Dear Wells Fargo Customer Service:
Recently, a friend sent me a picture of your 54-story Charlotte headquarters lit up with the colors of the transgendered pride flag. I attempted to contact you privately to register my strong objection to your company’s decision to take the wrong side in the nation’s raging cultural war. Unfortunately, your website was not sufficiently inclusive. It only allowed me 1,000 characters of space to leave a comment. It’s going to take a lot more than that so I decided to make this issue the subject of my weekly opinion column.
This isn’t my first negative experience with Wells Fargo’s aggressive activism. Several months ago, I walked into one of your branch offices to make a quick deposit. I made the mistake of wearing a black and purple tie, which one of your tellers mistakenly interpreted as a show of support for so-called anti-bullying legislation. Had I known that wearing purple was somehow supportive of “anti-bullying” measures I would have tossed that tie in the wastebasket long ago.
Nonetheless, the bank teller decided to invite me to wear the tie again the following week in support of anti-bullying measures designed to protect the LGBT community. Given that I am a teacher I decided to seize on this as a teachable moment.
First, I explained to your teller that I am a college professor who teaches a class on the subject of crime and the First Amendment. The course deals with constitutional limitations on the advocacy of illegal conduct, the definition and regulation of obscenity, and specific topics like “hate crime” penalty enhancement statutes.
After letting the teller know about my experience teaching on free speech issues, I informed him that I oppose so-called anti-bullying legislation. I briefly explain that such measures are often thinly veiled efforts to curb speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment.
The response of the bank teller shocked me. Rather than becoming angry like most gay activists he responded by saying, “Well, that’s also unacceptable.” In other words, the teller gave the right answer!
For the record, I commend your employee for calmly responding to criticism of measures he obviously supports. That shows me he has some understanding and appreciation of the free exchange of ideas. Nonetheless, our exchange raises a serious question about professional protocol.
The First Amendment clearly protects the teller’s right to lobby for legislation against bullying. Whether the specific measures that flow from his advocacy pass constitutional muster is another matter. Whether it is appropriate to pursue this advocacy in the workplace with customers who are there to do business unrelated to politics is another matter still.
It in no way conflicts with my First Amendment advocacy to tell you that it’s just not appropriate to try to recruit people into support of your pet political causes while doing business in a crowded line at a bank. If the generalization seems harsh or unwarranted then please consider the following hypothetical questions:
*If your teller sees someone wearing a Christian cross around her neck would it be appropriate for him to seize the moment and invite her to a Christian Coalition banquet while she is trying to make a simple deposit?
*If your teller sees a customer wearing a maternity blouse would it be appropriate for him to seize the moment and invite her to a pro-life rally while she is trying to cash a check?
*If your teller sees a customer wearing a yarmulke would it be appropriate for him to seize the moment and invite him a pro-Israel rally while he is trying to make a transfer of funds?
I suspect that you would not accept one of your tellers doing any of these things in the workplace. In fact, you would deem them to be unnecessary invitations to controversy. You would also wonder how the person made such leaping inferences about the customer’s politics based on their manner of dress.
Of course, in your world you view gay activism differently than you view the causes represented in those hypothetical questions. You see gay activism as being entirely uncontroversial. It’s just the kind of thing any fair-minded person would accept. But the banking world is no longer the same as the rest of the world.
A few years ago, Bank of America fired my friend Frank Turek from his position as a management consultant simply because he had written a book expressing opposition to same-sex marriage. The consequence of this kind of intolerance in the banking industry has become obvious: Your industry is now becoming an ideological echo chamber, rather than a place of true diversity.
Ideological echo chambers are dangerous places. When people simply sit around reinforcing each other’s beliefs rather than challenging them bad decisions inevitably follow. One day you’re advocating for a government imposed end to bullying. The next day you’re firing people who refuse to accept your definition of marriage. In the end, you’re lighting up the sky in celebration of those who pay surgeons vast sums to mutilate their genitals.
So I would like to conclude this letter with just two simple requests. First, when I come through the line at one of your banks could you just process my request without trying to show me how I can help you rally in support for the homosexual agenda? Second, could you please demonstrate real courage by flying that transgendered flag from another Wells Fargo building?
You can start with your corporate office in Qatar.
Thanks and have a blessed day,
Mike S. Adams