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Monday, December 20, 2010

1st Amendment Alert - Fed Bans Christmas at The Payne County Bank

When I write semi-clever blog titles it is usually with the intention of "hooking you in" so I can blather on about some topic or the other. But this one is a little more serious even if some may accuse it of being slightly over the top.

This morning the Drudge Report carried a link to a story and news video from an Oklahoma news station which told the story of the Payne County Bank's run-in with the feds over their overtly religious celebration of a Christian holiday.

You know the one. It's the same one that has been renamed a hundred different things over the last few decades by the politically correct, the militantly secular, or the pitifully ashamed Christians in our society.

It's Christmas, not a "winter festival" or other PC happening. And despite the fact that many other folks celebrate parts of it, it's still a christian holy day.

As the above image explains, the US Congress (or its extensions such as the Federal Reserve) may not legally make a law (or regulation) which establishes a religion or prohibits the free exercise of one.

If the news report is correct, there is no doubt whatsoever that the described events fit the bill on this one. This isn't so called "public" property we are talking about here, it's a private enterprise and the celebration doesn't violate the rights of anyone.

According to the report, the bank had a "Bible verse of the day on it's web-site, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say "Merry Christmas, God With Us." The examiners from the Kansas City Fed said they are "inappropriate." Which may make you wonder what exactly is appropriate for a religious holiday.

The Bible verse of the day on the bank's Internet site had to be taken down and the buttons taken off and the crosses removed.

The story went on to say "Specifically, the feds believed, the symbols violated the discouragement clause of Regulation B of the bank regulations. According to the clause, "...the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication ... express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion."

"The feds interpret that to mean, for example, a Jew or Muslim or atheist may be offended and believe they may be discriminated against at this bank. It is an appearance of discrimination."

Normal people are not offended by religious practices of those of different faiths. But even if there are some, or even many who are, in this country you are not allowed to interfere in those practices as long as they violate no laws. Are we then to conclude that it is against the law to practice our religions openly in public at private businesses?

Do observant Jews have to remove their yarmulkes if they work in a bank? Do Muslim female bank tellers have to remove their hijab? This is the kind of concern that was scoffed at by those who advocate a large intrusive government when these "regulations" were first put into place.

What makes this different from any other private business? Because it's a bank in question? What about your local pub?

Try sitting down there for a brew and informing the bartender that you are offended or don't feel "included" because he has a "Merry Christmas" banner up on the back bar. Then tell him he will have to remove it because his regulator will pull his liquor license if he doesn't. Then see how long it takes Bruno on the next stool to change your seating arrangement.

This is a ski jump folks, not a slippery slope. Have a nice Winter Festival.

Grant Davies,
Regular Columnist, THL
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