By Cassandra Laymon, CFP®, MBA
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:18
I know what you’re thinking. As a Christian, I would never invest in companies that produce pornography. I find this to be one of the most challenging areas of our “Knowing what you own” responsibility. The companies that often come to mind when you think of adult entertainment are not publicly traded, so you will not see those familiar magazine names on your monthly performance report. The companies that profit from this industry typically have a different primary business activity (hotels, cable/satellite TV operators). Due to this fact, you wouldn’t know your investment profits pornography and similar adult entertainment businesses.
One direct provider of this content is RCI Hospitality Holdings. They describe themselves as “The Leader in gentlemen’s clubs and sports bars/restaurants.” If you saw RCI Hospitality Holdings listed on your investment statement, would you guess adult entertainment is their main source of revenue?
In a recent interview with Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation of Virginia (a political action group with the mission to empower families in Virginia by applying a biblical worldview and founding principles to culture and public policy) I learned that in the United States, $10-12 billion dollars in revenue are generated from this line of business, and over $3,000/second is spent on pornography. Even more heartbreaking, it is estimated that 20% of all internet pornography involves the exploitation of children.
When I started learning about Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) it was a logical, almost black-and-white decision for me. I was a new Christian and wanted to honor the Lord. It made sense to me that investing in companies that go against biblical principles was NOT a way for me to demonstrate good stewardship with the blessings God has given me.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! ~ 1 Chronicles 29:14
Sexual immorality is a sin, so it seemed reasonable that I should not invest in that industry. Over time, as I have learned the back stories of these industries and how they profit from predatory and addictive behavior, I have become even more convicted and dedicated to helping Christians understand how they are unknowingly helping these industries to grow by investing in them.
Here are some things I learned from The Family Foundation and other online sources about the adult entertainment industry and its correlation with child pornography, divorce, and sex trafficking:
- Child porn is a $3 billion industry. (Top Ten Reviews)
- 624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S. (Innocent Justice)
- A study of over 5000 respondents found that when a person consumed pornography, the likelihood of divorce doubled among men and tripled among women. (Sciencemag.org)
- A study of Italian teens found that watching porn “was significantly correlated with committing acts of sexual violence and engaging in unwanted sex.” (Covenant Eyes)
- A study found that 58% of men who confessed to “buying sex” viewed pornography at least once a month. (Concerned Women for America)
- Pornography is the primary gateway for the purchase of humans (trafficking) for commercial sex. (Shared Hope International)
If you are new to BRI, you may not have made the connection between these industries and how you may be unknowingly profiting from them and helping them grow. When you invest in a company, either through buying the stock or a mutual fund that owns that stock, you become a small shareholder in that company. The reason you are putting your money into that company is because you want to see it grow and flourish. (You would not invest in a company in the hopes that they lose money.) As the company flourishes, they share the profits with you, the shareholder. Quite literally, you are giving your money to these companies, praying that they will be successful and grow over time, and that you will profit from that growth.
Many investors are primarily investing in mutual funds, which makes it even harder to know what you own. If you own index funds, you should know that approximately 12% of the money invested in the S&P 500 is invested in companies that support the pornography industry. One of the most popular funds available, The American Funds Growth Fund of America (AGTHX) invests 16% in pornography and adult entertainment.
Is the eradication of human trafficking a mission you are passionate about? If so, you may be inadvertently adding to the problem through your investment dollars.
I hope at this point you are starting to wonder what business practices you are personally profiting from. I encourage you to have a conversation with your financial advisor and discuss the types of business practices you are supporting. The best place to start is by screening your portfolio. If your advisor is unable to screen your portfolio, just go to the Beacon Wealth website. We are glad to provide a complimentary screening report for you. You and your advisor may use this report to identify the business practices which are generating your profits.
Financial Planning & Investment Advisory services offered through Beacon Wealth Consultants, Inc.