A prominent atheist organization in America is attacking Mother Teresa as unworthy of being honored with a memorial stamp, as the U.S. Postal Service has announced.
In fact, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is advocating that its constituents “vote with your pocketbook, and boycott these stamps.”
The group also suggests, “If this choice of a polarizing Roman Catholic figurehead or the Post Office’s flagrant violation of its own policy distresses you, let the Post Office know (by mail or e-mail) … Or make this the subject of an educational letter to the editor, or simply use this opportunity to enlighten friends and colleagues about the darker side of Mother Teresa’s religious activism.”
The Pacific Justice Institute, which engages in battles regularly on behalf of civil rights and the nation’s Christian heritage, immediately launched its own campaign urging support for the stamp.
“We didn’t want theirs to be the only letters,” Matthew McReynolds, the organization’s associate counsel, told WND.
Pacific Justice said it will send the Postal Service a letter offering legal support for the Mother Teresa stamp if it is needed.
The organization said its constituents could dispatch supportive comments via the USPS website, or they could write to:
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
Stamp Department, USPS
1735 N. Lynn Street, Suite 5013
Arlington, VA 22209-6432
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 10433
Washington, D.C. 20260-2200M
“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,” said PJI President Brad Dacus. “We are encouraging anyone who has been inspired by Mother Teresa to join us in writing letters of appreciation to the U.S. Postal Service to counter the ridiculous complaints they are receiving from the FFRF.”
The Postal Service announced plans for the Mother Teresa stamp along with stamps honoring Katharine Hepburn, Negro Leagues Baseball and Cowboys of the Silver Screen.
“Noted for her compassion toward the poor and suffering, Mother Teresa, a diminutive Roman Catholic nun and honorary U.S. citizen, served the sick and destitute of India and the world for nearly 50 years. Her humility and compassion, as well as her respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind, inspired people of all ages and backgrounds to work on behalf of the world’s poorest populations,” the USPS announcement said.
The description continued:
Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian, was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, in Skopje in what is now [Albania]. Drawn to the religious life as a young girl, she left her home at the age of 18 to serve as a Roman Catholic missionary in India. “By then I realized my vocation was towards the poor,” she later said. “From then on, I have never had the least doubt of my decision.” Having adopted the name of Sister Mary Teresa, she arrived in India in 1929 and underwent initial training in religious life at a convent in Darjeeling, north of Calcutta. Two years later, she took temporary vows as a nun before transferring to a convent in Calcutta. She became known as Mother Teresa in 1937, when she took her final vows.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said there’s “plenty” wrong with the honor.
“It is against … postal regulations to ‘honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs,'” the group said.
“Mother Teresa … is a bad fit to appear on a stamp based on other postal criteria. The fact that Pres. Clinton made her an honorary citizen in 1996 gets around one obvious objection, but criterion No. 6 also should have been a stumbling block: ‘Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor fraternal, political, sectarian, or service/charitable organizations,'” said the foundation.
“The organization she ran and was inextricably identified with, Missionaries of Charity, was both sectarian (Roman Catholic) and a service/charitable organization,” the group said.
“Here’s another objection: Mother Teresa used almost every public occasion, including her acceptance speech for the Nobel prize, to promote Roman Catholic dogma, especially its antiabortion ideology,” the group said. “Even during her Nobel acceptance, the nun delivered a gratuitous tirade against abortion.”
The organization called Mother Teresa’s address “a disturbing, befogged religious rant.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation had no such objections to the honor for Hepburn, a prominent atheist. In fact, the group said a better purchase option would be the stamp honoring Hepburn, who told the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1991, “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.”
Pacific Justice, however, noted organizations such as the Universal Society for Hinduism have called the Mother Teresa stamp an honor to all of India.
The Postal Service said the stamp features a portrait of Mother Teresa painted by award-winning artist Thomas Blackshear II of Colorado Springs, Colo.
The agency said when the 1979 Nobel was awarded, she accepted it, “in the name of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the lonely.” She convinced organizers to donate to the needy money normally used to fund an awards banquet.
“Well respected worldwide, she successfully urged many of the world’s business and political leaders to give their time and resources to help those in need. President Ronald Reagan presented Mother Teresa with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, the same year she began work on behalf of AIDS sufferers in the U.S. and other countries. In 1997, Congress awarded Mother Teresa the Congressional Gold Medal for her ‘outstanding and enduring contributions through humanitarian and charitable activities,'” the Postal Service recited.
She died in Calcutta in 1997 and is buried there.
Pacific Justice Institute said it has clashed with the FFRF before.
“In the last year, the FFRF has sent numerous letters to local governments in California and elsewhere threatening to sue over public invocations, and PJI has countered with legal opinion letters supporting prayer and free speech. Last October, the FFRF filed suit challenging federal and state tax laws that provide tax exemptions for ministers’ housing allowances. PJI represents ministers who would be affected by that suit,” the legal team said.