Atheists denied notary services

The idea that people can deny services to those who views they disagree with is a menace to the smooth working of society. The people who are the latest victims of this are David Silverman and Amanda Knief of American Atheists who went to a local bank to get a document notarized. This is a routine service that banks provide but to their surprise, the notary refused to sign it, though they had had no problems in the past with this bank.

On Tuesday, though, Silverman said the notary asked about their organization and then refused to validate their paperwork.

“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,” Silverman said.

The employee got another notary, Silverman said, and he notarized the documents.

The bank clearly recognized that the employee had done something wrong and went into damage control mode.

Rebecca Acevedo, TD Bank’s vice president 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 said.

“Our employee did not understand how to process this particular paperwork and needed help that, unfortunately, led to the miscommunication,” Acevedo said.

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.

“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,” Barocas said.

I am waiting for the day when an atheist refuses to provide a service to some religious group because he dislikes their views. Then watch the outcry. It would be a petty and wrong thing to do but maybe the only thing that will make people realize that discrimination is not a one-way strett but that it can return to bite you.


  1. says

    I’m particularly distressed that this was done by a subsidiary of a Canadian bank. We don’t, generally, have problems with religious nutbags like that up here.

  2. Alverant says

    Yep, it’s legal until the someone with power is the victim of it. If a pro-choice notary refused to deal with an anti-abortion group you can bet there would be consequences along with cries of oppression.

  3. says

    There is a good chance that the denial was illegal. While New Jersey (like many states) does not have a code of ethical conduct for notaries, they do have (like many states) a statute that recognizes notaries as state officers. As such, they are bound by the same restrictions as all other state officers with regards to their duties. And it is illegal for a state officer in New Jersey to refuse to perform their duties on the grounds of their own or someone else’s religious beliefs.

    In short, the notary has committed a criminal act.

  4. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    For my part, I’m waiting for the day when people no longer use “ascribe” when they mean “subscribe”. But I suspect it’ll be a long wait.

  5. Al Dente says

    That notary could find herself in serious legal trouble if Silverman or Knief decide to officially complain about her bigotry.

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