Should Christian Consumers Take A Page From The Human Rights Campaign?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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A group called Faith Driven Consumer is launching an annual index to measure a company’s “compatibility with Faith Driven Consumers,” and, perhaps not surprisingly, Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby score well.

Today, the organization is also announcing the 10 worst brands for Christian consumers, which, according to their Faith Equality Index (FEI), are: T-Mobile, Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Pfizer, Nationwide, Expedia, DirecTV, Unilever, Bank of America, and Apple.

This is merely the latest attempt for conservatives to get into a game that has been mastered by their adversaries. Liberal groups like the Human Rights Campaign Foundation already produce a “Corporate Equality Index” which the HRC describes as the “national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.” These sorts of activities seem to matter; we’ve seen companies like Wal-Mart (once thought to be conservative) champion gay marriage, and McDonald’s (now a “progressive burger joint“) move leftward in recent years.

It’s hard to blame corporations for responding to incentives. Their goal is to make profits. Period. And if the Left is effectively nudging them to adopt certain policies, and the Right is not, they will take the path of least resistance every time. (Unlike some conservatives, I don’t see big business as a natural ally of conservatives.)

You might think these efforts don’t matter, but here’s the latest example of why they matter: the rankings were recently mentioned during the recent CNBC Republican primary debate, when Dr. Ben Carson was asked about serving on the board of Costco. “Last year, a marketing study called the warehouse retailer the number one gay-friendly brand in America, partly because of its domestic partner benefits,” the moderator noted (before suggesting this ran counter to Carson’s values).

Just as gays once viewed themselves as a minority that has been discriminated against, more and more people of faith now find themselves in a similar defensive position. In this regard, it’s perhaps not surprising (even if it is ironic) that some Christians — who feel increasingly like a persecuted minority attempting to live countercultural values in mainstream America — want to replicate the same techniques past minority groups have employed.

Indeed,  Faith Driven Consumer seems to be borrowing the ideas — and the language — of the Left in order to achieve some equality in the marketplace. According to a release, Faith Driven Consumer “envisions a world where inclusion is extended with parity to people of faith, who have the right to be celebrated as an essential color in the American rainbow of diversity.”

So is this a good idea? Rather than politicizing things (don’t watch a George Clooney movie!) and calling for boycotts, I like the idea of simply providing a community of consumers with more information about which brands match their values. I also think this better matches the non-confrontational or conservative temperament that many devout Christians hold. Who could oppose giving people who share a certain worldview more information — and letting them decide whether to put hard-earned resources behind companies that share those same values?

Will it work? It’s hard to get American consumers to make sacrifices in terms of price or quality — but, all things being equal, why wouldn’t a Christian family choose to go to Chick-fil-A instead of McDonald’s? The real test will be to see whether they can reduce the friction that would serve as a disincentive. Making this work will require some PR, to be sure. But more important will be the production of a sleek smart phone app that makes it quick and easy (essentially seamless) to factor a given brand’s Faith Equality Index ranking into your shopping decisions.