August 19, 2019

Home Depot Asked if it Opposes Religious Freedom

*Editor’s Note* – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” [emboldening added]
One might ask why it would be necessary for any Congress to write another law that seemingly gives government the control over religious liberty – disguised as a guarantee?
Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:
Asked to Leave Anti-Religious Freedom “Georgia Prospers” Coalition

National Center for Public Policy Research Says “Georgia Prospers” Misled Public, Policymakers About Intent and Function of Religious Liberty Legislation

Group Questions Why Home Depot Joined and Lobbies With a Group that Fought a Religious Liberty Bill So Nonpartisan, Its Model Was Drafted by the Late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

Corporations Are Being Used as Front Groups By Left-Wing Anti-Religion Coalitions, Group Says, and Asks: Are These Corporation s Pawns or Willing Accomplices?

Religious Freedom for Hundreds of Millions May Hang in the Balance

 

Washington, D.C.  – At today’s annual meeting of Home Depot shareholders in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Center for Public Policy Research denounced the hardware giant’s affiliation with an activist group that lobbied against Georgia’s effort to protect religious freedom at the state level and asked the hardware giant’s management point-blank: “Does Home Depot oppose religious freedom?”

Home Depot is a member of Georgia Prospers, a corporate coalition that lobbied extensively – and dishonestly – against Georgia’s religious freedom bill titled “The Free Exercise Protection Act,” and cheered when Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill at the end of March.

“I am surprised Home Depot affiliates with a bigoted organization such as Georgia Prospers,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “While some corporate leaders such as Tim Cook of Apple and Marc Benioff of Salesforce actually oppose religious freedom, other corporate managers may be signing up to oppose certain social and political liberties without realizing all the facts. I hope that my efforts today cause Home Depot’s management to reconsider working with Georgia Prospers and its anti-religious agenda.”

At the meeting, Danhof stated:

As Georgia politicians debated whether to adopt a religious freedom bill known as “The Free Exercise Protection Act,” perhaps the biggest opponent of the bill was Georgia Prospers, a business coalition of which Home Depot is one of the most prominent members. Georgia Prospers lobbied hard against the bill and boasted when Governor Deal vetoed it, but I’m sorry to say much of its work was extremely dishonest and I truly doubt it aligns with Home Depot’s values.

In its lobbying campaign, Georgia Prospers claimed that the bill “legalized discrimination.” That’s a sensational lie.

Danhof went on to urge the company to disavow Georgia Prospers, stating:

Corporations and the mainstream media have expressed concern that religious freedom laws will lead to discrimination, in part, against homosexuals. There is zero evidence for this concern. These laws only require the government to avoid interfering with religious freedom if it can do so while still achieving important government goals – one of which, in every state of the union, is outlawing discrimination.

If Georgia Prospers does not in fact represent Home Depot and this company’s values, I urge you to reconsider your membership in this bigoted organization. Until you either withdraw your membership – or denounce Georgia Prospers on this issue – Home Depot will just be another American company that has jumped on the anti-religious bandwagon. I hope the company is better than that.

Danhof’s statement, as prepared for delivery is available here.

Danhof has been traveling from one shareholder meeting to the next, working to set the record straight regarding religious freedom laws. After General Electric’s shareholder meeting in April, Danhof observed that:

Religious freedom laws in the United States, whether federal or state, simply set a high bar for government action that might interfere with an individual’s deeply-held religious beliefs. To pass such an infringing law, the government must prove that it has a compelling interest in doing so, and if the government can reach that compelling interest by other means, the courts will direct it to use those other means. That’s all these laws do. The public debate over these laws are often void of these very basic facts.

Furthermore, the left’s newest attack on religious liberty has all the trappings of a fundraising ploy. Many liberal organizations spent years raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the fight to legalize gay marriage. Perhaps winning that battle too quickly left a hole in the movement’s pockets. In that light, it is easy to understand why it concocted this fake outrage over basic religious freedom that has been a non-controversial issue in American jurisprudence for hundreds of years and a matter of state and federal law since the early 1990s.

“I think many religious Americans have been caught off guard by the barrage of government, corporate and activist attacks on religious liberty,” said Danhof. “And for a time that was understandable. But now, from the contraceptive battles stemming from ObamaCare, to the removal of Christian societies from college campuses to these repeated attacks on state-level religious freedom restoration laws, the time for complacency is over. Religious Americans of all denominations must stand up for their convictions and confront these anti-religious elements in our society.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s leading voice for religious freedom when it comes to shareholder activism. In just the past few months, the Free Enterprise Project has:

• Presented a religious liberty shareholder proposal to Apple’s investors calling out the company’s hypocrisy in denouncing religious freedom in the United States while doing business in countries that persecute homosexuals. More information here, here and here.

• Presented a similar proposal to General Electric’s investors after GE CEO Jeff Immelt tried to block a state-level religious freedom bill. More information hereand here.

• Offered a religious defense shareholder proposal to Eli Lilly’s investors after that company tried to impede Indiana’s religious freedom restoration law.

Danhof has also been interviewed dozens of times about the Free Enterprise Project’s efforts to promote and restore religious liberty including by the Christian Broadcasting Networkand nationally-syndicated radio host Janet Parshall.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Home Depot meeting marks its tenth shareholder meeting of 2016.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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Home Depot Applauded for Opposing Extreme Green Regulations

Free-Market Advocates Commend Home Depot CEO Frank Blake for Pledge Not to Pursue Harmful ‘Going Green’ Strategies

Leading Retail Association Doubles-Down on Pressuring American Retailers to Go Green

Atlanta, GA / Washington, DC – Free-market advocacy leaders at the National Center for Public Policy Research are praising Home Depot CEO Frank Blake for rejecting voluntary environmental regulations that could lead to mandatory private regulations that greatly damage American retail customers, suppliers and manufacturers.

