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Religious Liberty Debated at Annual Meeting of Walmart Shareholders

National Center for Public Policy Research Presents Shareholder Resolution Showing Retail Giant's Hypocrisy Regarding Religious Liberty and Human Rights

Fayetteville, AR / Washington, D.C. - At today's annual meeting of Walmart shareholders in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the National Center for Public Policy Research presented a liberty-based shareholder resolution in response to the company's opposition to state-level religious freedom laws.

"As one of the nation's wealthiest companies and biggest brands, Walmart should use its scale and voice to promote a liberty- and free enterprise-based agenda that elevates its company, its investors and its consumers," said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. "However, in the realm of religious liberty, Walmart has unfortunately employed its considerable heft in fighting against freedom. Our shareholder proposal today explained the truth about religious freedom laws and exposed the company's duplicity on the issue."

Speaking on behalf of the National Center's proposal, Danhof stated, in part:

Last spring, Walmart joined other corporations in vilifying religious freedom laws. CEO Doug McMillon claimed that Arkansas' efforts to protect its citizens' deeply-held religious beliefs "threaten[..] to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold."

Religious freedom has been part of American jurisprudence since our nation's founding. So it's fair to ask: why are Walmart and others voicing objection to this basic civil right now?

Danhof went on to note that:

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.

While speaking in opposition to longstanding principles protecting religious freedom, Mr. McMillon extolled the virtues of diversity and inclusion. Walmart operates in 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. What's diverse and inclusive about that?

The full text of Danhof's remarks at the Walmart meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The National Center's complete shareholder resolution, and Walmart's response to it, can be found on pages 87 and 88 of the company's proxy statement - which is available for download here.

After Danhof presented a similar proposal to General Electric's investors earlier this year, he 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," Danhof concluded.................

.................The National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project is the nation's most active free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings, and Walmart's meeting will be its 15th meeting so far this year.

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.