By Elizabeth Tenety
The United States Postal Service’s decision to issue a 2010 stamp honoring Mother Teresa may seem harmless, but a closer look shows that the USPS may be in violation of its own guidelines.
“Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.”
So why did the Postal Service decide to include the late Calcutta nun in its 2010 stamp program?
In an interview with FoxNews.com, USPS Spokesman Roy Betts said, “Mother Teresa is not being honored because of her religion, she’s being honored for her work with the poor and her acts of humanitarian relief.” “This has nothing to do with religion or faith.”
Nothing to do with religion or faith? Even the press release announcing the stamp noted that the nun’s “divine inspiration” for her charity work. Why would the Postal Service bother with guidelines if it refuses to follow them?
And now the Postal Service, of all benign government agencies, has found itself in the midst of a clash over the separation of church and state and postage stamps.
Referring to the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s call for a protest of the stamp, FoxNews.com ran an article titled “Atheist Group Blasts Postal Service for Mother Teresa Stamp” which focused on some non-believers’ criticism of the controversial stamp.
And over at the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization, President Brad Dacus bemoaned, “Just when you think the atheists and anti-religionists have run out of things to complain about, they attack Mother Teresa, one of the great role models of the last century.”
But at the First Things blog, Joe Carter wrote that based on the USPS’s guidelines, the nun should not be honored with the stamp. “Mother Teresa should certainly appear on a stamp–but only after we change the law. We shouldn’t look for loopholes that require denying the importance of her faith in order for her to qualify.”
Speaking of denying her faith -it was revealed in 2007 that Mother Teresa was plagued by entrenched and implacable doubt, to the point where the venerated holy woman even questioned the existence of God.
Perhaps Mother Teresa was motivated by her faith, or maybe even moved to action on behalf of the desperately poor despite her doubt. Should the US Postal Service be in the business of deciding whether certain belief systems motivate charitable people?
If the “principle achievements” of the habit-clad Roman Catholic founder of the Missionaries of Charity, beatified by Pope John Paul II as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are not “associated with religious undertakings or beliefs,” whose are?