You will, no-doubt, have seen the debate over the summer as Nigel Farage and Richard Fothergill challenged financial institutions over being ‘de-banked’.
‘De-banking’ involves the forced closure of the bank accounts of people or organisations who the bank deems hold political or moral beliefs that apparently contradict their ethics and values. Typically, this happens without notice or opportunity to appeal. This issue has presented itself explicitly to Kingdom Bank as Christians have raised fears with us that their existing bank may discriminate against them based on their beliefs. This concern reveals how much UK society is increasingly pulling away from its Christian heritage, creating a widening gulf between Christian ethics and the ethics of a secular culture.
We are pleased to reassure customers that Kingdom Bank supports the right for every person to have a bank account whatever their politics or belief. No matter how much we may disagree with a person’s worldview, a caring society should not deny them the right to the essentials of life. And, in a world which relies on electronic financial transactions, the provision of a bank account is essential. To that end, we would argue that financial institutions should not be permitted to ‘de-bank’ customers on any basis other than evidenced suspicion of financial fraud. All individuals should have the right to open and hold their money in current and savings accounts at a suitable bank of their choice. To that end, we support the government’s comments over the summer which took a similar line, and the Treasury’s recent announcement of an imminent public consultation and planned new legislation in 2024 which aims to put an end to de-banking for freedom of speech reasons.
Perhaps a greater concern, however, is how a similar challenge may apply to churches and Christian charities. There is much less in the government’s comments to reassure such organisations. Banks are more likely to feel able to close organisational accounts for belief-based reasons, in particular when an organisation’s stance on a moral or ethical issue is at odds with those of the bank.
At Kingdom Bank we are pleased to serve and stand with UK churches which hold to the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. However, it would create a dysfunctional financial services market if each club, society, business or religious institution could only hold its money in a bank which aligned perfectly with its ethics and values. To that end we would argue that churches and Christian charities should have the right to open and hold accounts at their choice of suitable bank. The organisation with the money, just like the individual with the money, should have the right to decide where that money is held.
In a similar vein, on the ‘other side of the balance sheet’, we would also argue that banks should have the right to decide where they invest the money they hold, but that the ethical policy behind these investment decisions should be public. Our informal research shows that most high street bank customers are not aware of how their money is being used, let alone the ethical policy which lies behind such investment decisions.
Standing out from the high street are so-called ‘ethical banks’ which have for some years made clear how they use their customers’ money, whether that is simply avoiding certain industries such as gambling or arms or, more positively, being overt and targeted about the organisations to whom they lend (for example ‘green’ energy development).
At Kingdom Bank we are up-front that we utilise our customers’ money to serve UK churches and Christian charities (in particular those which are evangelical) with mortgages for church buildings and ministers’ housing. In fact, Kingdom Bank could be seen as the Christian ethical bank. We aim not just to use our customers’ savings morally, but to facilitate the growth of God’s Kingdom across the country. We delight in this privilege and responsibility, and see it as our mission to continue serving churches, Christian charities and individuals in this way for the glory of God.