11 Oct 2016 Anti-Religious Freedom Activists Defeated at Procter & Gamble Annual Meeting
Liberal Investment Group’s Attack on Religious Protection Laws Fails
Cincinnati, OH / Washington, D.C. – Procter & Gamble shareholders today overwhelmingly rejected a shareholder proposal designed to have the consumer goods company join the recent corporate wave of opposition to religious freedom, public accommodation and freedom of conscience laws.
The National Center for Public Policy Research had urged the company’s investors to reject the shareholder proposal by the left-wing activist group Northstar Asset Management.
The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected with only about six percent of the shares outstanding voting in favor of the proposal.
“Today is a good day for religious liberty and a bad day for bigotry,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, who spoke against the proposal at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati. “However, spurned by activist investors, a dishonest press and liberal executives, the anti-religious movement is growing in America and threatening the liberty of millions. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other religious investors and citizens should take notice. Many major American corporations are working with liberal activists to severely limit your ability to freely practice your religion. This is a well-funded, well-organized effort with many high-profile corporations such as Apple, Disney, Salesforce and the National Football League leading the charge. Today, we stopped Northstar Investment Management’s attempt to have Procter & Gamble join in on this fervor, but much more work remains to be done.”
“Northstar’s proposal also attacked freedom of conscience and public accommodation laws. There is a growing pattern in which, after a conservative legislature or governor works to expand religious liberty protections, liberal activists team with major American companies to try to stifle these efforts,” said Danhof. “Procter & Gamble’s investors should be proud that they defeated Northstar’s efforts to make the company another pawn of the left.”
Northstar’s proposal specifically targeted contentious laws in Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. At the meeting, Danhof noted that it would not be in Procter & Gamble’s best interest to choose sides on highly-politicized issues. Danhof stated:
Proposal #5 is an attempt to force the company to become political activists on sexuality and gender issues by joining an anti-religious, anti-Constitution movement that is sweeping through the more liberal sectors of corporate America. It is not in the company’s best interest to join this effort.
Northstar’s proposal objects to laws in Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee that are very different from one another in subject and content, but alike in that each one has many supporters and many detractors.
What does Procter & Gamble stand to gain by joining one side of hot-button political issues that do not affect our core business? Tennessee’s law covers the counseling profession. That’s not Procter & Gamble’s business. Northstar’s goal is political change. That’s not Procter and Gamble’s business, either.
Rejecting Northstar’s proposal would allow the company to continue focusing on its operations and its stakeholders, and leave politicized issues to voters, legislatures, policymakers and courts.
Danhof went on to note the issues at play in each of the specific state legal battles and the risk to Procter & Gamble if it were to join Northstar’s efforts. He noted:
Northstar’s proposal makes false claims. It claims the Tennessee law is “a discriminatory religious freedom bill… that could constrain our Company’s ability to defend the rights of its LGBT employees.” In fact, the law merely allows psychological counselors to refer a patient to another professional if he believes treating that patient would conflict with his beliefs. Surely pro-LGBT counselors can hold beliefs just as well as an ardent Christian or Muslim. The law puts no constraints upon Procter & Gamble’s ability to protect its employees.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant says Mississippi’s law “simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law.” The law currently is on hold pending appeal. Actions by Procter & Gamble will not determine the outcome of the legal case.
Northstar’s proposal also suggests Procter & Gamble should reconsider doing business in North Carolina because North Carolina state law assigns restroom use by biological sex. This would harm the company’s bottom line while helping no one.
Danhof’s full statement at today’s meeting, as prepared for delivery, is available here.
Northstar’s proposal, and Procter & Gamble’s response to it, are available on pages 63 and 64 of the company’s proxy statement, which is available here.
“The timing and tenor of Northstar Asset Management’s proposal is certainly curious. Last fall, the National Center realized the harm corporate America is causing to religious freedom and decided to do something about it. We began by filing shareholder resolutions with some of the worst corporate offenders, including Apple, General Electric and Eli Lilly. Our proposals highlighted how these corporations are acting hypocritically in protesting religious freedom laws in the United States out of a feigned fear of LGBT discrimination – but are happy to do business in countries such as Iran that persecute homosexuals and treat women and minorities as second-class citizens,” said Danhof. “Now Northstar is trying to convince more corporations to not just denounce religious freedom, but also freedom of conscience laws and public accommodation laws.”
After presenting the National Center’s proposal at General Electric shareholder meeting, Danhof stated:
[C]orporate leaders are often praised by the liberal press for denouncing religious freedom in the United States. My question is: why are the press and corporate America so unconcerned with corporate operations in countries that actually discriminate against homosexuals, women – and just about every possible minority constituency. GE actively supported President Obama’s ill-guided Iran deal and much of the mainstream press did as well. No thinking person could reason that an American religious law has any equivalency with the execution of homosexuals in the public square. If corporations and the media want to see examples of persecution of homosexuals, look to Tehran and Riyadh – not Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Danhof’s references to Atlanta and Indianapolis show the power of corporate involvement in the left’s anti-religious freedom movement. In 2015, companies such as Apple and General Electric publicly opposed Indiana’s then-proposed religious freedom restoration law. Despite this strong corporate opposition, Indiana passed its religious freedom bill and Governor Mike Pence signed it into law. By contrast, this spring, after the legislature in Georgia passed a religious freedom bill, major corporations such as Disney, the National Football League, Home Depot and Coca-Cola pressured Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill. Governor Deal eventually succumbed to that pressure and nixed the bill.
Today’s liberal Northstar Asset Management proposal at Procter & Gamble also took issue with North Carolina’s HB2 public accommodation law, which states that public restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities, including some in educational settings, should be used by individuals based on their biological sex. The proposal suggested that the company engage in lobbying efforts to oppose such laws. This attack also follows on the heels of National Center activism opposing the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s public accommodation law.
In July, the National Center issued a press release detailing the Justice Department’s feeble legal reasoning in its lawsuit against North Carolina. The release noted that the DOJ was usurping Congress and trying to rewrite federal law, and also took 68 American corporations to task for signing an amicus brief supporting the DOJ’s lawsuit. Following that release, Danhof attended the annual shareholder meetings of two of those 68 companies – Red Hat and Nike – where he questioned executives about the wisdom of supporting the DOJ’s potentially unconstitutional overreach. For more information on those meetings, see here and here.
Danhof also recently debated the merits of the DOJ’s lawsuit on the Thom Hartmann Program. A blog post containing a video of that debate is available here.
The National Center helped defeat an anti-free enterprise proposal from Northstar Asset Management at the 2015 meeting of Johnson & Johnson shareholders.
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 Procter & Gamble meeting marks its 21st shareholder meeting of 2016.
Just this year, the Free Enterprise Project has been featured in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Fox News’s “Cavuto,” the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune among many others.
The Free Enterprise Project is also prominently featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel’s latest book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Procter & Gamble shareholder.
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.