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OBA applauded for commitment to religious diversity

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and CAIR-Oklahoma, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, recently expressed their appreciation to the Oklahoma Bankers' Association (OBA) for clarifying a security measure commonly referred to "No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses" employed by many Oklahoma's banks to better take into account the religious requirements of some customers to cover all or a portion of their heads.

“We are incredibly pleased that the OBA recognizes that respecting the religious requirements of their customers and ensuring a safe and secure banking environment can go hand in hand,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

The ACLU of Oklahoma ,CAIR-OK, and the Oklahoma Conference of Churches requested the meeting with the OBA following an incident in which a Muslim woman was initially denied access to a Tulsa area bank and asked to remove her Hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women that covers all or part of her hair and is draped around her neck, before entering. The bank cited the “No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses” policy to justify its actions.

“Our goal in meeting with the OBA was to use this unfortunate situation as a teaching moment about the different types of head coverings worn by Muslim women as well as head garments worn by individuals of other faiths as well,” said Adam Soltani, Executive Director of CAIR-OK.

“It was evident very early in our meeting with OBA that they were sincerely interested in ensuring that their increasingly diverse customer base could go about their business without being embarrassed or targeted for special treatment simply because of their faith,” said Kiesel.

The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said that he was delighted with the way the OBA has handled this sensitive issue. "It is wonderful that the OBA recognizes that concern for safety and the right of individuals to wear religious headdress are not mutually exclusive and that, accordingly, bank employees are being educated about the appropriate way to deal with the religious public," he stated.

In response to the meeting, the OBA published two articles in their trade newspaper, Oklahoma Banker, revisiting the “No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses” policy, and offering suggestions as to how their member banks could respect the religious requirements of their customers without sacrificing security.

Mary Beth Guard with the OBA compliance team wrote, “[I]f someone came in with a ski mask to cash a check or open an account, you wouldn't hesitate to tell them they would need to remove it so you could take a gander at them, but when the head covering is worn for religious purposes, a more sensitive approach is required.”

“CAIR-OK and the ACLU of Oklahoma want to express our appreciation to the OBA for their willingness to meet with us and we welcome any calls from banks around the state to assist with their religious diversity training so their staffs are able to treat each of their customers with the respect they deserve,” said Soltani.

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