Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican who is also running for governor, secured a pledge from JPMorgan Chase that may help protect conservatives from the threat of “debanking”—when banks cut off services over the religious or political stance of a customer, including nonprofits.
Cameron slammed the “hypocrisy that we see from big businesses.”
Speaking with “The Daily Signal Podcast,” Cameron notes that corporations “will promote the ideas and the agenda of the far Left, but they remain quiet or dismissive of protecting the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and—dare I say—the majority of Americans who firmly believe that we should have and welcome all viewpoints into the marketplace of ideas.”
In May 2022, Chase closed an account for the National Committee for Religious Freedom, an organization founded by Sam Brownback, a former Kansas governor and President Donald Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Brownback, along with conservative organizations, suggested that Chase closed the account for religious or political reasons, which Chase denied. The bank said it closed the account because it needed more information about donors and recipients than the nonprofit provided.
Cameron led 19 attorneys general in sending a letter to Chase that demands answers and requests that the bank consider engaging with Alliance Defending Freedom’s Viewpoint Diversity Score’s Business Index, which measures companies’ respect for free speech and religious freedom. The index follows the methods of the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which companies such as Chase highly value.
Chase responded to the attorneys general, insisting that the closure of NCRF’s account had nothing to do with its religious or political affiliation. Yet Chase added that the bank would consider participating in the Viewpoint Diversity Score survey.
“With the Viewpoints Diversity Survey, we recently learned that the survey was emailed to a generic mailbox in 2021, and that without proper reviews, the request was declined,” Eileen Braden, Chase’s managing director and head of state and local government relations, replied in a letter. “We are actively considering participating in the survey in its 2023 round and are shoring up our processes for reviewing and decisioning myriad survey requests we receive each year from around the world.”
Kentucky’s attorney general praised this response in a formal statement last week.
“We appreciate Chase’s good faith response and encourage the bank to fulfill its promise by participating in the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index survey at the earliest possible opportunity,” Cameron said. “Providing insight into the bank’s approach to viewpoint diversity is a critical first step to reforming the practices that have led to persistent unequal treatment at Chase. Our hope is that the openness and inclusivity Chase professes will soon be extended to everyone, regardless of their religious or political affiliation.”
“The goal here, the mission here, is to make sure that they use this index much in the same way that they use this Corporate Equality Index,” Cameron told The Daily Signal, referring to the Human Rights Campaign survey. “I want to make sure that religiously affiliated organizations feel like they have full access to the marketplace and to the banking sector within this country.”
“I felt compelled to get involved because, as the top legal officer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky—and I know a lot of my colleagues that joined us in this effort believe this, as well—we have a responsibility to protect the free speech rights and the exercise of freedom of religion in the marketplace of ideas,” he says on the podcast. “Chase is a big player in the marketplace, and to say that they would, without notice, cut off or debank—if you will—the National Committee for Religious Freedom is absurd, and it should never have happened.”
Cameron warns that “the far Left will try to use institutions to quash and silence the voices of commonsense Americans who have values that don’t align with the far Left.” He noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” placing them on a map with the Ku Klux Klan chapters, is notorious for this.
Kentucky’s attorney general pledges that, if elected governor, he will ensure that the Kentucky State Police doesn’t rely on the SPLC.
“If I get the opportunity to serve as governor, I can assure you that our Kentucky State Police will not be relying on SPLC, or any other organization, that is trying to quash and silence religious organizations here in Kentucky,” Cameron says.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil. I’m managing editor at The Daily Signal. I am honored to be joined by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
He just released an important statement following JP Morgan Chase’s response to Attorney General Cameron’s earlier letter in which he led 19 attorneys general in demanding questions from Chase regarding the situation with Sam Brownback’s nonprofit that was debanked from Chase under mysterious circumstances and asking if they would engage with a new index just as they engage with the Corporate Equality Index with the Human Rights Campaign.
But now, we’re asking about the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, and I think we have some really good news from JPMorgan Chase on that front. Is that right, Attorney General?
Daniel Cameron: Well, Tyler, thank you again for having me. And you’re right. I mean, Chase has confirmed that they’re actively considering participating in the Viewpoint Diversity Survey this year.
