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The Feds Gave Banks Tools To Shut Down Your Accounts
If You Buy Guns Or Bibles
Joy Pullmann

Federal agencies gave banks automated censorship tools to flag as possible domestic terrorists any Americans who buy Bibles or support the enforcement of immigration law, says testimony today before a House committee.

“Federal agencies are funding tools for the financial sector similar to those social media is using to target misinformation and hate speech,” says written testimony from Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at the nonprofit First Amendment law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Federal regulators are successfully pressuring financial institutions to discriminate against customers based on their religious and political beliefs. If the federal government discriminated directly, it would be unconstitutional, notes Tedesco in testimony this afternoon to the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. On March 6, 16 state attorneys general called on Wells Fargo to stop “using debanking as a political tool to extend the policies of the Biden Administration throughout the economy.”

“Wells Fargo has institutionalized discrimination by imposing race and sex-based quotas into credit agreements with customers like BlackRock,” says a letter from the attorneys general. The bank is among others working to end customers’ use of low-cost energy sources and increase their grocery bills to meet Democrats’ economic central-planning goals, the letter says.

In short, the same sorts of government pressure erecting an Iron Curtain around the Internet are already constructing a financial social credit system like Communist China’s inside the United States. Tedesco notes the FBI gave financial institutions a document that reportedly said “indicators of domestic violent extremism” banks should monitor in customer purchases include objections to “firearm legislation,” “the easing of immigration restrictions,” and Covid-19 lockdowns.

Earlier hearings found Treasury Department officials told financial institutions that buying religious texts like a Bible, supporting former President Donald Trump, or shopping at sporting goods stores flags law-abiding Americans as potential domestic terrorists.

Also, “major banks have attended CISA Cybersecurity Advisory Committee meetings concerning misinformation and disinformation. For example, JPMorgan Chase attended one such meeting on March 21, 2022, 86 CISA considers ‘financial services’ to be ‘critical infrastructure’ that is put at risk by ‘the spread of false and misleading information,'” Tedesco’s testimony says.

CISA is the Department of Homeland Security agency that designated Americans’ “thoughts, ideas, and beliefs” as “critical infrastructure” to justify censoring tens of millions of Americans’ online speech about elections. It defines “malinformation” as true information that federal employees think should be accompanied by government talking points.

In the 2020 election cycle, CISA served as a “switchboard” that pressured social media companies into shutting up Americans who said things Democrats don’t like. That behavior is the subject of a major constitutional lawsuit, Murthy v. Missouri, now before the Supreme Court.

The unconstitutional social media censorship apparatus, Tedesco’s testimony shows, is being applied now to financial transactions. Indeed, CISA has stated it’s pursuing a “whole-of-government approach” to its communist social credit efforts. Canceling Americans’ bank accounts or seizing them like Canada did to donors to its trucker protest in 2022 is an even bigger threat to American liberties than canceling or secretly muting Facebook and X accounts, Tedesco noted.

“We don’t know the extent that AI is being used right now to make these decisions, but we know Congress is funding projects… supplying these AI tools to banks,” Tedesco told The Federalist during a Wednesday press conference. “The same problem we have of censorship at scale in the social media context, we have it in the financial context.”

Tedesco’s testimony gives many examples of banks pulling accounts from Christian charities with essentially zero explanation. Last April, Bank of America canceled the account of Indigenous Advance Ministries, a Tennessee-based charity that cares for orphans, prisoners, and sex trafficking victims in Uganda. It also canceled the account of an organization that donated to IAM.

“Indigenous Advance Ministries … had to tell its nine Ugandan employees to wait an extra week to receive a paycheck they depend on for survival,” Tedesco’s testimony says. “Like many of their countrymen, these Ugandans don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but meal to meal. Waiting an extra week for a paycheck in Uganda isn’t just inconvenient, it can be the difference between eating and going hungry.”

The bank would only explain by saying the charity is “operating in a business type we have chosen not to service at Bank of America.” Chase similarly debanked a charity founded by former U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, in 2022. A Chase representative told the charity “the bank might reinstate the account if NCRF disclosed a list of donors who contributed 10 percent or more of its operating budget and divulged the criteria it uses to decide whom to support politically,” Tedesco says.

Thirteen ADF donors reported that their banks and the nation’s largest grantmaker from donor-advised funds, Fidelity Charitable, banned or delayed donations to ADF since 2019, Tedesco says. Because the leftist pressure group Southern Poverty Law Center designates Christian charities, including ADF, as “hate groups,” Impact Assets, Fidelity Charitable, the Chicago Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis wouldn’t let Americans send their own money to ADF. 

ADF has won 15 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in the last 30 years, while the Southern Poverty Law Center is an actual hate group and financial scam machine continually expressing bigoted animus and relentless persecution against Christians. Its “hate group” designation inspired a gunman to open fire on the Family Research Council’s offices in 2012.

Treasury officials also sent banks reports from the Anti-Defamation League and Institute for Strategic Dialogue slandering Christian charities as “hate groups” and symbols like the Celtic cross as a “hate symbol,” says a weaponization committee report published Wednesday.

ADF’s 2023 Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index found more than half of large financial companies’ policies allow them to deny service based on customers’ religious or political beliefs. These are typically called “reputational risk” policies and often incorporate “hate speech” provisions that Soviet Communists added to international treaties after World War II. Banks’ “reputational risk” policies also act as a pretext to punish any clients who have been defamed by a media smear operation, even if the smears are fabricated.

“There is a real risk that these kinds of policies can be weaponized by third-party activists,” Tedesco told The Federalist Wednesday. “We’ve seen this a lot in the payment processing space where third-party activists will spin up some campaign to pressure some payment processor to deny service because they don’t like what (others) have to say.” Reputational risk “is an invitation to allow activists to determine how [banks] enforce their own policies.” 

JPMorgan Chase debanked the Arkansas Family Council over its conservative views, a conservative organization for hosting Donald Trump Jr. and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Wells Fargo wouldn’t process payments to The Ruth Institute, a Christian charity, falsely alleging it is “affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse.” PayPal is notorious for refusing to provide service to Christians and conservatives.

“We have a chance to get ahead of this, unlike…with social media,” Tedesco said in the press conference. Opposition to discrimination in banking is bipartisan, and the social credit scoring tools are in their early stages of being deployed in financial data.




Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist, a happy wife, and the mother of six children. Her ebooks include "Classic Books For Young Children," and "101 Strategies For Living Well Amid Inflation." An 18-year education and politics reporter, Joy has testified before nearly two dozen legislatures on education policy and appeared on major media from Fox News to Ben Shapiro to Dennis Prager. Joy is a grateful graduate of the Hillsdale College honors and journalism programs who identifies as native American and gender natural. Her traditionally published books include "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," from Encounter Books.


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