Sunday, December 19, 2010

You've started to believe the things they say of you...

So there was a brief tempest in a teapot in Oklahoma, when Federal Reserve examiners ordered a private bank to remove religious displays from their premises:

...the team from Kansas City deemed a Bible verse of the day, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say "Merry Christmas, God With Us." were inappropriate. The Bible verse of the day on the bank's Internet site also had to be taken down...

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.

Two things:

- This is incredibly stupid. I'd be ranting about regulatory creep and the inevitable end result of attempts to legislate morality and social change if this particular story wasn't so staggeringly trivial and petty. The regulators were clearly just being holier-than-thou tin gods, the First Amendment clearly protects the business's right to display religious slogans, and the Fed seems to have already reversed its ruling in a weasely way obviously intended to avoid a challenge to its rules.

- All that said, when you're distributing buttons to your employees that say "Gott mit uns", you should probably take a really deep breath and consider that maybe you're taking all the Jesus stuff a bit too far.


  1. They can take it as far as they want - presumably their customers aren't forced to do business with the bank. Myself, even back when I didn't consider myself a christian, I don't think I would have cared as long as the books balanced.

    But then, I've always considered God-botherers funny and a little pathetic. I may have given up trolling them for Lent*, but I might still have said "Seriously?" upon seeing such a button.

    (* That's a joke - I gave up trolling them long before I got baptized)

  2. In my part of the country, prominent displays of Christianity are used to increase business. I work for a federal agency and have been advised to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" because the former will not lead to calls asking my supervisor why I hate Jesus. The Ten Commandments are in every school entryway and courthouse office. Not toeing the "I'm a VERY visible supporter of Christ." line would almost certainly lead to your business being mentioned in the various pulpits as "Yet another example of America's moral decline." Personally, I find the government property examples unwise, as that's a terribly slippery slope to start down.

  3. Hey, speaking as a "strong" atheist, religious statements and displays don't bother me in the least*. Speaking as a libertarian, I'd even say they have the fundamental right to choose not to do business with non-Christians.**

    Speaking as somebody with a basic knowledge of history, I just think having your employees wear buttons that say "God with us" is monumentally ignorant.

    [* - Except, as you say, Tony, on government property.]
    [** - Doubly except-on-government-property.]