Let’s go back to ten years ago. It’s Friday afternoon, you’re a youth leader, and you run by the store to grab a few items for the minute-to-win-it games for this evening’s youth event. You purchase everything and have a fantastic event.
Or maybe you’re a rescue mission that’s running low on Bibles. You go online, order the Bibles, and they arrive on time.
Did you ever worry your payment wouldn’t go through because the payment processor doesn’t like what you are using your money for? Most likely not—and that’s how it should be.
However, that might not be the case today. There’s a rise in churches and ministries that are having their bank accounts closed without notice.
So what’s happening?
Indigenous Advance Ministries partners with Ugandan ministries to provide basic necessities for orphaned and vulnerable children, help Christians raise their families, and provide vital vocational skills training and mentorship to college students and young adults.
The ministry set up deposit and credit card accounts with Bank of America in 2015. The bank had no problem with the ministry for years. That is, until April 2023.
Indigenous Advance Ministries received unexpected emails letters informing them that all their accounts would be closed within 30 days. The bank no longer wanted to partner with the ministry. And they did not explain the reason behind the cancellation. The only information Bank of America said in their letter was, “upon review of your account(s), we have determined you’re operating 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.
When banks close your account, it creates a stressful ripple effect impacting the church, its employees, and its ability to serve the community. For Indigenous Advance Ministries, it forced the ministry to divert its attention and resources away from meeting tangible needs—including those of several Ugandan employees—while leaders scrambled to find a new bank. Bank of America’s action came just before an extended trip to Uganda by Memphis-based Indigenous Advance leadership.
Sam Brownback is the chairman of the National Committee for Religious Freedom (NCRF), a nonprofit advocacy group existing to defend the right of everyone in America to live out their faith freely. He is also a former senator, Kansas governor, and U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom.
In the spring of 2022, the organization opened a JPMorgan Chase checking account. A few weeks after the account was opened, the bank suddenly shut it down. And it didn’t tell NCRF about the account closure.
When questioned, Chase employees could not disclose the reason why NCRF’s account was closed. Eventually, a representative at Chase’s corporate office told NCRF that the bank might reinstate the account if NCRF took three actions:
Of course, NCRF declined, in order to respect the privacy of its donors.
NCRF wrote to Chase’s CEO and shared his story in the Washington Examiner. Pressure increased for Chase to release a statement about the cancellation—however, Chase changed its story several times. At first, Chase denied it requested invasive questions. Then it changed its tone, saying it had to ask these questions to comply with federal banking guidelines on money laundering and funding terrorism. Chase then said that Brownback’s former history made him a “Politically Exposed Person.” And at its annual shareholder meeting, Chase CEO Jamie Dimon pivoted back to the earlier explanation that NCRF didn’t fill out the required paperwork.
No matter how many times Chase changes its story, the cancellation was politicized, and Chase should be held accountable for its wrongful actions.
The practice of banks and other corporations canceling individuals and organizations due to their beliefs seems to be gaining steam. In early March of 2023, Christian podcaster, author, and preacher Lance Wallnau shared that Bank of America closed his ministry’s account. He expressed on his Instagram page that large banks are investigating Christian ministries as if they are participating in alleged “money laundering schemes” yet ignoring the larger issues America is facing.
Famous motivational speaker and evangelist Nick Vujicic also told how he had his bank account closed without warning. He is now creating his own bank called ProLifeBank.
In 2021, Family Council had its credit card processor account closed. JPMorgan Chase owns the card processor. They were told that the bank could no longer support their business, and a minute later, their account was frozen, and they couldn’t accept donations online.
Family Council used the card processor for two years. Eventually, the ministry discovered the card processor company considered them “high risk.”
Banks canceling accounts based on political and religious differences didn’t happen overnight. A movement in corporate America started years ago and resulted into what we’re seeing today.
About 20 years ago, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan promoted a set of criteria to investors called ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). It allows investors to measure companies’ supposed “risks” and “long-term sustainability.” Today, over $37 trillion in assets under management, over 1/3 of all global assets, are managed under ESG criteria. Investment groups like BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, own sizeable stakes in many of America’s largest companies and are pushing them to adopt ESG criteria. ESG purports to promote a “force for good on a truly massive scale.” But what does it mean by “good”?
Let’s break down the acronym:
E: Companies must go green to rank high in the environmental category. Companies will create and advocate for internal and external policies involving wind, solar, and other non-fossil fuel types of energy to combat some of the more fatalistic claims about climate change.
S: Companies must appear more socially conscious. This often includes promoting Critical Race Theory among employees, touting radical gender ideology, and implementing pro-abortion policies.
G: Companies must display a progressive, politically correct type of “diversity” among their corporate leaders. Governance policies must emphasize a far-left conception of “fairness” relating to company shareholder rights and the compensation of CEOs and top executives.
ESG criteria force large corporations to please the shareholders rather than provide quality products and services for customers and communities.
However, it continues beyond ESG criteria. When companies embrace ESG, they are often encouraged to prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). DEI is often presented as promoting universally agreed-upon goals; however, it’s really about advancing a politically charged agenda. DEI takes its cues from ideologies like Critical Race Theory, which teaches that society can be divided into oppressors and the oppressed—fixed categories determined by skin color, income level, sexual orientation, and religious views.
One recent example of DEI gone awry involves American Express. The credit card company is being sued for allegedly discriminating against some of its white employees after implementing “anti-racism” initiatives throughout its corporate structure. Some of the allegations include promotions based on race and creating a work culture fixated on “woke” pursuits in the workplace that have subsequently created animosity between colleagues.
What all of this boils down to is an attempt to solve discrimination by using discrimination—a reality made plain by advocates like Ibram X Kendi. This has led to equal opportunities for some to be stripped away in the name of “diversity.” Instead of hiring a job applicant based on his or her qualifications and content of character, potential employers hire based on skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or even religious views. DEI policies often exacerbate the alleged problems they were meant to help solve, with new resentments and distrust among colleagues.
Yes, there is! Alliance Defending Freedom is working to turn the tide through multiple ways. One way was creating the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index. The Index is the first comprehensive benchmark that measures corporate respect for free speech and religious freedom at companies in critical industries like finance and technology. The 2023 edition of the Index measured 75 companies; eight companies have increased their scores since last year. We are working to encourage more corporations to follow suit each year.
ADF is not stopping there. We’re advocating for the rights of churches and ministries by representing you in court, collecting and sharing stories, and creating resources about this subject. We’re here to protect your right to freely operate according to your faith.
Here at ADF, protecting freedom of religion is a top priority. That’s why we have a ministry specific to legally equipping churches and ministries. The ADF Church and Ministry Alliance is an affordable membership where churches and ministries have access to legal resources, sample documents, attorneys, document review, and more. Churches can click here to learn more and ministries can click here to learn more.
When’s the last time you saw an ideologically diverse group of people come together over a common cause? If you’re racking your brain trying to think of...Continue reading