Free speech is for everyone.

But that hasn’t stopped financial titans from using their power and privileged legal status to punish everyday Americans for their views. And there’s growing evidence that government institutions—including the federal government—have used their regulatory power over these companies to coerce financial discrimination.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco testified about the threats of financial targeting before the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on March 7. In his words, “this Orwellian surveillance of American citizens has no place in a free society.”

In his testimony, Tedesco highlighted the de-banking of Indigenous Advance Ministries, and National Committee for Religious Freedom as examples of how the financial industry uses subjective language to cloak its biased practices:

These de-banking stories and many more highlight the systemic risk of political and religious bias that pervades the financial industry, particularly at the largest banks and payment processors. These institutions maintain reputational risk policies that allow them unfettered discretion to punish customers who have, in their view, problematic political or religious views. Many also have prohibitions on hate speech and intolerance that require the institution to make subjective and value-based judgements on a customer’s viewpoint. Both types of policies are vague and ambiguous, sweep in broad swaths of content, chill constitutionally protected speech, and erode economic freedom.

Even worse, Tedesco points out how vague policies enable collaboration between government officials and financial institutions to censor views they don’t like:

Government regulators can all too easily wield their outsized power over financial institutions to pressure them to leverage reputational risk policies, hate speech policies, and similarly vague language against disfavored views, all with virtually no public accountability. Financial institutions in turn can hide behind that same shield to discriminate without ever explaining it to the customer, regardless of whether the action was prompted by government pressure.

Recent evidence of government and financial collaboration now includes documents procured by the Subcommittee showing that the U.S. Department of Treasury flagged ADF and other mainstream conservative organizations as “domestic threats” on a surveillance list circulated to major financial institutions. Tedesco also references the infamous “Operation Chokepoint” collaboration between the DOJ and FDIC under the Obama Administration to target disfavored industries, as well as New York State’s attempt to punish the National Rifle Association for its views in the National Rifle Association v. Vullo case before the Supreme Court this term.

[E]ach of these incidents show that the government can and will weaponize the financial marketplace against Americans for political benefit. Several factors exacerbate this risk. Banking regulators have expansive authority over banks’ day to day operations and decisions. Both the government and banks have shown an unsettling willingness to increase data collection practices around customers speech and religious exercise. And most banking supervision is shrouded in secrecy. The government props up many of these institutions with bailouts, subsidies, and an anti-competitive chartering system. Due in part to these benefits, the top five banks control over 50% of the market for deposit accounts. This only elevates the need to ensure viewpoint neutrality in the provision for financial services.

You shouldn’t have to parrot the government’s favorite views to access basic financial services. As Tedesco concludes “we cannot continue to let law enforcement, regulators, and banks that are “too big to fail” run roughshod over our First Amendment freedoms.”