Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.

Vanco Doesn’t Want My Business. Or Yours.

Posted on Saturday, October 21, 2017

If you are a social conservative, big business does not want your business.

By Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published on October 20, 2017, at The Stream.

If you’re a social conservative, big business does not want your business. I found that out the hard way. Vanco, the company that used to process on-line donations for my organization, the Ruth Institute, informed us that they would no longer do business with us. A few weeks later, they came back to us to say they could “reinstate” our account. We asked them a few pointed, but polite, questions. Based on their (non)answers, I concluded they don’t need our business.

That’s ok. I don’t need them either.

Here’s what happened.

At 2 PM on August 31, 2017, we received this terse email:


Vanco has elected to discontinue our processing relationship with The Ruth Institute. The organization has been flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse. Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies.”

We went to our website and discovered they had already closed our processing. No notice. Zip. Nada.

We issued a news release:

  • The Ruth Institute’s primary focus is family breakdown, and its impact on children: understanding it, healing it, ending it. If this makes us a “hate group,” so be it.
  • Vanco, Card Brands, and Wells Fargo are private businesses. The Ruth Institute respects their right to conduct their businesses as they see fit. We just wish wedding photographers, bakers, and florists received the same respect.

We had to inform our monthly donors that we would have to make other plans to process their contributions. Naturally, they were upset. Some of our friends sent letters to Vanco. We had a petition, asking Vanco to reconsider their reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center, presumably the source of their designation of us as a “hate group.”

For whatever reason, we received a phone call from the CFO of Vanco on September 26. She told me they had reviewed our case and they could reinstate our account. I asked her to send me a letter. Here is what she sent:

Jennifer, thank you for the conversation yesterday. As discussed on our call, Vanco has completed our re-underwriting process with our Banking partner and secured the ability to reinstate The Ruth Institute as a client. If you would like to reinstate your account, please contact me at the email above.

The rest of the letter was a description of their pricing. As if price were my principle consideration.

I replied on September 29:

For us to consider returning to Vanco, we would require, at a minimum, the following:

  • An explanation of why we were terminated. What policies had we violated?
  • An explanation of the investigation which took place which uncovered these violations.
  • The appeals process a client could go through, should we, or any other client, find themselves in this position of immediate, unexplained termination.
  • An explanation of the “re-underwriting process (which) … secured the ability to reinstate The Ruth Institute as a client.” What exactly changed between August 31st and September 26th?
  • A personal, and a public apology. Neither your phone call, nor your email contained even a hint of an apology.

I am sure you can understand that switching credit card processing is no small matter. We finally have our new systems up and running. All things considered, it would take an extraordinary effort on your part to get us back. Your correspondence thus far, does not rise to that level.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Her reply:

As discussed on the phone and via email, Vanco has secured the ability to reinstate The Ruth Institute as a client. Based on your feedback, we understand you are working with another payment processor. Please know that if for some reason that does not work out, we would welcome the opportunity to have you back as a client.

In other words, still no apology. Not even any acknowledgement of our questions. No recognition of any inconvenience to us or wrong-doing by them.

Vanco markets itself to religious organizations. “More churches trust Vanco for e-Giving than any other faith-based payments provider! 20,000 churches and growing.” Yet, Vanco dropped us because we hold views about marriage, family and human sexuality that were the belief of all Christian groups, until five minutes ago. In fact, a PJ Media story had this headline: “Will the Southern Poverty Law Center Brand the Roman Catholic Church a ‘Hate Group’?”

Many of our supporters are believers: Catholics, Evangelicals, and Latter-Day Saints. They had already figured out that if the Ruth Institute is a “hate group,” then so are they. These are the people who pay the fees Vanco collects. We don’t pay: our donors pay. These dear people give us $10 or $25 per month. They deserve an explanation and apology. Reinstating service with Vanco without both an explanation and apology would be breaking faith with them.

Vanco has not admitted any connection with the Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) nor any pressure from Wells Fargo. But Vanco is acting as if they believe the position of the SPLC is correct. Vanco boasts that it processes over $13 billion in transactions. This is not a small organization. Neither is Wells Fargo (whatever their part in this whole affair may be.) And neither is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their CEO’s salary is more than the entire budget of the Ruth Institute.

All I know is that these groups participated in a public shaming of my organization. Indirectly, they have slandered everyone who has ever given me ten bucks. I’m not going to stand for it. They have made it clear that they don’t need my business.

So be it. The Ruth Institute doesn’t need them. I bet your church doesn’t need them either.


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