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De-banking victim Steve Happ of Indigenous Advance Ministries to Bank of America: 'I don't want it to happen to anyone else'

Press conference Wednesday following Bank of America annual shareholder meeting

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

WHO:  Indigenous Advance Ministries founder Steve Happ, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco, and Indiana State Treasurer Daniel Elliott

WHAT:  Press conference following Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting where Happ will call upon the board to consider a resolution to curb viewpoint-based de-banking

WHEN:  Wednesday, April 24, at 2 p.m. EDT

WHERE:  Online-only; RSVP to ADF Media Relations Manager Jacqueline Ribeiro at [email protected] to receive the Zoom invite.

WASHINGTON – Indigenous Advance Ministries founder Steve Happ, who will address shareholders at Bank of America’s annual meeting Wednesday, will join Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco, along with Indiana State Treasurer Daniel Elliott, for a press conference following the meeting.

In 2023, Happ received a series of letters from Bank of America informing him that long-standing accounts of Indigenous Advance Ministries, along with a supporting church and separate for-profit entity, were all being closed by the bank. The bank claimed it no longer wanted to serve the groups’ “business type” and that Indigenous Advance exceeded the “bank’s risk tolerance.” The bank’s abrupt decision created a logistical nightmare for Indigenous Advance and harmed the Ugandan populations they serve—which include widows and orphans.

“Politicized de-banking is on the rise and Americans should be deeply concerned,” said Tedesco, who recently testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government following explosive revelations that Bank of America had voluntarily handed over confidential customer information to government agencies without a warrant and without notifying its customers. “We cannot live in a free country if access to the marketplace depends on our political or religious views.”

Government agencies had flagged ADF and other mainstream religious and conservative organizations as “domestic terrorist” threats and urged major banks to disclose private transactions involving keywords like “Cabela’s,” “Dick’s Sporting Goods,” and “religious texts.”

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s meeting, Elliott was one of 15 state financial officers representing 13 states who signed onto a letter calling on Bank of America to investigate and correct its pattern of discriminatory de-banking. A group of 15 state attorneys general led by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach also penned a recent letter to the nation’s second-largest bank, warning CEO Brian Moynihan that its de-banking behavior “is potentially illegal and could lead to investigations, litigation, regulation, and political backlash,” including enforcement of new state laws prohibiting viewpoint-based discrimination in banking.

On Tuesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a first-of-its kind law expressly prohibiting major financial institutions like nationally chartered banks with at least $100 billion in assets from discriminating against otherwise qualified customers because of their political or religious views, speech, or affiliations. ADF attorneys testified in support of the law and urged state lawmakers to adopt the legislation.

“This should never have happened to us, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” Happ said. “That’s why we’re standing up. We’re not the first victim of the de-banking phenomenon, but we’d like to be the last.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Jeremy Tedesco

Jeremy Tedesco serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of corporate engagement for Alliance Defending Freedom. In this role, Tedesco leads ADF’s efforts to combat corporate cancel culture and build a business ethic that respects free speech, religious freedom, and human dignity. Immediately preceding his current role, Tedesco served as senior vice president for communications, during which time he was a lead convener of the Philadelphia Statement, a movement dedicated to restoring free speech and civil discourse. Previously, Tedesco litigated First Amendment cases at the highest levels. He was part of the legal team that represented cake artist Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued Phillips’ case at the Colorado Court of Appeals. He was also the lead brief writer in two other U.S. Supreme Court wins, Reed v. Town of Gilbert and Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. Tedesco has also argued six times before five different federal appellate courts and founded and directed the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives, where he led efforts to protect individuals from government-coerced speech. Tedesco earned his Juris Doctor in 2004 from the Regent University School of Law.