Procter & Gamble shareholders shot down a proposal recently to join the surge of corporate backlash against religious freedom and restroom laws.
NorthStar Asset Management, which owns $2,000 worth of P&G stock, proposed at an investor meeting the company should join Apple, PayPal, Disney and others in the political fight against religious freedom laws in Mississippi and Tennessee and should take a stand against North Carolina’s transgender restroom policy. The consumer goods giant overtly rejected the idea, with 94 percent of shareholders voting against it.
“It’s one less major corporation fighting against religious freedom,” said Justin Danhof, director of the free enterprise project at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “This is a great victory for freedom and for common sense.”
Danhof told me well-funded lobbyists and activists are increasingly attending shareholder meetings to lure companies into taking sides on political fights. He travels around the country attending corporate investor meetings to help educate shareholders about troubling proposals from left-wing activists.
“When I go to shareholder meetings, I often feel like the lone voice in the wilderness trying to speak out for sanity,” Danhof said.
NorthStar’s proposal asked for P&G to prepare a report by April detailing the risks and costs of state policies “supporting discrimination against LGBT people.” In addition, it asked P&G to develop strategies to protect LGBT employees from proposed and enacted state legislation.
The proposal highlighted House Bill 2 (HB2) in North Carolina and court-blocked legislation in Mississippi that was intended to protect persons with religious objections from participating in same-sex weddings. NorthStar also noted a Tennessee law to protect freedom of conscience, which prevents counselors and therapists from being forced to counsel in a manner that conflicts with their religious beliefs, as long as they refer the patient to someone else.
Many of these laws, particularly HB2, have prompted corporations to make a public stance against them. When N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed HB2 into law in March, the Human Right Campaign wrote him a letter calling for its repeal and got more than 80 CEOs at major companies to add their signatures.
Other groups provided additional pressure. PayPal scrapped a new global operations center in Charlotte that would have provided 400 jobs, because of the policy requiring people to use restrooms based on their biological sex, not gender identity.
Then the NBA decided to pull its All-Star game from the state and the NCAA followed by moving scheduled championship contests in the Tar-Heel state. Both organizations said HB2 discriminates against LGBT persons.
“Religious freedom laws are far from bigotry – they are between you and the government, not about you and your neighbor,” Danhof said. He explained many Americans believe religious freedom laws and North Carolina’s HB2 are harmful because of well-funded lobbying. Big corporations with deep pockets joining the bandwagon only perpetuate this view.
Even P&G’s board of directors said it agreed with NorthStar’s proposal in theory but decided against adopting it for business reasons.
“While we fully support diversity and non-discrimination, as described above, we believe the report would not be a productive use of company resources,” the board wrote in response to NorthStar’s request.
Danhof told me he’s pleased P&G didn’t succumb to the pressure from left-wing activists, but he’s concerned the company will bow down in the future.
“Unfortunately this is an incredibly well-funded and well-organized effort to get companies to co-opt in this political agenda,” he said. “Procter & Gamble’s investors should be proud that they defeated NorthStar’s efforts to make the company another pawn of the left.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)