A battle began brewing shortly after the U.S. Postal Service announced the new stamps it was planning for 2010. One of the stamps features Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which seems to have no desire to offer the rest of us freedom from their view of religion, is organizing a boycott and letter-writing campaign against the stamp. And as this op-ed explains, they do have a valid point: the Postal Service’s own criteria for stamp selection contains this:
“Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.”
A USPS spokesman tried to say that her inclusion has nothing to do with religion or faith but rather “her work with the poor and her acts of humanitarian relief.”
Nice try, but no cigar.
Her work was undeniably influenced by her deep religious beliefs, and clearly would be regarded by anyone as “religious undertakings.” You can’t pretend that this Catholic nun who has been nominated for sainthood was just an all-around nice gal that didn’t have a calling from Jesus Christ at the forefront of her every move. I certainly can’t imagine that she would want to be disassociated with her faith.
But I can’t help snickering at this giant double standard also mentioned in the op-ed: the same foundation that objects so strongly to the issuance of a Mother Teresa stamp because of the focus on the honoree’s religious beliefs is simultaneously encouraging its members to buy the stamp honoring Katherine Hepburn because of her religious beliefs. Hepburn publicly described herself as an atheist.
If a focus on religion is a problem, then it should be universally problematic: if we don’t want a nun’s Christian acts to be reason to buy a stamp, we ought not flock to an actress’s lack of faith as a reason, either. That’s not exactly freeing yourself from religious motivation.