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Debanking Treats Law-Abiding Citizens Like Criminals, But States Can Set Them Free

Hiding certain purchases from your bank may be common practice for criminals, but it’s not part of any routine for most law-abiding citizens. Thanks to efforts by some of our nation’s leading financial institutions to debank individuals with politically incorrect ideologies, however, you may have reason to think twice before swiping your card at certain stores.

A new report from the Foundation for Government Accountability outlines a pattern of debanking that has emerged over recent years. In 2023, Bank of America was caught canceling the accounts of Indigenous Advanced Ministries, a small Christian ministry, as well as Lance Wallnau, a Christian preacher and podcaster. And in recent years, JPMorgan Chase has debanked multiple conservative organizations, including the National Committee for Religious Freedom, the Arkansas Family Council, and Defense of Liberty, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, pressure to engage in debanking is coming from the top

According to materials collected by Congress, pressure to engage in politically motivated debanking has been coming from the top. According to the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, the federal government has been instructing banks to search private citizens’ financial transactions to identify risky customers. Not only did terms like “MAGA” and “TRUMP” make the list of suggested keyword searches, but phrases like “small arms” and “sporting and recreational goods and supplies” were flagged elsewhere, as well. Even the purchase of religious texts was noted as a potential concern. Who knew that buying Bibles and bullets may make you a target for debanking?

Debanking is a violation of citizens’ civil liberties

When financial institutions close the accounts of those whose political or religious affiliations don’t align with their own, individuals’ civil liberties are under direct attack.

Even worse, some debanked organizations have been given a list of demands before their accounts could be reinstated, including a requirement that the organization disclose its list of private donors. Not only are non-profits’ rights being trampled upon, but financial institutions are attempting to violate the privacy rights of individual citizens who donate to them, as well.

Everyone deserves fair access to financial services

Large financial institutions are simply too powerful to engage in debanking. These institutions—those with total assets above $100 billion—exercise inordinate amounts of authority over access to capital and individuals’ ability to engage in the marketplace.

Large banks, unlike other private companies, have a unique contract with the federal government—one that includes federally backed insurance for their deposits, multiple regulatory advantages, and a history of bailouts when banks go under. As such, these institutions should not discriminate against businesses, non-profits, and individuals based upon their own ideological preferences.

States can stop debanking, even if pressure is coming from Washington, D.C.

Louisiana and West Virginia have already taken action to protect citizens’ rights to fair access to financial services. Louisiana revoked a $700 million refinancing bond from JPMorgan Chase after concerns were raised regarding the bank’s policy against certain gun manufacturers. And West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore restricted five banks from doing business with the state after their efforts to debank the fossil fuel industry came to light.

But more can be done.

Last year, Florida passed a law that prohibits certain financial institutions from discriminating against customers based upon their political or religious beliefs, speech, affiliations, or any other socially derived metric that could include such things as gun ownership or compliance with social governance standards. Tennessee and Arizona are on their way to do the same this year.

Make no mistake, taking a stand against activist financial institutions will come with a fight. Big banks do not want to lose their ability to engage in discrimination, and their lobbying efforts against consumer-protection reforms are already at work. Legislation aimed at prohibiting debanking in Kentucky died in committee, and similar legislation in Mississippi has been under attack, as well.

Lawmakers must refuse to allow large financial institutions to engage in discriminatory debanking. And Washington, D.C. can take note: American banks are not a tool for bullying Americans into social submission.

At FGA, we don’t just talk about changing policy—we make it happen.

By partnering with FGA through a gift, you can create more policy change that returns America to a country where entrepreneurship thrives, personal responsibility is rewarded, and paychecks replace welfare checks.