A Christian ministry claiming it was “debanked” by Bank of America filed a consumer complaint this week to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti to determine whether their accounts were closed due to religious discrimination.
Indigenous Advanced Ministries – a Memphis, Tennessee-based nonprofit engaged in charitable efforts for orphaned children in Uganda through various partnerships – was warned without explanation by Bank of America in April that the organization was “operating in a business type we have chosen not to service at Bank of America” and would be closed within 30 days.
In May, Bank of America sent another letter stating its “risk profile no longer aligns with the bank’s risk tolerance.”
The ministry – which believes in pro-life values and that marriage is between one man and one woman on its website – has reportedly maintained two accounts with the bank since 2015.
One of these accounts pertains to the ministry itself, while the second is associated with a Memphis-based church that provides support to the ministry’s initiatives as well as other overseas missions.
A third account was opened this year to facilitate operations for Indigenous Advance Customer Center, the ministry’s for-profit counterpart that involves sending notices “of overdue invoices on behalf of our clients,” according to its website.
Bank of America told Fox News Digital Friday the accounts were closed due to its “internal debt collection policy” that does not support that service. The bank declined to provide a copy of the policy to Fox News Digital.
“We are proud to provide banking services to non-profit organizations affiliated with diverse faith communities throughout the United States,” bank spokesman Bill Halldin said in a statement. “Religious beliefs are not a factor in any account-closing decision.”
He added: “Our U.S. division that serves small businesses doesn’t offer banking services to organizations that provide debt collection services for a variety of risk-related considerations and doesn’t serve small businesses operating outside the United States.”
Jeremy Tedesco, president of the nonprofit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom representing Indigenous Advanced Ministries, told Fox News Digital that his client made repeated inquiries to Bank of America for an explanation of its impending closure.
The ministry’s deposit account had $270,000 at the time before transitioning to another banking company, they said.
“What Bank of America is doing here quite obviously, is coming up with an after the fact explanation for cancellations they did four months ago,” Tedesco told Fox News Digital. “They would not talk to our client about the reasons why they closed the account.”
“This is what we see every time in these situations, the banks close an account, they say vague reasons, and it’s suspicious; it looks suspiciously like it’s political or religiously motivated,” he said.
The ministry’s consumer complaint alleges Bank of America may have violated consumer protection laws and its own internal “Code of Conduct.” This code includes “diversity and inclusion,” including religious diversity, and requires that decisions made about customer accounts reflect these values.
Indigenous Ministry founder Steve Happ wrote in the complaint he was left “very confused” as the ministry does not “donate to or otherwise advocate for any political causes, domestic or international.”
“I am concerned that Bank of America canceled our and our partners’ accounts because it disagrees with our religious views,” Happ wrote.
The sudden closure of the account left the ministry scrambling, the ministry said, and disrupted their planned Uganda mission trip in June and temporarily impacted salary payments there.
The move comes as “debanking” has become more prominent.
Nigel Farage, former leader of Brexit, had his account closed by Coutts, a private bank affiliated with British banking group NatWest, in July. Last year, JPMorgan Chase closed the bank account of the National Committee for Religious Freedom, a newly established nonprofit led by Sam Brownback, the former senator and U.S. ambassador.
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