Freethought ‘church’ protests bank’s bias

Nevada Bacon Prophet John Whiteside led an April protest by secular groups, including Whiteside’s United Church of Bacon, taking Wells Fargo Bank to task for refusing to notarize a church document. Whiteside, an FFRF Life Member, said the refusal by the Las Vegas branch bank amounted to discrimination against atheists and was backed by Wells Fargo’s corporate office, where the protest by seven secular groups was held. More than 100 people picketed over two days.
Whiteside has legally founded the church, which stemmed from a 2010 gathering at atheist comedian Penn Jillette’s house, with “a funny name and a serious mission” to protest how religious organizations get special privileges under the law, including tax exemption.

The “congregation” now has about 4,000 members. The church claims no tax-exempt status and through donations has raised about $160,000 in 2014-15 to benefit autism, cancer and AIDS research and other secular charities. Members may apply to become wedding officiants, which are performed for free.
In rejecting the document, the notary questioned whether Whiteside was really the “owner” of the church. “Notaries may not reject a customer with a valid ID,” said Whiteside. “It’s the law, and the National Notary Association makes it clear in their code of conduct. The only explanation for what Wells Fargo did is discrimination.”

The protest and events leading up to it received extensive media coverage, all of which was positive, said church spokesman Johnny Monsarrat. KLAS-TV Evening News gave the protest two minutes, he said. “Note that the Wells Fargo rebuttal fails to give any reason for the refusal and is basically a personal attack. That’s what you resort to when you have nothing else to say.”

Montserrat noted that in the rebuttal, the company touted its “history of supporting and serving the needs of a widely diverse customer base.” That flies in the face of facts, he asserted.

“Actually, Wells Fargo paid $175 million in 2012 to settle a federal case of discrimination for giving bad loans to African-Americans, Hispanics and women. Since then, they have also been sued by Los Angeles, Cook County, Ill., and a group of pregnant women for discrimination.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation