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Christian mission serving Uganda says Bank of America closed its accounts as debanking spreads

Chase, Bank of America and PayPal have all been accused of severing ties with organizations blacklisted by the D.C. power elite. The banking giants say they have reputations to protect and Bank of America told the Christian group that all of its accounts would be closed because its "risk profile no longer aligns with the bank's risk tolerance."

August 25, 2023 11:39pm

Updated: August 25, 2023 11:39pm

A Christian missionary organization serving impoverished Ugandans filed a consumer complaint against Bank of America after the institution closed accounts associated with the ministry as the financial sector continues to stop serving clients it deems too risky, ranging from those promoting conservative values to those in the pornography industry.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, filed the complaint Tuesday to the Tennessee Attorney General representing Indigenous Advance Ministries (IAM). The ADF says that "The complaint asks Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to investigate whether the bank illegally discriminated against the charity [IAM] because of its religious views."

The IAM works to provide basic necessities to people in Uganda and works "with indigenous Christian ministries to change the trajectory of people’s lives through Christian discipleship and education." The organization's website professes pro-life beliefs, traditional gender ideology and that all sexual relations are only meant to take place between a married man and woman.

The Tennessee Human Rights Commission says that under state law, "It is illegal for a place of public accommodations to refuse or deny the full and equal enjoyment of goods, facilities and accommodations based on Age (40+), Color, Creed, National Origin, Race, Religion and Sex." The law also applies to any business, like banks, whose services are "made available to the public."

Bank of America told IAM leadership in May that all of its bank accounts would be closed because its "risk profile no longer aligns with the bank's risk tolerance," the ADF said in the complaint, which also states that IAM held bank accounts and credit cards with Bank of America from the charity's founding in 2015 through April 2023, when the group received a series of letters stating that its accounts would be closed within 30 days.

"Real people in Uganda rely on us, and they matter," Indigenous Advance Ministries Founder Steve Happ said. "No bank should hinder efforts to help widows, orphans, and the impoverished."

Jeremy Tedesco, ADF's senior counsel and senior vice president for corporate engagement, said: "Canceling their account hurts those in need. It also sends a disturbing message to everyone—you can have your beliefs or your bank account, but you can’t have both."

For several years, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and PayPal have all been accused of shutting down or severely restricting the accounts of those they – or the political entities with which they are aligned – view as objectionable. 

Chase closed the accounts of former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in 2021 and the conservative groups Arkansas Family Council, The National Committee for Religious Freedom, and others. Chase apologized to Flynn a few weeks later and rescinded the closures, but at this time, the faith-based groups are still blackballed by Chase. 

PayPal in 2022 disabled the account of the Free Speech Union, a U.K.-based advocacy group that protects the right of contrarian views to appear in public debate. The e-commerce giant reversed course two weeks later after pressure from British MP's and reinstated the FSU's account.

The weaponization of the banking industry has cast its net beyond Christians and those who might question the ever-changing but somehow "settled" science of climate change. In 2022, the adult video industry and its entertainers said Wells Fargo closed their accounts, claiming that it was part of an attempt to "manage risks in its banking operations."

After the Biden administration suspended implementation of a banking rule that would have ensured fair banking access for everyone, critics accused the White House of restarting "Operation Choke Point," the Obama-era initiative that investigated the business that banks had with legal entities that the administration disfavored, such as firearms dealers and adult entertainers.

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