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Religious Freedom
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring notarization, one of the bank’s assistant managers claimed she couldn't witness the signatures or attach the State's official notary seal to the documents because of "personal reasons."

The Christians later related the story in a Facebook post saying, “Even though we had a valid, legal document and valid, legal identification — she was legally able to refuse me service.”

Wait…what? No. It didn't happen that way at all.

American Atheists, Inc. President, Dave Silverman and Managing Director, Amanda Knief were refused service yesterday by an assistant manager at TD Bank in Cranford, New Jersey.

In a statement released on the American Atheists Facebook page, Knief said, “I was just refused service — because I am an atheist. It was embarrassing, humiliating, and pissed me off.”

According to Knief:

A notary at a local bank, where I have gone more than a dozen times to have work documents signed, asked me to explain what we were having notarized. The documents were charitable organizations registrations for American Atheists in several states. So I told her what AA is about.
After learning the nature of the organization and the documents requiring notarization the bank manager refused to witness the signatures on the documents. She interrupted another employee’s lunch to come do the authentications.

Knief says:

I have been called names, threatened, hated on and all manner of ridiculed because of my atheist activism, but I think sitting in a bank and having another professional refuse to do business with me because I am an atheist was the worst slight I have ever received.

In New Jersey, notaries are not required to abide by any code of conduct or ethics that prevents them from refusing service to people based on "personal reasons." Even though we had a valid, legal document and valid, legal identification--she was legally able to refuse me service.

Her description of the incident was confirmed shortly afterwards by David Silverman in a follow-up post.
“Yup. We just got refused notary services because we are atheists from the Assistant Store Manager at TD near our office. No, we are not moving our business there, at least not until this is rectified.”
While I am not an attorney and expect to be promptly and appropriately chastised if I make any incorrect assumptions here, I do not agree with Ms. Kneif’s assessment that the bank manager was within her legal rights to refuse her a public service.

There may be some ongoing legal confusion, controversy and argument over religiou discrimination and/or religious freedom regarding a privately owned business, but this is clearly not the case.

The bank manager’s refusal is a violation of the bank's diversity statement, as a bank employee, let alone a manager, she clearly sucks at her job and has failed to live up to the bank's expectations and should be repremanded.

However, as a notary she does not represent the bank, she represents the state and must be held responsible for civil discrimination.

As in most states, a notary public in New Jersey is deemed to be “a public servant.” Commissioned by the Secretary of State she is required by law to serve as an impartial witness to the signing of documents and to the acknowledgement of signatures on documents with a duty imposed upon her to provide notary services to the public.

Additionally, according to the American Association of Notaries:

A notary public is not responsible for the content of the document. The duties and responsibilities of a notary public are restricted only to the execution of proper notarial procedures.

And the National Notary Association’s handbook, The Notary Public code of Professional responsibility specifically notes in Section I-A-3:

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, or because of disagreement with the statements or purpose of a lawful document.
Her actions were blatantly discriminatory. Her commission should be revoked. Take the word Christian in the title of this diary and replace it with Muslim, Jew, or Hindu.
Replace it with Latino, African-American, or French Canadian.

How long before a Pentecostal refuses to provide a service for a Catholic? And the Catholics won't do business with Methodists?

Where does it stop?

Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 10:44 AM PT: American Atheists, Inc has issued a statement.

Originally posted to One Last Scandal on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 10:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by Anglican Kossacks and Progressive Atheists.

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