- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Conservatives worried about woke banks shuttering their accounts over political or religious considerations have a new resource to consult.

The 1792 Exchange has announced its Spotlight Report on Corporate Bias Ratings, a list of more than 1,000 corporations graded on the “likelihood a company will cancel a contract or client, or boycott, divest, or deny services based on views or beliefs.”

“1792 Exchange believes the ‘free’ in ‘free market’ is essential,” 1792 Exchange President Paul Fitzpatrick said Tuesday. “We want Americans to understand where they are truly free to conduct business, without the risk of being canceled or denied service for their genuinely held religious and ideological beliefs.”

He called the database the largest of its kind and the “result of countless hours investigating ‘woke’ corporate bias against religious expression, freedom of speech and free enterprise.”

Conservatives have become increasingly concerned about losing access to financial services, contracts and vendors with the rise of corporate political correctness, such as the use of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) standards to screen investments and investors.

“As more companies use ESG scores to evaluate customers, expect your risk of cancellation to increase,” Heritage Action for America said in a Tuesday tweet promoting the project.

Ever wondered where your vendors fall when it comes to freedom of speech, ideological, or religious issues? This is great work - ratings on 1,000 companies from @1792Exchange. https://t.co/tEy2Misj3t

— State Financial Officers Foundation (@SFOF_States) January 24, 2023

Companies are rated as high risk, medium risk and lower risk based on their “propensity to cancel individuals and organizations to deny service, or force ideological compromise based on political and religious views.”

Among those rated as high risk was JPMorgan Chase & Co., which conservatives decried last year for closing a business checking account belonging to the National Committee for Religious Freedom, a 501(c)(4) political action nonprofit chaired by former Sen. Sam Brownback.

Mr. Brownback said the bank offered no explanation but later indicated that it would reconsider its decision if the organization would turn over its donor list, a list of political candidates it intended to support and its criteria for endorsing candidates. He called the request “entirely inappropriate.”

“Unfortunately, we do not believe this was the first time an organization has found itself facing sudden and unexplained account closures,” Mr. Brownback said in an Oct. 6 op-ed in the Washington Examiner. “Religious institutions, houses of worship, and people of all faiths should be greatly concerned that their business, credit, or even personal or private bank accounts could likewise be terminated for any or no reason at all.”

JPMorgan Chase spokesperson Trish Wexler declined to comment on the 1792 Exchange rating. She said she had not read the report but flatly denied that the bank shut down the National Committee for Religious Freedom’s account over viewpoint considerations.

“I can tell you confidently we have never and would never close an account due to one’s political or religious affiliation – full stop,” she said in an email.

“I can’t discuss confidential client relationship information publicly, but I can tell you that we communicated with the former client many months ago, in writing, and they are aware of why we closed the account,” she said.

Mr. Brownback, who served as U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom in the Trump administration, said in a Tuesday statement to The Washington Times that his committee is still waiting for a “legitimate explanation” about the account closure.

“Chase Bank has given four different explanations for why they closed the National Committee for Religious Freedom bank account and none of them are very credible,” Mr. Brownback said. “We have asked to speak with the decision maker, but have been refused. We would welcome a legitimate explanation from Chase but they have declined to do so. That leaves us to wonder what they don’t want to admit.”

The group started the #ChasedAway campaign in October to seek input from religious organizations canceled by financial institutions.

The 1792 Exchange also asked those who believe they have faced discrimination for ideological reasons to share their views on social media using the hashtag #canceledtoo, or share their experiences privately.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said the report’s objective is to place high-risk companies on notice to “change their behavior.”

“That goal seems obvious, but sadly, many corporations have weaponized their brands and assets to achieve political and ideological objectives,” he said. “They must reject stakeholder capitalism and focus on shareholders while treating all customers, employees, vendors and communities with respect.”

The organization’s name refers to the founding of the New York Stock Exchange in 1792 in response to the young nation’s first financial crisis.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Paul Fitzpatrick’s name.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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