Complaint Filed Against Bank of America for Terminating Religious Group’s Account

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Bank of America has come under scrutiny after abruptly terminating the account of Indigenous Advance Ministries (IAM). In a recent move, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a renowned non-profit legal organization, sent a consumer complaint to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti on IAM’s behalf.

Since 2015, IAM has been partnering with Ugandan ministries to offer support to orphaned and vulnerable children. Their work ranges from providing essentials and fostering Christian families to offering vocational training and mentorship to college students and young adults.

IAM’s mission statement is “to advance local ministries that have a passion to make disciples for Jesus Christ.”

Until April 2023, the organization held both deposit and credit card accounts with Bank of America.

However, in April, IAM was unexpectedly notified by the bank about their intention to restrict and subsequently close their deposit account.

The bank’s justification was that IAM operates in a business type they have chosen not to service, later adding that the organization “no longer aligns with the bank’s risk tolerance.” The vague explanations left more questions than answers.

Along with canceling Indigenous Advance’s account, Bank of America sent identical notices of cancellation to Servants of Christ and to a separate for-profit business called Indigenous Advance Customer Center.

The abrupt decision by the bank presented significant challenges for IAM. These encompassed various operational aspects, including payroll, accounting, and other vital business activities.

A notable impact was the disruption of a mission trip to Uganda and the subsequent delay in salary payments to Ugandan employees.

ADF’s complaint points out potential discrimination, suggesting that IAM’s religious beliefs could have influenced the account termination.

If proven accurate, this could bring up serious concerns about possible violations of consumer protection laws or other relevant regulations. The complaint also highlights Bank of America’s own Code of Conduct, which explicitly mentions its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion across various sectors, including religion.

“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco.

Steve Happ, Founder of IAM, expressed his concern for the people they serve in Uganda. He shared the implications this delay had on the ground, “We have five employees in Uganda, and they had to wait an extra week for a paycheck. In Uganda, that can mean a week without eating a full meal.”

It’s noteworthy to mention that the Alliance Defending Freedom is a leading legal entity that focuses on safeguarding religious freedom, free speech, and various other rights.

Through its international arm, Alliance Defending Freedom International, it offers global legal representation, teaming up with lawyers worldwide to address core issues and aim for groundbreaking legal achievements.

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