A post office in Pittsburg, Kansas removed last Wednesday a "God Bless America" banner hanging from its building after an atheist group filed a complaint that it violated the Establishment Clause, angering residents and sparking the distribution of similar banners in the community.
The removal was prompted by the action taken by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which has been filing complaints in the U.S. using the First Amendment. The group earlier failed to convince Missouri sheriffs to remove "In God We Trust" bumper stickers from their patrol cars and also failed to convince the court to remove the "In God We Trust" message from U.S. currency.
U.S. Post Office spokeswoman Twana Barber said the banner was removed because it violated postal regulations.
"Postal policy prohibits the placement of notices or displays on postal property, unless they are official government notices or announcements, or are approved postal signage, promotional materials or communications," she said in a statement, according to The Joplin Globe.
The vinyl banner was paid for by postal workers after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
"After the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of employees came to me and said, 'Let's do something'," said Ed Hinde, who was the postmaster from 1987 to 2003. "The employees paid for half of it, and I paid for half of it."
Madeline Ziegler of FFRF said, "We're very pleased that the post office took the right steps to separate church and state and abide by the post office regulations."
"It's a shame that 23,000 people can control the desires of millions of other Americans," said Martin Dickson, Pittsburg resident. "I recognise the separation and the reason for it. But I also realise that we need God's blessing more now than ever."
The banner removal has prompted residents to display banners and signs all over their town.
Dickson, who owns the Jayhawk Signs & Graphics, said they decided to cut prices of "God Bless America" signs and banners after the removal of the post office banner.
"We're not doing it for the business. We're doing this to promote America," said Dickinson, who also works as a priest at All Saints Anglican in Chicopee.