The evangelical Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom is working alongside secular conservative groups to pressure companies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace to stop.

ADF says corporate DEI programs “engage in censorship, enable cancel culture inside their organizations, or take divisive stands on controversial political issues” including abortion, LGBTQ rights and parental rights in education.

ADF’s anti-DEI efforts come as conservatives have seen victories in the war against DEI in higher education, ranging from book bans to outlawing diversity programs in universities.

Screenshot from an explainer video produced by ADF.

ADF calls its new anti-DEI initiative the Viewpoint Diversity Score, and it ranks 75 corporations on 42 benchmarks, including:

  • Do companies grant employees the freedom to respectfully communicate religious or political viewpoints? (The desired answer is yes.)
  • Do companies with matching gift program match gifts for employees who donate to “political, legal or social advocacy groups” like ADF that advocate for laws against LGBTQ equality and transgender care? (The desired answer is yes.)
  • Do companies “respect the autonomy of religious charities to make decisions about their internal employment policies and practices”? (The desired answer is yes.)
  • Do companies take “political positions on contentious social issues in opposition to the views of many employees and customers”? (The desired answer is no.)
  • Do companies “coerce their employees to affirm or celebrate social or political views that violate their personal beliefs”? (The desired answer is no.)
  • Do employers’ training programs teach “that certain people are complicit in systemic bias based on their race, religion or sex”? (The desired answer is no.)
  • Can employees post pretty much whatever they like on social media without any repercussions at work? (The desired answer is yes.)

By these metrics, all 75 ranked companies flunked. Fidelity National Information Services got the highest grade: 50 points. M&T Bank earned 25 points. The other 73 had scores of 17 or lower.

X (formerly Twitter) wasn’t ranked, but Jeremy Tedesco, who leads “ADF’s efforts to combat corporate cancel culture,” says X is doing better under Elon Musk’s ownership than it was when it deplatformed Donald Trump after January 6 and exercised greater control over disinformation and antisemitism.

ADF’s message to Digital Service Providers is: Thou shalt not “censor a user” or “censor a user’s expression.”

Screenshot from an explainer video produced by ADF.

ADF is best known for its Supreme Court cases, including helping draft and defend the Mississippi law that led to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. ADF also helped wedding cake bakers and website designers earn the right to deny service to LGBTQ customers.

Now, ADF seems to be taking an opposite position: It is calling on companies to reject “any policy or requirement that conditions access/use of a product or service on adherence to certain standards of conduct or speech.”

Tedesco, ADF’s leader of corporate engagement, is an attorney who was part of the team that represented “wedding cake artist” Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case. He now asks companies to “respect customers and external stakeholders who hold diverse viewpoints.”

Tedesco made his case to Christian broadcasters at the 2023 National Religious Broadcasters convention in a session on combatting woke ideologies: “We’re in the position we’re in because we kind of hit the ‘escape’ button on engaging corporations for decades. We thought businesses would never cede to the demands of political activists on the left. We were wrong. So now it’s very entrenched, but there is a path forward.”

ADF did not respond to BNG’s request for information and an interview with Tedesco.

Co-founded four decades ago by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, ADF has become a $104 million legal powerhouse. For now, it is for focusing its anti-DEI efforts on two areas of corporate America:

  • Tech companies, some of which have deplatformed Focus and other conservative groups for promoting falsehoods about vaccines, election results and transgender medical care
  • Banking companies, some of which have “debanked” conservative groups by refusing to process donations or limited employees’ matching gift choices.

“Debanking” is no longer arcane technobabble, having made its way into a sketch on a recent episode of the comedy show Saturday Night Live.

ADF claims a majority of American workers “fear sharing religious and political views in the workplace” and says its “model policies” and “best practices” provide a “detailed roadmap” for turning things around.

ADF is doing more than ranking companies. It has forced some to change their behavior. Fox Business reported on one recent victory: “Activist shareholders notched a win from the Securities and Exchange Commission last week when it ruled Apple Inc. must allow a shareholder vote on a resolution holding the company accountable for alleged ‘censorship.’”

Screenshot from an explainer video produced by ADF.

Tedesco launched his anti-DEI corporate campaign in 2020 with the Philadelphia Statement “in defense of the right of all Americans to speak their minds.”

“The rise in blacklisting and demonizing of those who hold opposing views is steadily eroding the willingness of Americans to express their sincere beliefs and breeds contempt for those with different views,” Tedesco said.

Among the leaders signing the Philadelphia Statement were Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler and Russell Moore, then head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Other signers include Princeton professor Robert P. George, Catholic archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Phoenix Seminary professor Wayne Grudem, anti-DEI activist Christopher F. Rufo, Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon, Summit Ministries President Jeff Myers. It also was supported by Focus, the Focus-aligned Family Research Councilthe Colson Center, Liberty University’s Standing for Freedom Center, and the Koch group Americans for Prosperity.

ADF launched its ranking of companies in 2022 in partnership with Inspire Insight, which claims credit for “the world’s most comprehensive values-based investment screening tool,” which includes benchmarks for LGBTQ philanthropy, LGBTQ legislation and abortion promotion.

ADF formerly defined itself as a Christian legal group, but its anti-DEI materials now refer to itself as:

  • “An alliance-building, nonprofit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights and the sanctity of life”
  • “A pro-bono civil rights group”
  • “One of the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, working to preserve the fundamental freedoms of speech and religion for all Americans.”

This article originally appeared in Baptist News Global.