Major bank’s ‘debanking’ scheme sparks investigation request

By Bob Unruh

(Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay)
(Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay)

The attorney general in the state of Tennessee is being asked to investigate the suspicious “debanking” scheme that the Bank of America has been using against charities, specifically the charity called Indigenous Advance Ministries that works to provide orphaned and vulnerable Ugandan children with basic necessities.

It is the ADF that has filed a complaint with Tennessee AG Jonathan Skrmetti seeking the investigation into whether the bank illegally discriminated against the charity over its religious views.

The banking corporation had, months ago, canceled the bank accounts for IAM.

“No American should have to worry that a financial institution will deny them service based on their religious beliefs, but Bank of America appears to have done just that with Indigenous Advance,” explained ADF lawyer Jeremy Tedesco. “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.”

The organization reported IAM has been operating since 2015, and it works with ministries inside Uganda to help Christian families and provide vocational skills training and mentorship to college students.

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It had accounts with Bank of America from its founding through April 2023, when it received a series of letters informing it that the bank was closing its accounts within 30 days.

The ADF explained, “The initial letters gave no specific reason for the closures, only stating that ‘upon review of your account(s), we have determined you’re operating in a business type we have chosen not to service at Bank of America.’ A later letter said, without explanation, that Indigenous Advance ‘no longer aligns with the bank’s risk tolerance.’ 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.”

 

Interestingly, the ADF pointed out, the corporation may have violated its own “Code of Conduct” with its actions, in addition to consumer protect laws.

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The ADF reported only months earlier, Bank of America froze the accounts of Christian author and preacher Lance Wallnau, wildly claiming that his account looked like it was involved in “money laundering.”

And, the ADF reported, JPMorgan Chase has been caught denying payments or canceling accounts linked to “people and organizations” with mainstream American values such as “former Ambassador Sam Brownback, the Arkansas Family Council, Defense of Liberty, and former general Michael Flynn, Jr.”

PayPal also has been known to be active on this agenda, disabling in 2022 the account of a group called the Free Speech Union.

ADF lawyer Michael Ross added, “Bank of America should respect everyone’s freedom to participate in the marketplace without fear of political or anti-religious bias.”

IAM spokesman Steve Happ explained, “We have five employees in Uganda, and they had to wait an extra week for a paycheck. That may not sound like much in the West, but in Uganda, that can mean a week without eating a full meal. At the end of the day, our purpose is to serve people in need in Uganda. No bank should hinder efforts to help widows, orphans, and the impoverished.”

A report at the Daily Mail noted that IAM promotes pro-life and traditional marriage values on its website.

Bank officials told the publication the closure of the accounts was not related to “religious beliefs.”

The Mail report said the banking operation claimed IAM’s “debt collection services” violate its policies but the report said the company was “unable” to cite its own policy on that issue.

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