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#TBT: SunTrust Bank and Religious Liberty

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Back in 2014, SunTrust Bank came under fire after apparently severing ties with the Benham Brothers for their Pro-Life and pro-traditional marriage beliefs by pulling all of its listed properties from the brothers’ bank-owned property business. After conservative supporters of the Benhams called the bank to task for its attacks on religious beliefs, SunTrust subsequently reversed its decision and “clarified” the situation with the following statement:

“Suntrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”

But, SunTrust doesn’t appear to be standing by that position.

The Daily Signal is reporting that over 400 businesses, including SunTrust, have joined a coalition to fight Georgia’s First Amendment Defense Act (H.B. 757), a bill designed to protect religious freedom, especially for small business owners. The coalition, called “Georgia Prospers”, and other liberal organizations such as HRC are fully invested in blocking the legislation that would allow individuals, especially clergy, and institutions, such as bed-and-breakfasts, wedding planners, and others, to adhere to their religious convictions regarding marriage.

Ironically, SunTrust has been recognized with accolades for its status as a top lender for small businesses nationally, the market segment most vulnerable to attacks by liberal, LGBT activists as evidenced by the persecution of the Klein family in Oregon.

Unfortunately, SunTrust, appears to be continuing an advocacy trend of supporting the anti-religious freedom agenda in Georgia, despite the previous affirmation of First Amendment values by the bank during the Benham Brothers controversy. Just one year ago, 2nd Vote’s research team noted that SunTrust was a corporate contributor to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s campaign. Reed’s administration was in the headlines for suspending, and ultimately firing, Atlanta’s former Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran, for his beliefs in traditional marriage.

2nd Vote’s allies have indicated that roughly 700 pieces of legislation are under consideration at the state and local levels that affect religious liberty. Corporate advocacy by SunTrust, and organizations like “Georgia Prospers”, are showing that conservatives who hold strong beliefs cannot remain content to fight for their First Amendment freedoms at the ballot box alone.

Last month, engagement by conservatives influenced Lands’ End to pull back its initiative with abortion advocate Gloria Steinem’s organization. In the same way, SunTrust was forced to reinstate business relations with the Benham Brothers in 2014 because conservatives voiced opposition to the blatant attack on religious values.

Conservatives should engage SunTrust on this critical issue. Join us in asking the following question:

Has SunTrust’s policy of “support[ing] the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion” changed?

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