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Corporate Index Will Gauge Importance of Religious Liberties in Crucial Election Year

Monday, January 25, 2016 @ 11:17 AM

TUPELO, Miss.—If there’s been one common theme among presidential hopefuls—especially in the crowded GOP field—it’s how fervently Americans’ religious freedoms will be protected in the next four years.

In 2015, religious liberties topped the headlines, and included the stories of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and Aaron and Melissa Klein, who paid a hefty fine of nearly $137,000 to close out 2015 for declining to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

It’s clear that religious liberties are important to Americans. For example, multiple polls (such as those detailed here and here) find that religious freedom is a concern and/or valued by a majority of Americans.

Therefore, the newest educational campaign from the American Family Association (AFA, www.afa.net) focuses on the Corporate Religious Liberties Index (CRLI), which will inform the nation about the companies that value religious freedoms—and those that don’t. 

The CRLI is a short, simple questionnaire written by AFA that seeks to gauge the importance of the broad issue of religious liberty for the nation’s major companies, including large-scale retailers, restaurants and manufacturers. The index is in direct response to the growing threats against religious liberty in the U.S., including but not limited to, faith in America.

“If there’s one common thread we’ve heard thus far from presidential candidates, it’s the importance of religious liberties in a country that was founded on freedom,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “Religious freedom applies to so much more than where and how we worship. That freedom crosses over to where and how we work, how we conduct our businesses and even how and where we spend our money. Consumers want to know which corporations respect them and their values because they can then feel at peace when they spend their hard-earned dollars at these places of business versus others that work against what these consumers believe.”

Wildmon added that unlike many common ratings and indices that are based on the opinions of others, the CRLI directly surveys each company and evaluates their core values and the religious freedoms they offer their employees—so companies are rating themselves based on what they are currently doing in the name of religious freedom.

 “This survey will seek to bring to light the policies that some of the nation’s biggest companies have on religious liberties,” added AFA Executive Vice President Ed Vitagliano. “For example, do their non-discrimination policies include religion, and are their employees allowed or encouraged to use such greetings as ‘Happy Easter’ and ‘Merry Christmas’? These are questions that will communicate to Americans which companies value religious freedom in the workplace. And the answers will have an influence on where those who value religious freedom spend their money.”

The first company to complete and return the seven-question survey from AFA was Wal-Mart, which scored a perfect 100, with its answers demonstrating that the corporation respects and values religious freedoms. AFA is awaiting responses from other corporations as well.

Companies that received the survey include: Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Big Lots, Campbell Soup Company, Chick-fil-A, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dollar Tree, Fred’s, Foot Locker, Hallmark, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Interstate Battery, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Marshalls/T.J. Maxx, Michael’s Stores, Office Depot/Office Max, Old Navy (The Gap), PepsiCo, PetSmart, Procter & Gamble, Sam’s Club (Wal-Mart), Sears Holdings Corp., Staples, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us.

The survey includes seven questions that deal with corporate policies and practices. As companies take the survey, the answers will be scored, compiled and assigned an “index number” that will indicate whether or not companies are favorable, indifferent or antagonistic to religious liberty. The index number will fall on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 indicating full support for religious freedom.

The questions include:

1. Does your company include religion in its non-discrimination policy?
Explanation: This would include “religion” in the company’s list of protected categories, such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.

2. Do you allow your employees to exchange religious greetings with one another and your customers, such as “Happy Easter” or “Merry Christmas”?
Explanation: For employees, this would apply to internal and informal communication, as well as employee interactions with customers or the general public.

3. Does your company use the name of religious holidays for business purposes?
Explanation: This would include holiday advertising, internal communications, or communication with the general public.

4. Do you allow employees to express their religious beliefs during working hours?
Explanation: This would apply to worker breaks, when other employees are free to discuss sports, politics, pop culture or other personal matters.

5. Do you expressly allow employees to decorate desks or other work areas with religious symbols, messages or literature?
Explanation: This would refer to a policy that allows employees to decorate personal space with items that communicate their interests, including religious expression.

6. Do you allow employees to express without penalty their religious beliefs on their own time, even if those beliefs are contrary to those that underlie corporate policies?
Explanation: This means employees are free to espouse their own religious beliefs outside working hours, on their own equipment, on blogs, Facebook, etc.

7. Would you ever reject a job applicant because of his or her religious beliefs about controversial issues, such as the nature of marriage, human sexuality or the sanctity of human life?
Explanation: This would apply to the pre-hiring screening process, during which some companies might check Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.

AFA will release results of additional company surveys in the coming weeks. Going forward, a yearly report will also be generated and released each September.

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