My inbox this morning contained a press release from the American Family Association (AFA). The Tupelo, Miss.-based Religious Right group has exciting news: It has decided to launch a new tool to rate companies based on how they deal with “religious liberty.”
It’s called the Corporate Religious Liberty Index (CRLI), and it will be compiled based on a short questionnaire (just seven questions) that “seeks to gauge the importance of religious liberty for the nation’s major companies.” The index, the AFA reports, is being compiled “in direct response to the growing threats against religious liberty in the U.S.”
“We know that this unique survey and research will inform faithful Americans of which companies support their values and which choose to ignore them,” AFA President Tim Wildmon said in the press release. “And Americans can decide what actions they will take once they learn these facts.”
Unfortunately, the AFA did not reveal the seven questions, although it did report that several companies have already answered the survey. Given the AFA’s obsession with gay people and LGBT rights, my guess is that many of the questions will revolve around that issue. I’m sure that if a company has policies that aim to ensure that LGBT employees are treated with respect and decency, they’ll flunk on the CRLI.
The AFA has some experience with this rating stuff. Remember, this is the group that every December pores over store circulars and scrutinizes ads and releases a “Naughty or Nice” list based on whether the word “Christmas” appears. Yes, these people are just a tad obsessive.
As I said, I suspect a lot of this has to do with gay rights. More and more companies are realizing that gay-friendly policies are good for the bottom line. BuzzFeed News recently ran a story about a push to expand LGBT rights in Indiana. It’s being led by the business community.
Jon Mills, a spokesman for Cummins, a Fortune 500 company based in Columbus, Ind., that builds power generators, filtration devices and fuel systems, told BuzzFeed that it doesn’t make sense to discriminate.
“If you look at Indiana, we are a state that in some people’s minds may be at a disadvantage,” Mills said. “We don’t have a coast and we don’t have mountains, but we can build an environment that is welcoming and attractive to companies that are cutting edge. And in order to get and retain the best talent, we need an open and inclusive environment. And there should not be any exceptions to that.”
Talk like this drives the AFA batty. The group, long known as a bastion of reactionary homophobia, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Read more about this here.) Wildmon and his allies see the rising tide of tolerance in America – and it must be making their heads explode.
In a way, I’m looking forward to the release of the AFA’s list. Assuming most firms don't simply toss the thing in the trash, it should give us a pretty clear indication of where a lot of companies in this country stand. Do they back a band of fundamentalist bigots, or are they on the side of fairness and equality?
We can then choose to spend our money accordingly.