Commentary

Nonprofit founded by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest downgrades Bank of America, other companies for not toeing religious right’s line

Bank of America

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A few years back, as you may recall, a nonprofit conservative Christian group co-founded by North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest made some waves by releasing a Christmas shopping guide in which it purported to rate retailers for their adherence to the values of “faith driven consumers.” The guide, which downgraded companies for, among other things, including lingerie models in their catalogs, sought to convince corporations to alter their business practices in order to cater to conservative Christian shoppers. (Forest, who has not yet filed for re-election this year, resigned from the group shortly after its founding, but has made it plain since then on multiple occasions and in multiple venues that he remains a loyal soldier of the religious right).

This year, the organization (which calls itself Faith Driven Consumer) is back with a new attempt at rating corporate America which it has entitled, somewhat amusingly, the “Faith Equality Index.” In it, the authors grade more than 100 companies on a 100 point scale for their “commitment to full equality and inclusion of the Faith Driven Consumer market segment” (which appears to translate to how closely the companies toe the values and political lines laid down by the religious right).

According to the index, Charlotte-based Bank of America tied for the lowest rating given to any company with a score of 11. Only the consumer goods producer, Unilever, received as low of a score. Meanwhile, the fast food chain Chick-fil-A received the highest overall score of 63. Craft store Hobby Lobby, of anti-Obamacare fame, came in second with a 62.

Company scores were constructed by compiling ratings in several categories. For instance, companies could earn up to five points for:

  • “use of the word ‘Christmas’ in seasonal advertising,”
  • “philanthropic support of biblically (sic) orthodox faith-driven organization(s) or event(s) (e.g. financial, in-kind or pro bono support)” and
  • “targeted recruiting efforts for both faith-driven employees and suppliers.”

Ten points were available to companies that demonstrate “respect for, acknowledgment of, and compatibility with a comprehensive pro-life view on abortion, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia.”

The ratings are, in short, an absurd mishmash of items from the religious right’s political agenda with no real explanation in most instances as to how or why points were awarded. Car maker General Motors, for instance, gets two out of five points for its “Use of the word ‘Christmas’ in seasonal advertising,” but there is no explanation as to why. Similarly, the hotel chain Residence Inn by Marriott gets six unexplained points out of 10 for its performance on sexual morality issues.

The bottom line: Though the authors have spared us the laugh-out-loud details that accompanied the 2012 guide, the new “Faith Equality Index” appears to be, on the whole, just as ridiculous. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of encouraging takeaways:

First, none of the companies rated — not even even Hobby Lobby, Cracker Barrel or Walmart, for crying out loud — scored very highly, with marks of 62, 53 and 51 out of 100, respectively.

Second, the guide would seem to provide at least some consolation to caring and thinking progressives who worry about patronizing large and frequently predatory mega-corporations. After all, if businesses like Microsoft and Pfizer are ticking off the religious right, they can’t be all bad.

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UPDATE: Charlotte family avoids Bank of America foreclosure

We’re wrapping up 2012 and dusting off our files here at N.C. Policy Watch, and came across this encouraging update from Action NC about a Charlotte family facing foreclosure by Bank of America on a home retrofitted for their disabled daughter.

The Sanchez family (mom Silvia with Jessica, 17, and Israel, 3). On the right is Hector Vaca of Action NC.

Jessica Sanchez, 17, suffers from spina bifida and her father had done the work himself to make sure Jessica was able to move about the home in her wheelchair. Gonzalo Sanchez, a construction work, had trouble finding jobs as a result of the recession, and the family fell behind on their mortgage. They held fundraisers, including car washes, donation drives and a barbecue in the backyard of their modest home in Charlotte’s Sugar Creek neighborhood in order to try to pay off the $20,000 Bank of America was demanding to avoid foreclosure.

Back in September, we wrote briefly about the Sanchez family’s plight, when they joined Action NC to protest at the bank’s headquarters in the midst of the Democratic National Convention. (Click here to read our prior post.)

After the Sanchez family’s pleas to Bank of America to reduce their mortgage payments reached the audiences of national media, Bank of America decided to work with the family, according to Action NC.

The bank righted their under-water mortgage by taking $63,000 off the principal and reduced the family’s monthly mortgage to $400 from the $917 the bank had been demanding.

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