US bank refuses to notarise atheist documents
EARLIER this week, the Managing Director of American Atheists, Amanda Knief – together with AA’s President David Silverman – went into a TD Bank branch in Cranford, New Jersey (where the American Atheists are headquartered) to have some documents notarised.
TD claims to be “America’s Most Convenient Bank®”
The notary, on learning the godless nature of the paperwork placed before her, refused to sign it for “personal reasons”.
Said Silverman, in this report:
Amanda explained what we do, and (the notary) said, ‘Okay, well, I’m not going to do this for you. For personal reasons I’m not going to do this for you,’ and went to find someone else.’
And off she skipped to find a colleague who would notarise the documents, leaving Knief and AA’s President David Silverman feeling more than a little slighted. And angry.
In fact, Knief was so angry that she wrote about the incident on the AA Facebook page and said:
Time to write legislation that won’t let this happen to anyone else. Fuck this.
It’s sad, because this is New Jersey, and it’s 2014, and we’re supposed to be beyond all this stuff. And TD Bank is supposed to be beyond all this stuff, they’re supposed to be a pro-diversity bank.
Rebecca Acevedo, TD Bank’s VP for public affairs, said:
Valuing diversity and building an inclusive environment is a fundamental part of TD’s culture. We treat all consumers fairly and with respect, and this instance was no different.
The entire issue was a misunderstanding that arose from the notary not knowing how to handle certain government documents, Acevedo explained.
Our employee did not understand how to process this particular paperwork and needed help that, unfortunately, led to the miscommunication.
The employee has not been disciplined, she said.
New Jersey has an extremely strong law against discrimination, according to ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas, which not only protects against discrimination toward someone who follows a certain religion, but also someone who does not follow one. He said:
This person’s job is to notarize documents. If she denied providing that service because she personally disliked the fact that this group did not ascribe to her religion, or religion in general, that would be against the law.
Whether or not the alleged refusal was illegal, Silverman said, it did run afoul of the first guiding principle in the Notary Public’s Code of Professional Responsibility, which reads:
The notary shall not refuse to perform a lawful and proper notarial act because of the signer’s race, nationality, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, politics, lifestyle, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
This person is state-licensed to do a public service, and she discriminated on basis of religion. I don’t think it should work this way. I don’t think people should go through a process to determine whether or not the notary approves of them.
Hat tip: Penigma