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In the 1960s, pro-segregation politicians sought to thwart the nascent civil rights movement in a variety of ways.Alabama and other states had laws on the books that would have forced the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to hand over its membership list—a move that would have exposed rank-and-file NAACP members to violent retaliation and suppression.Thankfully, the NAACP held its ground. The group was vindicated by a 1958 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down state laws that forced would-be donors to choose between surrendering their anonymity or supporting the causes they believed in. That ruling was reaffirmed in a 2021 consolidated case argued in part by Alliance Defending Freedom, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, which once again made clear that the First Amendment’s promise of free speech includes the right to privacy in financial giving.The message from the Supreme Court has been clear and unchanging over the years: Everyone deserves a voice, not merely those able to weather abuse.Unfortunately, some activists are trying to make an end-run around these essential freedoms by demanding that private financial institutions discriminate in ways that the government cannot. Left-wing groups like the Amalgamated Foundation and “Unmasking Fidelity” are demanding that donor-advised funds disclose who is giving to their political opponents in an effort to stop donations to them.“Unmasking Fidelity,” for example, demanded that Fidelity Charitable publicly disclose five years’ worth of contributions to 10 targeted organizations with whom the activists disagree on a variety of hot-button issues. They are also demanding that Fidelity Charitable impose a litmus test that would screen out certain charities as anonymous giving options. Of course, this litmus test would only target conservative and religious groups.You would hope that a powerful financial institution like Fidelity Charitable—which distributed $11.2 billion in 2022—would respect its customer’s freedom of choice in giving and desire to avoid alienating large portions of its clients just to appease fringe activists. But that doesn’t appear to be the case.Earlier this year, a Louisiana woman named Dawn Manning opened a Fidelity Charitable donor-advised fund account. Assured by its promise to remain cause-neutral in approving grant requests, Dawn was surprised to find that Fidelity Charitable refused to approve her anonymous grant requests to ADF, Family Research Council, Center for Security Policy, and Pacific Justice Institute.Fidelity Charitable told Dawn that it needed to ensure that the donations would be used for “proper charitable purposes.” While each of these requests were on hold, she received an e-mail requesting “additional information” over the phone.When Dawn called, she was told that Fidelity Charitable’s Board of Trustees was not approving anonymous grants to these organizations. If she wanted to give to any of these mainstream conservative organizations, she would have to surrender her anonymity.This was the “additional information” that Fidelity Charitable needed? Didn’t Fidelity Charitable already have Dawn’s name and address? And how would disclosing her name and address help Fidelity Charitable determine if the groups serve a proper charitable purpose?Of course, the real problem appears to be not a lack of information, but a lack of integrity. Along with promising that its services are cause-neutral, Fidelity Charitable affirms that it “does not limit grantmaking based on political, religious, or philosophical grounds.”Compelling evidence is pointing the other way. Three out of the four conservative groups screened are named targets of “Unmasking Fidelity” activists, and all four are smeared as “hate groups” by the highly discredited Southern Poverty Law Center—a blatantly partisan outfit that has condoned its own employees’ participation in domestic terrorism and labelled as haters moms and dads who speak out at school board meetings.Want more evidence? So did Dawn. That’s why she submitted anonymous grant requests to three groups that do work similar to the conservative groups she desired to give to, but from an ideological left perspective—CAIR Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal Defense. All three of these requests were approved within the business day.Fidelity Charitable isn’t just failing to live up to its promises. It may be breaking Louisiana laws that bar misrepresentations in charitable solicitations. That’s why ADF attorneys worked with Dawn to file a consumer complaint with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.This problem isn’t confined to Louisiana, though. Over a dozen different donors in 12 different states have told ADF that Fidelity Charitable is engaging in similar behavior. And other states have begun taking action already. Earlier this summer, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody publicly demanded that Fidelity Charitable comply with a newly enacted state law prohibiting financial institutions from denying services based on religious beliefs.Fidelity Charitable operates in all 50 states, with more than 300,000 donors counting on the financial giant to keep its cause-neutrality promise. It’s time for Fidelity Charitable to reaffirm that commitment and publicly disavow efforts like those of “Unmasking Fidelity” to limit the giving choices of its own customers.

Jeremy Tedesco is senior counsel, senior vice president of corporate engagement for Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).

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