This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published December 27, 2010 on Townhall.com
It’s worth noting not only that the War on Christmas has continued, but now federal regulators have joined the wrong side. Christians should get far more aggressive in fighting back, because the Constitution is on their side.
Various outlets have reported throughout December that regulators from the Federal Reserve told privately-owned banks that they can’t have Christmas displays. It’s illegal for government agents to do that.
The Federal Reserve is a public-private hybrid. In one sense, it’s a private bank with money reserves, and also serves as a clearing house for checks and wire transfers from other banks.
In another sense, it’s a government agency. It was created by Congress and its board members are appointed by the president of the United States. It determines the money supply in the economy and sets interest rates. The Fed has regulatory authority over every bank in the United States. And its regulations and orders carry the force of law.
One such order violates The U.S. Constitution. One Fed regulation, called Regulation B, disallows “words, symbols … and other forms of communication” that “suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion.” That regulation is okay in many circumstances, but not all.
A bank in Oklahoma City displayed Bible verses and had a cross on the tellers’ counter. Some bank workers also wore “Merry Christmas” buttons. Fed regulators visiting the bank said that these displays violated Regulation B, and ordered them removed. A similar situation is unfolding in Nebraska. The American Exchange Bank of Lincoln has also been told to discontinue religious displays.
This is outrageous. Government actors–as that’s what Fed regulators are whenever they give an order to a privately-owned bank–cannot order a private person (and a corporation is a “person”) or the individuals working there not to engage in religious expression. To the extent that Regulation B suggests anything to the contrary, that regulation (and any order based on it) is unconstitutional.
The Constitution is firmly on the side of these banks and private citizens. Joe Infranco is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of the foremost religious-liberty organizations in America, which litigates countless cases nationwide defending religious expressions. About this bank situation involving the Fed, Infranco says, “It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s okay to publicly celebrate Christmas. An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it.”
It’s unfortunate that the War on Christmas hasn’t gotten much attention this year. With the understandable focus on massive deficit spending and other economic issues, such as the tax-extension deal (loaded with hundreds of billions of dollars in new deficit spending) and the defeated $1.2 trillion omnibus, there hasn’t been a big media appetite for the ongoing secularization of American society.
Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Christmas parades where renamed “holiday parades” this year, despite the fact that Christmas remains a federal holiday officially recognized by this nation. And in the midst of this increasingly anti-Christian bias, we see the inexcusable action of federal regulators telling private banks and citizens that they cannot freely celebrate Christmas.
No federal order or regulation can trump the U.S. Constitution. It’s time for Christians to reengage in this fight for religious liberty. Stop playing defense. Go on offense. Make a New Year’s resolution that next Christmas will see people unapologetically celebrating the birth of Christ, and an uncompromising legal fight against any government officer who tries to stop it.