Thrivent Financial, an organization founded by Lutherans, represents over 2 million members. As a membership-based Christian organization, it advises on insurance and finance in addition to investment opportunities. Thrivent Financial investments include weapon manufacturers BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, and BlackRock-the largest investor in nuclear weapons in the world. We urge Thrivent Financial to follow its Christian-values by working towards peace and divesting from weapons of war.
TO: Thrivent Financial, CEO Teresa J. Rasmussen
We are writing to you today on behalf of CODEPINK and concerned community members from Minnesota. As a grassroots peace and social justice movement that opposes militarism, we seek positive social change through proactive, creative protest and non-violent direct action. We are part of a CODEPINK national campaign that includes more than 70 local, state, and national organizations that are calling for divestment from weapons of war.
We are reaching out to you as a shareholder of BlackRock, an asset manager which invests billions of dollars in the world's largest weapons' manufacturers, and because of your own investments in weapons’ manufacturers. The military-industrial complex dominates U.S. spending and spreads death and destruction at home and abroad. When you advise your clients to invest in weapons of war, it means that you are advising them to make a killing on killing.
As a Christian investment firm, you have the opportunity to provide leadership and promote peace. In 1995, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a social statement on peace, which states:
We also affirm that governments should vigorously pursue less coercive measures over more coercive ones: consent over compulsion, nonviolence over violence, diplomacy over military engagement, and deterrence over war.
Unfortunately, the goal of peace in our world is undermined by the financial bottom line of weapons’ industry profits. The military-industrial complex relies upon its integration in the financial system to promote its bottom line over the necessity of peace.
As you know, BlackRock is the world’s largest investment firm. Last year, CEO Larry Fink stated that he would hold companies accountable for being responsible corporate citizens. However, BlackRock maintains significant stakes in weapons’ companies around the world. The products made by weapons’ manufacturers are only meant to kill and destroy. They do not promote life and peace, which is why we are calling on BlackRock to divest its assets from weapons and war. We are asking you to join us, by divesting your assets from Blackrock as well.
In 2016, the U.S. dedicated $700 billion of our tax dollars to the Pentagon, which amounts to 64% of federal discretionary spending- half of which goes directly to weapons’ manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. This money is being used to engage the U.S. in seven active conflicts around the world, give military support to the disastrous Saudi-led war on Yemen, and to support the Israeli suppression of Palestinian human rights. The sale of U.S. weapons to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia is a shining example of how the products made by these companies are not responsible or beneficial to the global community. The relentless bombing campaigns waged on citizens as a result simply create more hatred towards the United States, thereby endangering our national security and keeping us in a state of endless war.
The profits from these companies are made on the backs of civilians in poor countries such as Yemen, who are paying the ultimate price of war. They are also harming U.S. civilians by taking money that could be used for healthcare, education, infrastructure and other much-needed activities here at home.
In addition to contributing to the atrocities of war, all five of these companies have documented cases of misconduct and the misuse of federal dollars. Since 1995, Lockheed Martin has 85 instances of misconduct and $767.3 million in penalties; Boeing has 68 instances of misconduct and $1.5 billion in penalties; General Dynamics has 22 instances of misconduct and $280.3 million in penalties; Raytheon has 27 instances of misconduct and $489.9 million in penalties; and Northrop Grumman has 44 instances of misconduct and $888 million in penalties.
The misconduct by weapons’ companies ranges from groundwater contamination to labor violations, and includes over-inflated pricing and overbilling the federal government. On top of making products which spread death and destruction around the world, these companies are flagrantly engaging in bad business practices while misusing limited federal resources.
Investing in weapons’ manufacturers undermines peace and diplomacy, and instead prioritizes making a killing on killing. We strongly urge you to reconsider your investments in war and in BlackRock.
Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.
- Winona LaDuke, Executive Director, Honor the Earth
- Jodie Evans, CODEPINK cofounder
- Lutheran Pastor Morris Wee, Retired
- Lutheran Deacon Annika Spalde, Sweden
- Nina Utne, Writer, Activist, and Community-Builder
- Marian Moore, Producer, Facilitator, Activist
- John Gehan, Activist, Minneapolis-St. Paul