Indigenous Advance Ministries (IAM), a Christian nonprofit, has filed a consumer complaint against Bank of America after the bank canceled its accounts, with little explanation and minimal warning—the latest instance of a financial institution appearing to cut ties with organizations with conservative views or Christian beliefs.
The complaint, filed with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), asks Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to investigate whether Bank of America illegally discriminated against the charity because of its religious views.
The nonprofit, based in Memphis, Tennessee, was warned by the bank in April, through a series of letters, that it was “operating in a business type” the bank has chosen not to service, and its account would be closed within 30 days.
IAM, which partners with Ugandan ministries to provide basic necessities for orphaned and vulnerable children, has been in operation since 2015, and had held deposit and credit card accounts with Bank of America since that time.
The bank gave no specific reason for the closures in the initial letters, but later correspondence said Indigenous Advance “no longer aligns with the bank’s risk tolerance.” According to the complaint, the nonprofit does not advocate for any political causes and has maintained the same mission since it first opened its account with Bank of America. In addition to its work with children, IAM also works to help raise Christian families, and to provide vital vocational skills training and mentorship to college students and young adults.
No American should worry that a financial institution would deny them service based on their religious beliefs, said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel and senior vice president for corporate engagement for ADF. “But Bank of America appears to have done just that with Indigenous Advance. 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.”
In fact, as the complaint highlights, Bank of America may have violated consumer protection laws against unfair and deceptive practices as well as its own Code of Conduct, which specifies that it promotes “diversity and inclusion” with respect to religion, among other categories, and that every decision concerning customer accounts must reflect this inclusivity.
According to reports, this is not the first time the bank has taken questionable action against Christian organizations. Indigenous Advance received notice of its account cancellations within months of another Bank of America customer—Christian author, preacher, and podcaster Lance Wallnau—reporting that his account had been frozen. Bank of America told Wallnau that it suspected his account was involved in money laundering and forced him to answer a series of invasive questions to lift the freeze on his account, ADF said in a story on its website.
Nor is it the only major financial institution allegedly engaging in this type of behavior. ADF and Liberty Counsel, as well as The Washington Times, has reported on similar incidents. In the past two years alone, JPMorgan Chase has denied payments or cancelled accounts associated with people and organizations who hold conservative values, such as former U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback, the Arkansas Family Council and Defense of Liberty.
PayPal and its subsidiary Venmo have also been scrutinized for canceling accounts. In 2022, the payment processing company, without explanation, disabled the account of a group called the Free Speech Union. And Fox Business reported that Gays Against Groomers, an organization opposing the growing movement sexualizing children, had its accounts shut down.
“State and federal governments grant banks and other financial institutions wide-reaching benefits to ensure everyone has access to essential financial services, not to play politics,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “Bank of America should respect everyone’s freedom to participate in the marketplace without fear of political or anti-religious bias.”
In a statement shared with Christian Post, a spokesperson for Bank of America said, “religious beliefs are not a factor in any account-closing decision,” but rather it was debt collection services provided by Indigenous Advance’s customer center that led to the account closures. It’s unclear whether the state will open an investigation.
Cancel culture isn’t just spreading among private employers, First Liberty said. It has also perverted many governmental institutions, including the Internal Revenue Service, which denied tax-exempt status for Christians Engaged, a nonprofit that encourages praying for our nation and elected officials. The IRS claimed in a 2021 letter that “Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican party and candidates” and thus are considered partisan. First Liberty appealed to the IRS on behalf of the organization, and the IRS reversed course and granted the tax-exempt status.
“We cannot ignore the dangers of the anti-religious hostility and cancel culture that pervade in corporate America,” First Liberty said. “The consequences of this toxic ideology are severe. Anyone who doesn’t conform will be punished and ostracized, putting their careers, businesses and families at risk. It threatens to destroy the lives of Americans who dare to live according to their faith—by denying them something as basic and essential as a bank account.”
Earlier this year, Franklin Graham warned of a “coming storm” of demonic criticism that could cancel cloud data storage and bank accounts. He noted during a keynote speech at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention that Samaritan’s Purse had to find new banking partners when the North Carolina-based bank it had used for years canceled accounts for the Family Research Council.
The bank’s president reversed the cancellation, blaming “junior staffers” for the move, Franklin said.
“I believe there’s a coming storm that we need to be ready for,” he said. “ … Now, if you don’t preach the Gospel, you don’t have anything to worry about. If you’re not going to talk about sin, you don’t have anything to worry about. But if you’re going to try to preach and proclaim the Gospel, they’re going to try to shut you up.”
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