And so, that is good news and it shows what can happen when conservatives and commonsense Americans get behind holding these companies accountable and making sure that they firmly put their money where their mouth is in terms of recognizing openness and inclusivity.
So, Chase has made public statements and declarations about openness, but yet, as you noted, they’ve deplatformed or debanked the National Committee for Religious Freedom, and even the Family Council has had some of their accounts cut off from access. So, this really is a good starting point.
I just want to make sure your listeners know it’s not the end of the conversation. It’s, again, a starting point, a beginning, to make sure that they are aware that there are millions of Americans watching to see how these big corporations respond to the First Amendment religious freedoms of our citizens and organizations all across this country.
O’Neil: I think, almost, Chase seems like a microcosm of something we’re seeing across corporate America, where they almost fall over themselves to achieve high scores on the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign.
We saw Bud Light going and celebrating Dylan Mulvaney, who is a biological male who claims not just to identify as a woman, but to identify as a girl, despite the fact that he’s all grown up.
But why should the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index be another thing these companies need to take seriously? And how does this Chase move address the absurd bias we’ve been seeing in that Americans are waking up to and pushing back against, particularly in Bud Light’s case?
Cameron: Well, look, Americans, commonsense folks that are working hard every day, are tired of the hypocrisy that we see from big business.
They will promote the ideas and the agenda of the far Left, but they remain quiet or dismissive of protecting the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and, dare I say, the majority of Americans who firmly believe that we should have and welcome all viewpoints into the marketplace of ideas. And that is what our effort with Chase is all about.
And you mentioned Mulvaney, look at the backlash that you’ve seen. But most of these corporations, in my judgment, need to remain apolitical. Or if they are going to share one side, they need to certainly share all sides of a particular issue.
You can’t pick and choose winners and losers. And that’s why, I think, most Americans see the hypocrisy, don’t like it, and want to have their viewpoints freely and openly expressed and not to be disregarded or precluded by big business and big corporations.
Again, the backlash that you saw with Bud Light, and if you’re looking and paying attention to what’s going on with Target, when they step into these conversations, they need to be ready to understand that there are millions of Americans that don’t necessarily agree with those viewpoints.
So, what we’re seeing from Chase, in my hope, is a willingness to be open to more than just the far Left ideology, and this is a good step, and I hope it means that we are getting back to the right direction.
O’Neil: Let’s talk a little bit about this specific instance where the National Committee for Religious Freedom found their bank accounts closed. And I believe, originally, it was without an explanation. Later, Chase demanded a list of donors, from what I understand. Can you walk us through that and why, as the top legal enforcement officer in the state of Kentucky, you felt compelled to get involved?
Cameron: Well, I felt compelled to get involved because, as the top legal officer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I know a lot of my colleagues that joined us in this effort believe this as well, we have a responsibility to protect the free speech rights and the exercise of freedom of religion in the marketplace of ideas.
And Chase is a big player in the marketplace. And to say that they would, without notice, cut off or debank, if you will, the National Committee for Religious Freedom is absurd and it should never have happened.
I’m delighted that we are moving in the right direction of correcting some of these things that should not have occurred. And Chase and other banks as well and other corporations need to be on notice that whether it’s attorneys general or governors or people in places or positions in which they serve at the behest of the citizens of their states can no longer sit idly by and not reflect the values of the citizens in their state.
And so, for me in Kentucky, the freedom of exercise of religion is important to our citizens here. And I know, again, from my colleagues in the other states that joined us, it’s important to them as well, and it’s important to their citizens.
We can no longer sit back and allow big corporations and the far Left to take control of the marketplace of ideas. We can no longer cede ground on that front. And that’s why we wrote this letter to Chase and that’s why it’s important that folks that are paying attention to this know that there is a power and strength in numbers, and we’re going to continue to stand up for the commonsense values of hardworking Americans across this country.
O’Neil: In the letter responding to you, Chase said that they were trying to correct “claims of persistent discrimination against certain customers,” and they’re claiming that the closure of the NCRF account had nothing to do with its religious stance or with its support for religious freedom.
And then, they also went down with the Viewpoint Diversity Survey, they merely said they were actively considering participating in this survey in 2023.
