TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two major banks withdrew support for a Florida scholarship program this week after deciding that the policies of some participating Christian schools were not sufficiently “inclusive” of LGBT students.
On Jan. 23, the Orlando Sentinel published an investigative report claiming that 156 Christian schools with “anti-LGBT” policies benefited from a state scholarship program “Step Up for Students.”
The policies that the Sentinel drew attention to reportedly ranged from “schools that refuse to admit LGBTQ students” to a claim that a student was expelled when the school learned of their identification with their same-sex attraction. Seventy-three of the schools, the Sentinel reported, “call being gay or transgender a biblical sin.”
A subsequent Jan. 28 editorial by the Sentinel’s editorial board named several corporations that made tax-credited contributions to the scholarship fund. The board said that by doing so, the corporations were “approving or accepting of private-school discrimination.”
The companies included Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, Geico, Waste Management, and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.
A Florida state representative who identifies as LGBTQ, Carlos G. Smith, tweeted the Sentinel editorial to Fifth Third Bank on Tuesday morning, saying that “Marching in @OrlandoPride while also funding anti-LGBTQ schools is NOT okay!”
Fifth Third said they would be withdrawing from the scholarship program.
“We have communicated with program officials that we will not be contributing again,” the bank said, “until more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students.”
On Wednesday, the bank Wells Fargo also pulled its support for the scholarship program in a statement given to NBCNews.com.
"We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students," Wells Fargo stated. "All of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind."
The Sentinel reported that one Catholic school which participated in the program, Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach, received more than $1 million in state scholarships last year and “promised no discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
“The school is part of the Diocese of Orlando, which said the 43 Catholic schools under its auspices all follow the same policy,” the Sentinel reported.
However, the Sentinel reported that “many Catholic schools, including most of those in the Orlando diocese, offered no public guidance on their attitude toward gay or transgender students.”
One Catholic school, Donahue Academy—founded in 2007 as a preparatory school for Ave Maria University—was named by the Sentinel in the report as one of the schools with purportedly “anti-LGBT” policies.
The school’s handbook, which all families must sign, states that “All members of this Catholic school community are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious.”
“Because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is inherently disordered and that sexual activity is only appropriate for the purposes of love and life within a marriage considered valid by the Church, those students experiencing this disordered inclination may not advocate for it or express it in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events,” the handbook states.
“The Church encourages individuals experiencing same-sex attraction to pursue the virtues of chastity, self-mastery, and friendship instead of acting upon those inclinations romantically or sexually.”
A bill, HB 45, has been proposed in the Florida state house to forbid private schools that participate in state scholarship programs from basing enrollment upon a range of classes including a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill is opposed by the Florida Catholic Conference.