Fifth Third Bank has reversed course, announcing Feb. 7 that it has reinstated its contributions to the AAA Scholarship Foundation Tax Credit Program in Florida after receiving intense backlash for pulling out of the voucher program the week before.
On Jan. 23, the Orlando Sentinel published a lengthy article which pointed out that many of the scholarship recipients attend private Christian schools. Despite students and parents choosing these schools by their own preference, the Sentinel urged the program’s corporate sponsors to end their participation in the state program because most of Florida’s Christian schools hold to a Biblical view of marriage and human sexuality.
Using words like “anti-gay” and “discriminatory” to describe the schools’ Scriptural standards and policies, the Sentinel and several liberal politicians successfully convinced top contributors Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank to drop out of the scholarship program.
But many Florida residents believe that such “inclusivity” should not trump an economically disadvantaged child’s opportunity to receive quality education.
Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications for First Liberty Institute, began attending Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers, Florida, in the fifth grade.
“By the time I got to high school, we had an entire class period dedicated to Bible,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Daily Wire. “It was insightful: We studied not only the Scriptures that formed the basis of our faith, but also learned to appreciate and respect the differences of our faith with that of others’ faith.”
While his school didn’t participate in the scholarship program at the time, it does now. And Dys believes that by abandoning the program, sponsors would ultimately be punishing low-income children.
“Rather than let inner-city kids or low-income families … pursue private education that meets the needs of their children, they would cancel their scholarship to score ‘woke’ points with the Left,” he said. “It’s a shame.”
Fifth Third Bank eventually came to the same conclusion.
“The company sat down with Florida parents and pastors and decided not to listen to Florida’s cultural bullies,” wrote Tony Perkins in Washington Update blog. “It’s one thing for a company to support LGBT extremism. It’s quite another, the bank agreed, to hurt needy children in the process.”
“A fundamental tenant of our democracy is the right to hold and express varying beliefs and viewpoints, which includes beliefs and viewpoints informed by one’s religious convictions,” said Wayne Smith, head of Master’s Academy of Vero Beach. “Faith-based admission requirements and codes of conduct ensure that our schools can create the learning environment where religious values are passed along to the next generation.”