I understand your statement was encouraging that and you look forward to, hopefully, them fulfilling that and deciding that they would. But this letter does seem a little bit short of acknowledging that they did anything wrong and actually taking a proactive step in the future.
Cameron: Well, Tyler, look, we certainly want to make sure, at the end of the day, and that’s why I noted that this is a starting point, but my position and my judgment and my view on this, and I think it mirrors most of your listeners, is that if Chase is going to make public-facing statements about their willingness to promote an inclusive society, then they need to make sure that, whether it’s NCRF or other religiously affiliated organizations, that they have access to accounts and to Chase as a bank.
And then, on top of that, I want Chase to make sure that they utilize this Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index. Again, this is a starting point, but the goal here, the mission here, is to make sure that they use this index much in the same way that they use this Corporate Equality Index. I want to make sure, again, that religiously affiliated organizations feel like they have full access to the marketplace and to the banking sector within this country.
O’Neil: And what tools does an attorney general, like yourself, have if we could prove that a bank, like JPMorgan Chase, did actually debank an organization for ideological or religious reasons? What would you do to bring justice in that situation?
Cameron: Well, this is a situation where we certainly would look closely at, again, what, if anything, they have done that is irregular from other customers that they have. And then we could, obviously, make decisions going forward based on that information that we received.
But, again, as I noted earlier, this is a starting place for us. At the end of the day, I want to make sure that NCRF or other organizations, whether it be the Family Council or whomever, if you are a religiously affiliated organization, you need to know that some of the largest banks in the country aren’t going to debank you simply because of your beliefs or your value set.
O’Neil: And, on this general trend, we’ve seen the Southern Poverty Law Center brand mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” placing them on a map with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. And then, going to banks, financial institutions, charitable trusts, and saying, “Look, you shouldn’t give to any of these organizations. You should cut them off.” And, by the way, the SPLC just expanded that map to also include parental rights organizations, like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education.
I think this issue of debanking is huge because the SPLC, and organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, use that SPLC list and go to these financial institutions and say, “Look, these are hate groups. You should not do any banking with them. You should prevent people from giving to them.” And, in some cases, that has been successful.
Cameron: Tyler, you bring up a great point, and your listeners understand this, that the far Left will try to use institutions to quash and silence the voices of commonsense Americans who have values that don’t align with the far Left. That is the playbook of the far Left. They try to do that in Kentucky. They try to do that across the country.
And it’s really incumbent upon, an imperative, that leaders that represent their states and their communities reflect their values and speak out for their citizens. And whether you’re the attorney general or if you’re the governor or if you’re elected senator or a representative, you’ve got to make sure that you’re standing up for the people in your state and speaking up and against those institutions, whether they’re trying to debank individuals or trying to blacklist organizations.
This, again, is all an effort by the far Left to silence hardworking, commonsense Americans that have commonsense values.
And it’s my responsibility, as the attorney general of Kentucky, to make sure that I stand up for the values of our commonwealth. And, again, I know my colleagues that joined in this coalition with me agree with that wholeheartedly, and we’re going to keep speaking up and speaking out and bringing attention to the hypocrisy and the unequal treatment that sometimes exists if you are a religious organization or if you are a commonsense American whose values don’t align with the far Left.
We’re going to keep speaking out for those commonsense Americans, those hardworking Americans, because that’s what we were elected to do and that’s the responsibility of leadership.
O’Neil: Yeah. Will you pledge that the Kentucky law enforcement will not rely on groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center under your watch?
Cameron: Well, Tyler, as you know, I’m running for governor, and if I get the opportunity to serve as governor, I can assure you that our Kentucky State Police will not be relying on SPLC or any other organization that is trying to quash and silence religious organizations here in Kentucky.
O’Neil: I’d just like to ask if there’s anything else you’re planning on doing with Chase on this story, or in a similar vein in the near future, if there’s something we should look out for.
Cameron: Well, the ball is in Chase’s court, so to speak. And so, again, my ultimate goal here is to make sure that they use the Viewpoint Diversity Score Business Index, that they commit to doing that, and that they make sure that NCRF or, again, any other religious liberty organizations aren’t debanked going forward.
O’Neil: Well, thank you so much for the work you’ve been doing holding JPMorgan Chase accountable.
Cameron: Thanks, Tyler. I appreciate you.
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