Wells Fargo supports school choice… unless you choose the wrong school.
Last week, the banking giant pulled millions of dollars in donations from a Florida private school voucher program. Why? Because some of the private schools that participate in the program are Christian schools.
This move comes on the heels of an article in the Orlando Sentinel which reported that many of the Christian schools that participate in the private school voucher program are, in fact, Christian. And that they operate consistently with their beliefs—including their beliefs on human sexuality and marriage.
Shocking, I know.
But apparently, it did come as a shock to Wells Fargo, which decided to try bullying Florida legislators into disqualifying these schools from the state voucher program.
Here’s the problem. What Wells Fargo is demanding from the State of Florida has already been condemned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2017, the Court ruled 7-2 that it is unconstitutional for the government to treat churches and other religious organizations worse than everyone else simply because they are religious. In that case, Alliance Defending Freedom represented Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, whose preschool had been excluded from a state grant program to resurface its playground.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court made it clear that people of faith cannot be treated as second-class citizens.
And that applies in Florida as well.
Students who attend Christian schools deserve the same opportunities as their peers. They are not lesser than other Florida students simply because Wells Fargo doesn’t like the beliefs of the school they attend.
Christian schools welcome children from all backgrounds and provide an academically rigorous and caring education in a diverse environment. Families choose such schools because of their distinct religious mission, values, academic rigor, and positive environment.
And if Wells Fargo’s corporate bullying has its intended effect, these students will suffer the consequences.
In particular, children with special needs and who come from low-income families will be hit the hardest by such a large amount of funding being pulled from this state program. Additionally, Florida’s state voucher program helps more than 100,000 students, 70 percent of whom are black, Hispanic, or multiracial. In the 2015-16 school year, 58 percent of the children participating in the program had single mothers. These kids should not be forced back into failing, inadequate schools simply because Wells Fargo disapproves of their and their school’s beliefs.
Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a pluralistic society like ours. They enable us to peacefully coexist with each other.
But when large corporations have the right to bully people who hold certain beliefs—beliefs that are shared by billions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews all over the world—that should concern us all.
If corporate bullies can punish those whose beliefs they don’t agree with, who is next? Will Wells Fargo boycott faith-based social service and charitable organizations that serve the poor, homeless, and hungry?
We are a better and stronger society when we make room for a variety of beliefs and opinions—even if we disagree with them. But when we allow corporate bullies to call the shots on what beliefs are welcome in society, we all lose.
Written by Sarah Kramer.
Originally published by Alliance Defending Freedom.