15 State Officials Warn Bank of America About ‘De-banking’ of Christians

15 State Officials Warn Bank of America About ‘De-banking’ of Christians
A sign is posted in front of a Bank of American branch office in Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 15, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A group of 15 financial officials from 13 states sent a notice to Bank of America, raising concerns about the institution’s “de-banking” of Christians.

“We write to express our concerns over Bank of America’s troubling track record of politicized de-banking. Bank of America’s de-banking policies and practices threaten the company’s financial health, its reputation with customers, our nation’s economy, and the civil liberties of everyday Americans,” the officials wrote in an April 18 letter to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan.

“We are especially troubled by Bank of America’s track record of discriminating against religious ministries. Notable examples include Memphis-based charity Indigenous Advance Ministries, the Timothy Two Project, and Christian author and speaker Lance Wallnau.”

In April 2023, Bank of America shut down the account of Indigenous Advance Ministries, which partners with groups in the African nation of Uganda to provide care and education for orphaned and at-risk children. The bank closed accounts of a Memphis church which donated to the organization.

Bank of America provided “vague reasons” for the closure of these accounts, claiming the organization’s activities exceeded the institution’s “risk tolerance” and that it no longer wanted to serve its “business type.”

“Months later—after being confronted by an international media organization—the bank then claimed that it closed the accounts because the for-profit business engaged in ‘debt collection.’ Neither Indigenous Advance Ministries nor the church collect debts, nor was the bank able to point to any policy prohibiting account holders from engaging in such activities,” the letter said.

“In other words that rationale was a ruse, and even if legitimate, would only apply to one of the closed accounts.”

In 2020, the bank closed the account of Timothy Two Project International, which trains pastors in more than 65 nations. In a letter to the group, the bank claimed the closure was due to Timothy Two operating “a business type we have chosen not to service.”

The financial institution also froze the accounts of author Mr. Wallnau, alleging he was suspected of money laundering. However, the bank failed to provide any evidence supporting such accusations.

While the bank eventually unfroze the account, they required Mr. Wallnau to answer a series of invasive questions.

“This pattern of religious de-banking strongly suggests that systemic drivers of religious and political bias may be at work within Bank of America,” the letter said.

“One objective indicator of such a problem is the bank’s egregiously low score on the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, the premier benchmark for measuring corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom. Bank of America scored a meager 8 percent out of a possible 100 percent.”

The letter pointed out that Bank of America’s vague terms of service allow them to deny services for political or religious views. For instance, the company’s policy says it can refuse services to clients deemed to “promote intolerance … or hate.”

This policy can be weaponized by the bank against clients who express certain views, which are protected by the First Amendment, the officials wrote.

“Bank of America funds and partners with anti-free speech organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for American Progress while preventing employees from giving to faith-based groups in their employee gift match program.”

Bank of America, being the second largest bank in the nation and a recipient of a host of government subsidies, is obligated to ensure equal access to marketplace for all Americans and “not play politics,” officials wrote.

The letter was written by officials from Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah.

They demanded that the institution implement certain recommendations, including eliminating “existing viewpoint discriminatory terms” governing customers, updating its terms of service to include a commitment to not discriminate on the basis of religion or politics, and taking part in a survey to assess how the bank’s policies impact the civil liberties of its customers.

The Epoch Times reached out to the bank for comment.

De-banking of Conservatives

The issue of de-banking conservatives has been a hot topic in recent years. A November 2022 statement signed by 60 financial professionals alleged that banks like JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Capital One, and Morgan Stanley were engaged in political or religious discrimination.

“JP Morgan Chase refused to process payments for a GOP-aligned organization,” it said. In addition, the bank “shuttered the National Committee for Religious Freedom’s account without explanation, demanding that the nonprofit disclose its donors and provide a list of the political candidates it intends to support as a condition of resuming service.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley refused to do business with organizations that raised “significant human rights, environmental, health, and safety or social responsibility issues.”

Similarly, credit behemoth Visa mandated that merchants do not use its services in any manner deemed “hateful.”

“What these vague, unspecified terms mean in practice is subject to the arbitrary interpretation of each of your companies, or any one of thousands of employees charged with enforcing them,” the statement said.

“Policies like these place customers and clients at risk of being ‘debanked’ simply because a company employee disagrees with their point of view on any number of contentious social issues.”

Meanwhile, states are taking action to end financial discrimination against conservatives by the banking industry.

Iowa earlier this year introduced Senate Study Bill 3094, which bans financial institutions from discriminating against customers using a “social credit score.”

The bill defines “social credit score” as any evaluation of a person’s “speech, religious exercise, association, expression, or conduct protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

If a financial institution is found violating the law, the attorney general can bring a civil action against the institution. A court can order the institution to pay damages, restitution, or other compensation.

In February, State Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Tenn.) introduced a similar bill in Tennessee. “This legislation prohibits the 20 largest banks in our country from denying financial services to any Tennessean based on political speech, religious belief, or a social credit score,” he said at a state House Banking and Consumer Affairs Committee hearing.

From The Epoch Times

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