02 May 2016 Eli Lilly Shareholders to Management: Religious Liberty Matters
Shareholder Resolution Urges Pharmaceutical Giant to Be Respectful of ALL Groups, Including Religious Americans and Those Who Respect the First Amendment
Company Questioned at Shareholder Meeting for Doing Business Where Homosexuality is Illegal While Posing as An Ally with Gay, Lesbian and Gender Identity Activist Groups in the United States
Indianapolis, IN / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual meeting of Eli Lilly shareholders in Indianapolis, Indiana, the National Center for Public Policy Research presented a liberty-based shareholder resolution in response to the company’s activism against state-level religious freedom laws.
“Eli Lilly is acting with extreme duplicity. The pharmaceutical giant has joined with the leftist mob that falsely claims that religious freedom laws are avenues for discrimination of homosexuals. Yet, while it bemoans state religious freedom laws here in America, it has done business with nations that actively discriminate against homosexuals, women and just about every conceivable minority group,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Today, our shareholder proposal called out the company’s hypocrisy.”
Speaking on behalf of the National Center’s proposal, Danhof stated, in part:
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. The company’s spokesman stated: “One of our long-held values is respect for people, and that value factors strongly into our position. We want all our current and future employees to feel welcome where they live.”
Our proposal takes Lilly up on this. Eli Lilly has operated in many nations where homosexuality is outlawed. In some of those countries, homosexual acts are punishable by death. Women have almost no rights in some of these places. And try getting a fair trial in many of these nations.
The full text of Danhof’s remarks at the Eli Lilly meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
“As the national debate over religious freedom laws began last year in Indiana – and Lilly is one of the biggest companies in the Hoosier State – it deserves a fair share of the blame for the anti-religious sentiment that is sweeping the nation,” added Danhof. “When Georgia recently tried to pass a similar law, that state’s governor made the spineless decision to veto it after many corporations including Coca-Cola and the National Football League complained.”
“I find it very curious that many leftist politicians, organizations and commentators in the media have spent the better part of the past six years bemoaning corporate involvement in political activity. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC (which simply affirmed that corporations and unions have First Amendment free speech rights), to hear liberal talking heads tell it, the world would stop spinning due to corporate involvement in political activities. But when corporations such as Eli Lilly and Coca-Cola use their bully pulpits to spew invectives regarding religious freedom laws, the left cheers corporate involvement in the political process,” said Danhof. “This is the hallmark of a movement that lacks basic principles.”
“Liberal shareholder activists have filed hundreds of shareholder resolutions over the past few years and spent untold sums to denounce corporate involvement in any political or policy activity that might be considered conservative,” said Danhof. “But they have no problem with corporations using their power to advance far-left agendas.”
“Eli Lilly is violating a basic principle of business,” added Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Don’t disrespect your customers, lest they disrespect you in return. Eli Lilly might claim its activism on lesbian and gay rights and gender identity issues was done to be inclusive, but the path Eli Lilly chose unnecessarily excluded others. The religious protections Eli Lilly opposed have been around for years. Everyone’s rights and freedoms could have been respected.”
“Eli Lilly does business in places where people have no basic civil rights,” Ridenour continued, “including the right to practice the religion of their choice. In that light, I suppose it is not odd that the company is standing against the continuation of long-held religious protection laws here in America. It appears likely that religious freedom is not its thing. Standing up for it certainly isn’t.”
The National Center’s complete shareholder resolution, and Eli Lilly’s response to it, can be found on pages 56 and 57 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available for download here.
Eli Lilly petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, seeking to block the National Center’s proposal. However, the National Center’s legal team, also led by Danhof, prevailed in convincing the SEC that its proposal was so significant that the company’s shareholders should have a say in the matter.
The entire legal exchange between Eli Lilly and the National Center, along with the SEC’s decision, can be downloaded here.
After Danhof presented a similar proposal to General Electric’s investors last week, he also made these observations about the current state of the national debate over religious freedom laws:
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 and the pockets of pro-gay marriage leaders. In that light, it is easy to understand why they 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.
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 Eli Lilly meeting marks its seventh 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.