In a column for The Christian Post, investment manager, author and columnist Jerry Bowyer has called out multinational computer technology corporation Oracle, questioning the company’s commitment to religious liberty and whether the organization truly considers faith-friendliness part of its ongoing pledge to diversity and inclusion. It’s a problem he says plagues many companies that focus on some “more popular” aspects of diversity but not the concept of diversity as a whole.
In the column, Bowyer writes: “In my capacity as someone who consults on the creation of stock indices, and also in my capacity as personal investor, I have attended roughly three dozen annual shareholder meetings of publicly traded companies. U.S. companies that are publicly traded (meaning available to the general public to buy on open exchanges) hold annual meetings for their owners. At these meetings, members of the board of directors are elected (typically reelected), outside auditors are approved, various resolutions are voted on by shareholders, and questions are taken… sort of.”
Bowyer shared his recent experience at an Oracle shareholder meeting, claiming the company said it had answered all the questions asked by those present, when in fact, it had ignored the question he asked — which in this case was about religious liberty.
“We are increasingly concerned about the effects on investors and the country of corporate management getting involved in highly contentious political issues,” Bowyer began during the shareholder meeting, which he claimed was ignored by session moderators. “In response to Proposal 5, Oracle’s proxy material repeatedly emphasizes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, but failed to mention even once religious or political viewpoint diversity. Oracle has endorsed the Equality Act, which diminishes religious liberty protections under current law, and has signed on to the HRC’s statement against state-level laws regulating gender reassignment procedures for minors. Does Oracle’s idea of diversity include traditional religious communities and conservatives? Does taking public stances on one side of highly controversial political and social battles foster an ‘inclusive culture,’ which you claim is your priority?”
Bowyer said the snub of his question was more than just an oversight. He said he sent the question in advance to Oracle’s Investor Relations department and submitted it again during the meeting, receiving a positive confirmation that the question had been registered.
“In addition, since we had seen instances where questions about religious liberty and viewpoint diversity were suppressed publicly due to claims that the questions were not within the topic of the meeting, I added an additional statement, pointing out that since the meeting prep materials do address this issue, partly by touting the partnership with the anti-religious-liberty Human Rights Campaign, it would be inaccurate to pretend the question is beyond the scope of a meeting,” Bowyer said in his Christian Post opinion piece. “In other words, we have seen corporations brag about LGBTQ advocacy in official proxy material distributed as part of the annual meeting and then turn around and say that [religious freedom] is out of bounds for that same meeting.”
In Bowyer’s view, the shareholder meeting felt very one-sided, giving management “the opportunity to focus on positive achievements” but not diving into deeper or more controversial ideas that the company — or at least its event organizers — didn’t want to address or shine a light on.
Bowyer said once Oracle covered the positive achievements, the moderator claimed all the questions from the event had been answered, even though they hadn’t, and ended the Q&A session.
“There are genuine reasons to be concerned about anti-religious bias at Oracle,” Bowyer wrote. “The company in its proxy material for the meeting linked to its Diversity and Inclusion page to argue that it was a diverse company, but there does not appear to be any mention of religious diversity and inclusion.”
Instead, he said, he saw numerous web pages dedicated to employee support for Black, LGBTQ, Hispanic, Asian, and veteran groups but nothing dedicated to religion.
“This is troubling in that it fails to live up to even the low bar that tech companies have set when it comes to faith-friendliness,” Bowyer wrote. “Some might argue that these are private companies, and they can do what they want. No one is questioning that. But the question is, what should they want to do? If they truly value diversity, then they should truly value diversity, and not just the currently more fashionable versions of it.”
Bowyer ended his opinion piece by saying that he has sent numerous additional questions to Oracle, asking for them to explain their actions and how religion and faith fit into the company’s view of diversity but has, so far, not heard back.
For their part, Oracle has yet to publicly respond to the claims Bowyer has levied against the company.