Home Depot is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a massive trade association promoting top-down sustainability mandates at the expense of American consumers. Also posing harm to manufacturers and suppliers, RILA presses these mandates on its members through conferences and annual sustainability reports.

In May, National Center President David Ridenour attended the Home Depot shareholder meeting and said to Blake, in part:

[RILA] has launched a massive market and labor distorting campaign dubbed sustainability. Under the so-called sustainability campaign it is currently pressuring its members to make capital expenditures that often have limited prospects for reasonable return. RILA also advocates that its members lobby for changes in local building codes and infrastructure that will increase the cost of buildings and result in significant restrictions on property use. Finally, RILA is advocating top down sustainability standards that go beyond its own members affecting the entire supply chain despite the likelihood that these standards will increase suppliers costs and in turn the cost of the goods that they sell. As a shareholder our concern is that this push for so-called sustainability will harm Home Depot’s shareholders, suppliers and customers, as they will bear the associated costs.

Ridenour then asked Blake:

Measures that expand growth and sales are good for Home Depot and the nation, those that don’t, are not. Where does management stand on the question of its trade association imposing sustainability standards on its members including Home Depot? Does management support the idea of RILA imposing such standards or is it opposing mandatory sustainability standards and standing up for the right of each retailer to make its own decisions regarding the best way to lawfully and ethically satisfy the needs of its customers and shareholders?

Blake assured Ridenour at that time that Home Depot would not pursue green initiatives that may harm customers or the company’s bottom line – a point he drove home when Ridenour met privately with Blake and members of the Home Depot executive team immediately following.

“Blake’s stance against RILA’s costly green regulation push is encouraging,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “We are encouraging Blake to stay vigilant in light of RILA’s newest efforts at forcing retailers to implement costly sustainability mandates.”

Since the Home Depot shareholder meeting, RILA has doubled-down on its radical environmentalist efforts by publishing its “2013 Retail Sustainability Report,” in which it states:

Companies will often develop individual or industry voluntary programs to reduce the need for government regulations. If a retail company minimizes its waste generation, energy and fuel usage, land-use footprint, and other environmental impacts, and strives to improve the labor conditions of the workers across its product supply chains, it will have a competitive advantage when regulations are developed.

“In its most recent sustainability report, RILA gives away the game – that they hope to operate as if they were an extra-governmental body able to place restrictions on its participants,” explained Danhof. “RILA seems to be operating on the premise that more regulation and red-tape is the only way forward for the retail industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

For even more information about RILA’s green goals, see “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness,” – a new paper by National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen.

In his groundbreaking paper, Dr. Cohen notes that:

Redirecting retailers’ behavior so as to achieve these environmental and social goals will often require “expertise not yet available within an organization.” Forging a path forward will have retailers reach out to “nonprofits, academics, and governments, as well as to their suppliers, consumers, investors, vendors, and communities.” RILA assures us that these “stakeholders” will provide “diverse perspectives that will accelerate sustainable innovation.” Note that RILA puts nonprofits (shorthand for environmental and other approved pressure groups), academics, and governments ahead of consumers, investors, and suppliers as sources of the “expertise” it believes retailers need.

“Home Depot has a chance to take a leadership position and remain firm against RILA’s regulatory overreach,” said Danhof. “If left to its own devices, the free market produces sustainability measures that have cost savings such as efficient packaging and water reductions. A top down approach distorts the market and can harm every aspect of the supply chain from the design to the ultimate purchaser.”

Starting in early 2012, National Center staffers began confronting the CEOs of five major retailers who are all members of RILA – Target, J.C. Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap and CVS Caremark – about their engagement with RILA. Through its Free Enterprise Project, the National Center demanded these corporate leaders explain how RILA’s goals are consistent with their fiduciary duties to increase shareholder value, and explained how they could adversely affect customers.

And the retail industry took notice. Prominent retail writer Joan Verdon wrote an article detailing the National Center’s work to expose RILA that appeared in more than a dozen major publications nationwide including Bloomberg Businessweek, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In early 2013, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project continued to pressure RILA members regarding their complicity with RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Through the shareholder resolution process, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. had conversations with top executives at Best Buy and received assurances that the company would not pursue any RILA initiatives that, in their view, contradict best business practices dictated by the free market.

Also in early 2013, Danhof asked Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson how much more a consumer should have to pay for retail products so that RILA members can push so-called sustainable goods. Totally flustered and baffled by the very simple question, Wasson became incoherent and was unable to answer or defend his company’s sustainability practices in any meaningful way. Writing for the Motley Fool, Gene Koprowski praised Danhof’s question at the Walgreens meeting, and warned would-be company investors, saying: “I agree that that is an excellent question to ask, and suggest that investors refrain from buying shares of Walgreens until CEO Greg Wasson can provide a solid answer to the query.”

Last month, the National Center again called on Wasson to come clean about Walgreens’ dealings with RILA. So far, Wasson remains silent.

Furthermore, at the 2013 Costco shareholder meeting, Danhof confronted company CEO Craig Jelinek and asked him if he would reject any RILA initiatives that would harm Costco’s bottom line. Jelinek refused to answer.

Also last month, the National Center again urged Jelinek to rebuff any RILA plans that might cause harm to his company or raise prices. Like Wasson, Jelinek remains silent.

Also of note, at the Sears meeting in May 2013, newly installed CEO Edward Lampert appeared to reject any extra-regulatory mechanism of RILA saying in part that “[p]ersonally, I don’t like coercive solutions. I think America is overregulated.”

Last week, the National Center praised Lampert’s resolve.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4 percent from foundations, and less than 2 percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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