Banking/Financial Institutions

Republicans rip the Fed after examiner tells Okla. bank to hide religious items

The Federal Reserve quickly withdrew an order to an Oklahoma bank to remove religious items from public view on Friday after two Republicans blasted the action as an “assault on faith.” 

Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma sent a pointed letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday asking him whether he stood by a Federal Reserve examiner who told Payne County Bank officials to remove the religious references from their business. The Fed examiner told the bank the religious items could discourage a person from seeking an application.

The removed items removed included a link on the bank’s website to a Bible verse of the day and buttons that said, “Merry Christmas, God With Us,” according to local news reports.

In a statement on his website, Inhofe called the decision “completely ridiculous.”

“It unduly discriminates against a persons faith in Christ and their Constitutionally protected freedom to publically [sic] express that faith. It is simply another case of liberals in Washington overstepping their bounds and intruding in the lives of individuals,” Inhofe’s statement said.

“The recent actions taken by the Federal Reserve at Payne County Bank are of great concern to me,” added Lucas in a separate statement. “I encourage the Federal Reserve to review the situation and take the appropriate action to address it.”

The outcry forced Fed officials to reverse the action, clarifying that the personal religious items displayed by bank employees in Perkins, Okla., did not violate a provision of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

A spokesman for Inhofe said Fed officials returned to the bank Friday to inform employees they could put the religious items back on display.

The examiner had determined that the religious items violated “Regulation B” of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which stipulates that banks cannot make any statements to potential applicants that could discourage them from seeking an application. 

The letter forced Tom Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, to respond. In a statement Friday, he said the regulation does not apply to personal items displayed in the workplace.

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