CEO Confronted for Hypocrisy and Inaccuracy on Religion and Gay Rights

By NCPPR, Special for  USDR

At today’s annual meeting of Marriott shareholders in Washington, D.C., the National Center for Public Policy Research blasted the hotel giant’s CEO, Arne Sorenson, for comments he recently made disparaging Indiana’s religious freedom restoration law and, by extension, all Americans of  faith.“Sorenson did apologize and assured me that is was not his intent to impinge upon anyone’s religious liberties,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “But that’s the problem, intent aside, his words added to the growing storm of anti-religious sentiment that is sweeping the  nation.”

At the Marriott meeting, Danhof  stated:


According to the Washington Post, our CEO thinks that religious freedom has no value in our country. Referring to Indiana’s religious freedom law, Mr. Sorenson called it “madness” and “idiocy.” Mr. Sorenson joined an echo chamber – led by the leftist media – in distorting what Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) are all about. He should be  embarrassed.
The federal government and 31 states have RFRAs and none of them legalize discrimination against anyone. What Mr. Sorenson and the media have done is to distort common sense laws to attack Americans of faith. You show me a gay couple who can’t find someone willing to bake them a wedding cake and I will show you liars. What the left has done, in the words of esteemed law professor Richard Epstein, is to give the law its “broadest possible construction and then give a parade of horribles, none of which have ever  occurred.”

Danhof then  asked:

Despite Sorenson’s outlandish attacks on Indiana’s law, Marriott does business in many countries where homosexuality is outlawed and homosexuals are imprisoned and even  killed.So my question is this: will Marriott cease all business operations in countries where homosexuality is illegal and will it also cease business with the U.S. federal government and close its hotels in the 31 states because of their religious freedom  laws?

To read Danhof’s entire question, as prepared for delivery, click  here.“Sorenson basically told me that he wanted to ensure that Indiana’s law was written in a way that would allow the state to continue to attract commerce and where folks would be welcome. This just shows his profound ignorance regarding the issue. Nothing in the law would legalize discrimination,” said Danhof. “Furthermore, he told me that is was clear that we weren’t going to agree on the issue. There is nothing to disagree about. I am correct about the legal realities of religious freedom laws. Sorenson is spewing  claptrap.”

“It is clear to me that Sorenson does not understand what religious freedom laws are all about. This shows the danger of a CEO, whose expertise is likely in business operations and finance, commenting on a legal and policy issues outside of their comfort zone. His comments did tremendous damage to Marriott’s brand,” added Danhof. “Sorenson is not a Constitutional scholar, and relying on the liberal media to tell the truth is a fool’s  errand.”

“The federal government’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been the law of the land for more than 20, years and 31 states have similar laws protecting religious freedom. In that entire time, has anyone been denied a hotel room because of their sexual identity?” said Danhof. “The liberal cry of anti-gay discrimination is hollow. Religious freedom laws do not legalize discrimination. The liberal media is simply lying about this issue. It is shameful that corporate America has joined in this echo chamber of  misinformation.”

“In fact, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was co-authored by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a liberal icon, and signed into law in 1993 by another liberal hero, then-President Bill Clinton. I don’t recall the leftist media ever attacking Kennedy or Clinton for creating a federal law to discriminate against homosexuals. RFRA laws simply make the government show a compelling reason if it takes an action that restricts someone’s religious freedom. That’s it. Any suggestion that these laws endorse discrimination is a lie,” added  Danhof.

“With his outburst about Indiana, Sorenson joined with corporate leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook in declaring war on Americans of faith. By specifically attacking religious freedom restorations laws, they are implying that the federal and state governments should have more power to restrict religious practices and beliefs,” said Danhof. “It is a very scary proposition that we have powerful corporate leaders urging our government to wield more control over American lives. It is especially scary when it burdens something so sacrosanct as the American ideal of freedom of  religion.”

“It certainly strange that Sorenson feels so strongly about Indiana yet he would say silent about persecution of homosexuals in certain countries where Marriott does business. Surely Marriott’s management has thought about the persecution and lack of basic human rights in various countries in which they do business, and, no doubt, pay taxes, and if they have thought about it, why wouldn’t they share their thinking when asked for it at a shareholder meeting? And if Marriott’s management has not thought about the immense persecution that exists in certain countries in which the company does business, then why was the company’s CEO concerned about a religious freedom law in Indiana that does not cause any persecution at  all?”

Mr. Sorenson’s comments to Danhof were lengthy and Danhof did not have access to recording equipment to capture them in full. Marriott, however, says it plans to upload the full audio of the shareholder meeting to its website at some unspecified future  time.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder meetings and big business. So far in 2014-15, National Center representatives have participated in 67 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy  issues.

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.

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