Following the U.S. Postal Service announcement that they are featuring the late Mother Teresa on an upcoming stamp, the atheist group Freedom from Religion has urged its supporters to boycott the stamp on the grounds that it violates postal regulations.
The stamp is scheduled for release on Aug. 26, which would have been Mother Teresa's 100th birthday, and is intended to honor the Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her humanitarian work. A press release from the U.S. Postal Service issued last month praised Mother Teresa for her 50 years of service to “the sick and destitute of India and the world,” as well as her “humility and compassion” and “respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind.”
However, Annie Gaylor, spokeswoman for Freedom from Religion, told Fox News on Thursday that the stamp goes against a postal stipulation that prevents the Postal Service from honoring “individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings.”
“Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution,” Gaylor argued. “You can't really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did.”
Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts responded to Gaylor by saying that there is a long history of individuals with religious backgrounds like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. who have been honored on stamps. “This has nothing to do with faith,” he stated in a reply to Fox News.
Gaylor claimed, however, that Dr. King “just happened to be a minister” and that “Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure.”
“And he's not called Father Malcolm X like Mother Teresa,” Gaylor continued. “I mean, even her name is a Catholic honorific.”
Catholic League president Bill Donahue also reacted to Gaylor's arguments on Thursday, issuing a statement which said that Gaylor “sounds like a white racist when she dresses down Rev. Martin Luther King.”
Responding to Gaylor's claim that Martin Luther King, Jr. “just happened to be a minister,” Donahue said, “Really? We'd like to hear her explain that to African Americans at a Sunday service. Perhaps she can get the NAACP to recast King as a secular orator, and not as a black clergyman, during Black History Month, which starts on Monday.”
Gaylor also told Fox News that she opposed Mother Teresa's “anti-abortion rant” during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1979 and claimed that her humanitarian work was fraught with controversy.
“There was criticism by the end of her life that she turned what was a tiny charity into an extremely wealthy charity that had the means to provide better care than it did,” Gaylor argued.
Donahue countered Gaylor's claim, asserting, “What's really driving Gaylor's hatred of Mother Teresa, besides her virulent anti-Catholicism, is the saintly nun’s opposition to abortion.”
“She accuses the Albanian nun of making an 'anti-abortion rant' during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech. As a matter of fact, the 'rant' amounted to her saying that 'abortion was the greatest destroyer of peace in the world,'” Donahue stated.
“To understand why abortion hits a nerve with Gaylor, consider this,” he added. “Her mother, Annie Nicol Gaylor, founded the Freedom from Religion Foundation in 1978. And just two years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand, she released a book titled, 'Abortion Is a Blessing.' This is not the kind of book that someone who is reluctantly pro-choice writes: it could only be written by someone who sees abortion as a positive good.”
Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts reiterated on Thursday that “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.”
“Her contribution to the world as a humanitarian speaks for itself and is unprecedented.”