Big banks' censorship campaign in Capitol Hill spotlight

Big banks' censorship campaign in Capitol Hill spotlight

Big banks' censorship campaign in Capitol Hill spotlight

A House subcommittee heard today from an attorney who contends that some of the largest banks in the U.S. are shutting down accounts because of a group or individual's religious stance.

In April 2022, the National Committee for Religious Freedom (NCRF) opened a bank account with JPMorgan Chase. A few weeks later, the bank shut down the account without notifying NCRF. After a few back and forths with no explanation given, JPMorgan Chase said it might be able to reopen the account if the nonprofit gave up its donor list and divulged guidelines they use when choosing a political candidate to support.

During a recent interview with the media, Attorney Jeremy Tedesco with Alliance Defending Freedom explained he would be telling the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government today that the NCRF situation is just one recent example of a weaponized banking system – specifically, an example of "de-banking," a term used to describe people losing access to financial services for ideological reasons.

"We're seeing a distinct rise in viewpoint-based debanking decisions, especially by some of the largest banks in the country," Tedesco shared.

Tedesco, Jeremy (ADF) Tedesco

The attorney explained that banks and payment processors like PayPal or Venmo are technically private companies and can choose to do business with whomever they wish. But, he added, they are inextricably tied to the federal government.

"The federal government has overwhelming and pervasive regulatory authority over banks," he said. "And historically – and in very recent history – [the government] has used reputational risk policies as a tool to exclude people from the marketplace because of their views."

He continued, explaining that banks are using what they call "reputational risk" to target conservatives – telling them essentially that "doing business with you hurts our reputation to the public."

Tedesco planned to encourage Congress to learn a lesson from the censorship efforts of social media and put a stop to the religious discrimination.

"It's bad enough when somebody loses their Twitter account or their Facebook account," the attorney acknowledged. "[But] when people lose their bank accounts because of their religious and political expression, it's going to chill speech, I think, even more than what's happening on social media."

NCRF was founded in 2022 by Sam Brownback – a former governor, U.S. senator, and U.S. ambassador. The group's senior advisor Matt Goddard stated recently that if someone like Brownback "can be de-banked by Chase Bank, anybody can be de-banked by Chase Bank."

ADF points out that Bank of America has engaged in similar behavior, cancelling the account of a Christian nonprofit that helps impoverished widows and children in Uganda. According to ADF, many other groups and individuals have been victims of viewpoint-based de-banking.