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This Apple needs salt

Christian investors could change the moral agenda of a powerful company, but will they?

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event on the campus of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., on Sept. 7, 2022. Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu

This Apple needs salt

Today, at noon Apple Inc. will have its annual shareholder meeting. Apple is typically by sheer aggregate value the largest corporation on planet Earth. Its market cap rivals the economic output of entire nation-states, which probably understates its influence since its technological innovations have, for good or for ill, influenced pretty much any human being who doesn’t live in a yurt or mud hut.

And yet, we Christians have not seen Apple and companies like it as a zone of engagement, a place to assert the Christian worldview. This is true even though many Christians own stock in the company. Given the demographics of evangelical Christians, including average age and the demographics of the stock ownership class, the overlaps are extensive.

In short, Christians own Apple, and that means that we are in charge of it.

Shareholders are the ultimate authority over publicly traded companies. They elect the board of directors. They choose the financial auditors. They approve or disapprove a wide variety of important measures including executive pay and they vote on various resolutions that are placed on the ballot, which are analogous to referendum questions on political ballots. Annual meetings are essentially the business equivalent of townhall meetings, with shareholders in the role of citizens.

Virtually every political tool available to American citizens has an analogue in the realm of publicly traded corporations. Everyone who owns stock is a shareholder-citizen, the only question is whether they will exercise the privileges and responsibilities of that citizenship.

Today at noon the shareholder-citizens of Apple have the opportunity to do so.

One key issue is the election of members of the board of directors. The conservative National Legal and Policy Center has called for a vote against the reelection of former Vice President Al Gore, and of CEO Tim Cook. The case against Gore is simple. There is no real case for his service on this board.

Despite purported claims about creating the internet or something to that effect, Gore had almost no technology nor business experience when he was invited onto the board. He came as a defeated politician and his public career is largely a matter of promoting histrionically exaggerated warnings about global warming and then profiting from people’s response to the fears generated by those warnings. Membership on the board of the most valuable company in the world is a scarce resource, not to be squandered on a dedicated ideological seat.

There are few companies more in need of faithful Christian witness than Apple.

The case against Cook is based more in excessive entanglement with China, and frankly is not as strong as the case against Gore. Advocates point out that he is not on the chopping block as CEO, only as a member of the board, which oversees the CEO.

Another conservative group, The National Center for Public Policy Research, is proposing the company study the risks involved in diversity training, which is biased against those groups deemed “not diverse.” In other words, the proposal takes aim at whether Critical Race Theory-type training amounts to what is popularly known as “reverse discrimination.” There is more than adequate reason to believe that this resolution’s request to at least investigate the question deserves support.

Other pending issues include a call to reevaluate the downsides of entanglement with China, and a call to strengthen shareholders’ claim to negotiating with board members, which arose from the company’s use of “concealment clauses” to silence victims of sexual abuse. This one comes from a liberal group, but that is no reason to oppose it.

Reasonable people can differ on how to vote on each of these issues. But with the political and cultural drift of companies such as Apple, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differ on whether to vote on them.

There are few companies more in need of faithful Christian witness than Apple. It has been a reliable ally of those who want to upend the historical Christian sexual code, as an early supporter of the redefinition of marriage and the trans agenda and as one of a small minority of firms creating for its employees an “abortion benefit” in response to protections for the unborn. But how can Christians complain if they don’t show up? How can they complain if they don’t speak up? How can they complain if we literally throw our vote away (tossing proxy cards in the wastebasket or the delete bucket) year after year?

The cultural drift and corruption of corporate America should remind Christians of a truth implied by Christ Himself, that when salt is not applied, rot will always appear.

Jerry Bowyer

Jerry Bowyer is the chief economist of Vident Financial, editor of Townhall Finance, editor of the business channel of The Christian Post, host of Meeting of Minds with Jerry Bowyer podcast, president of Bowyer Research, and author of The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics. He is also resident economist with Kingdom Advisors, serves on the Editorial Board of Salem Communications, and is senior fellow in financial economics at the Center for Cultural Leadership. Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of his seven children.

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