A couple of days ago I wrote about how a notary at the Toronto Dominion Bank in Cranford, New Jersey had refused to notarize documents for American Atheists. As a recap, American Atheists’ Managing Director, Amanda Knief and President, David Silverman went to their local Toronto Dominion Bank to have some charitable organizations registrations notarized for American Atheists. They met with a notary, Ms. Gandarez, who asked them to explain what American Atheists does; once Amanda Knief did so, the notary informed them that she could not sign the documents because of “personal reasons” and then asked a colleague, John Dzeidzic, to take over for her.
The Washington Times reports that The Toronto Dominion Bank replied with a nonpology:
“We treat all consumers fairly and with respect, and this instance was no different,” Rebecca Acevedo said in a statement to The Times. “Our employee did not understand how to process this particular paperwork and needed help that, unfortunately, led to the miscommunication.”
Hmmm something smells a bit fishy here and David Silverman rightly saw this response as a big dodge:
This was a state tax form. She was notarizing a signature on a state tax form. She needed help with “processing this particular paperwork”? As a notary? Seems utterly incompetent, no?
Yeah, it’s not that hard for a notary to, um, notarize. This really seems like bigotry to me. If the notary didn’t know how to do the major thing that her job title says she does, why did she say she couldn’t help because of “personal reasons”? When I don’t know how to do something at work, I say, “I’m going to go get one of my peers to get him/her to help”, not “I can’t do this for personal reasons”. According to Amanda Knief, this notary, “went to find another notary who was eating his lunch to come do the authentications.” That doesn’t sound like she didn’t know how to do something; it sounds like she didn’t want to serve atheists.
American Atheists have issued a statement in response to TD Bank’s denial of wrong doing and it is clear that Ms. Gandarez refused to serve David Silverman and Amanda Knief for purely personal reasons:
Ms. Gandarez returned with another on-duty notary, John Dzeidzic, who at Ms. Gandarez’ direction, began notarizing the documents as Ms. Knief and Mr. Silverman signed them. Ms. Gandarez observed, standing over the desk; then asked Mr. Silverman if he needed any other assistance. When Mr. Silverman said no, she walked away. Mr. Silverman then questioned Mr. Dzeidic about Ms. Gandarez’ refusal, saying, “If she had refused us because we were Jews or Muslims, she would have been fired and thrown out of here.”
Mr. Dzeidzic responded by stating: “She’s allowed to refuse on personal reasons. If you’re unhappy, that’s why there are so many banks to go to.”
Clearly these statements by the notaries at TD Bank contradict the Bank’s official statement. The appropriate thing for TD Bank to do is to apologize to American Atheists and educate their staff that all sorts of people with all sorts of beliefs (or unbeliefs) from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds patronize their bank; staff need to serve all customers. American Atheists are working with American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey to understand this incident from a legal point of view.
As I mentioned in my previous article, this is embarrassing to the Bank and a little embarrassing for me as a Canadian since TD is a Canadian bank. I’d love to hear TD answer David Silverman’s challenge to Mr. Dzeidic about what would happen if Ms. Gandarez had refused to serve other groups like Muslims or Jews. A great post by the Daily Kos actually imagines just such a scenario from a Christian perspective and brilliantly titles it: America’s Most Convenient Bank Refuses to Serve Christians.
Come on TD, I know banks are conservative but it’s 2014 not 1535!