while financial advisor David Bahnsen filed a shareholder resolution urging Chase to do the same.

In 2022 and 2023, Chase representatives avoided engaging with ADF on the Business Index. By the end of 2023, the bank had quietly dropped its payment processor WePay’s “social risk” policy that included subjective terms like “hate” and “intolerance” and allowed bank employees to cancel or punish customers based on their viewpoints.

In 2024, Bahnsen filed a shareholder resolution calling on Chase to issue a report evaluating its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies that could contribute to workforce discrimination. In response, Chase representatives agreed to meet with Bahnsen and ADF attorneys to discuss how the bank could better respect viewpoint diversity in its policies and actions—a move that, combined with the removal of its social risk policy and a commitment to viewpoint neutrality in its 2023 Climate Report—convinced Bahnsen to withdraw his proposal from the proxy ballot.

“Major corporations need to stay out of political entanglements,” said Bahnsen, who serves on the Viewpoint Diversity Score advisory council. “That’s at the heart of the free and virtuous society, and it’s why the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index is such a valuable tool. The Index not only holds up a mirror for companies to evaluate themselves, but it also gives them real-world tactical solutions for correcting course.”

Chase’s low score on the Business Index is part of the larger story the Index tells about widespread threats to fundamental freedoms posed by the financial and tech sectors. Overall, 76% of scored companies, including all 21 digital service providers from Amazon to Zoom have vague or subjective terms of service that threaten their customers with cancelation or punishment.

As Bahnsen’s 2024 proposal highlighted, Chase—like 91% of the companies scored on the Business Index—relies on divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in its employee training materials. A plurality (40%) of employees polled in the 2023 Freedom at Work Survey say this approach divides, rather than unites, colleagues, while the same number say they are less likely to trust others or feel included at work if they were told in a company-sponsored training that they were complicit in racism or oppression based on their skin color, religion, or sex.

Overall, 58% of the returning companies (38 of 66) improved their Business Index score year-over-year, including double-digit gains by First Horizon (10%) and Paychex (22%). The five companies with the highest scores each participated in the survey portion of the Business Index, which provides needed insight into whether their policies and practices respect viewpoint diversity across the different aspects of their business.

Along with reflecting objective measurements of each company’s commitment to fostering a culture where free speech and religious freedom thrive, the Business Index scores provide a starting point for companies seeking to de-politicize their businesses and focus on respecting all customers, employees, and shareholders.

“It’s crucial for us to sit down and talk with these companies,” said Tedesco. “Far-left activists wield their indexes as a weapon to bludgeon companies into compliance with their radical policy goals that fail at the ballot box. That’s not what we’re doing. Instead, we are simply calling on companies to respect the free speech and religious freedom of all Americans, and we’re pleased that our work with the Business Index is allowing us and concerned shareholders to engage these companies on these critical matters.”

The following quote can be attributed to Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks, who has signed onto letters calling on Chase and Bank of America to participate in the survey portion of the Business Index:

“Banks that are too big to fail are too big for bias. Millions of Americans trust Chase, Bank of America, and other megabanks to make transactions and secure their financial future. But as so many are discovering, that trust is often unwarranted. Chase’s engagement on these issues is an important and hopeful step. All banks and financial institutions should move quickly to eliminate policies harmful to Constitutionally protected freedoms. Banks should be banks, not arbiters of acceptable viewpoints and speech.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Jeremy Tedesco

Jeremy Tedesco serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of corporate engagement for Alliance Defending Freedom. In this role, Tedesco leads ADF’s efforts to combat corporate cancel culture and build a business ethic that respects free speech, religious freedom, and human dignity. Immediately preceding his current role, Tedesco served as senior vice president for communications, during which time he was a lead convener of the Philadelphia Statement, a movement dedicated to restoring free speech and civil discourse. Previously, Tedesco litigated First Amendment cases at the highest levels. He was part of the legal team that represented cake artist Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued Phillips’ case at the Colorado Court of Appeals. He was also the lead brief writer in two other U.S. Supreme Court wins, Reed v. Town of Gilbert and Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. Tedesco has also argued six times before five different federal appellate courts and founded and directed the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives, where he led efforts to protect individuals from government-coerced speech. Tedesco earned his Juris Doctor in 2004 from the Regent University School of Law.

ABOUT Michael Ross

Michael Ross serves as legal counsel for the Corporate Engagement Team with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he assists in developing and implementing successful legal solutions and corporate engagement strategies to neutralize mounting corporate hostility to people of faith and to encourage corporations to respect free speech, religious freedom, and life. Ross previously served on the Center for Academic Freedom Team, defending the First Amendment freedoms of college students and student organizations on university campuses. Ross earned his Juris Doctor in 2016 from Vanderbilt Law School, where he served as president of the Christian Legal Society and executive authorities editor for the Vanderbilt Transnational Law Journal. He obtained B.A. degrees in mathematics and religious studies from Vanderbilt University in 2010. Ross is a member of the bar in Tennessee.