Wednesday 28 February 2024

Religious Liberty Advocates Warn Tennessee Lawmakers About Dangers Of Politically Motivated ‘De-Banking’

  Tennessee lawmakers heard on Tuesday the accounts of religious groups that had lost access to their bank accounts for what they suspect to be ideological reasons.

One group, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, had only had a bank account open with JPMorgan Chase for several weeks before the organization’s head and former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback attempted to make a deposit only to be told the account no longer existed. The group, which was created to promote religious liberty in the United States, was informed that they had not returned paperwork before a 60 day deadline even though the account was terminated after around three weeks, according to senior advisor Matt Goddard.

Goddard said that they attempted multiple times to understand why their account had been discontinued only to be given multiple confusing explanations. They soon became suspicious that they had been victims of de-banking, a term used to describe people losing access to financial services for ideological reasons.

The National Committee for Religious Freedom was one of the groups warning about de-banking during testimony on Tuesday in support of a proposed Tennessee bill that would prevent banks from discriminating against people based on their political or religious views. The group testified in front of the Tennessee House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Banking and Consumer Affairs at the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville.

“We were founded in 2022 by Sam Brownback, a former governor, U.S. senator, and U.S. ambassador,” Goddard said at a press conference after the hearing. “The reason I share that with you is that if he can be de-banked by Chase Bank, anybody can be de-banked by Chase Bank.”

The proposed bill, HB2100, would block financial institutions and insurance companies from denying or canceling services to people based on a person’s speech, opinions, and affiliations, as well as a person’s religious beliefs, exercises, and affiliations. The bill would create an amendment to Tennessee’s consumer protection laws and would not impact quantitative factors banks already take into account.

Concerns over de-banking have emerged in recent years after the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau froze the bank accounts of truckers protesting his strident vaccine mandate and revelations that banks were asked to flag transactions of Trump supporters and people shopping at outdoor stores, such as Bass Pro Shop.

Also highlighted in the hearing was the case of the Memphis-based Indigenous Advance Ministries, a Christian nonprofit that helps the impoverished in Uganda. The organization filed a consumer complaint after its account was closed by Bank of America. Emails from Bank of America revealed that it closed the account because it “no longer aligns with the bank’s risk tolerance,” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom. The sudden closure of Indigenous Advance’s account came after it had been a customer for roughly eight years with Bank of America and the move greatly impacted its mission, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom.


The Tennessee bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) in the House and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), would also prohibit banks from keeping a social credit score that factors in things like owning a gun, working in the firearm industry, working in the oil or timber industry, or a person’s support for immigration laws being enforced.

“The legislation that we presented today is about protecting Tennesseans,” Zachary said. “It’s a consumer protection act to ensure that Tennesseans are not de-banked for non-financial reasons.”

Zachary told The Daily Wire that the insurance component of the legislation was “proactive” and intended to prevent discrimination based on political speech or religious belief.

The bill was opposed by the Tennessee Bankers Association, which said that it is addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. Representatives from the association also said that federal discrimination law would protect consumers already.

The House committee ran out of time to vote on advancing the bill and is expected to vote next week about moving it past committee.

Similar measures to protect consumers from financial discrimination have been proposed this year in Florida and Iowa.

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