Empire State Building says policy bars honoring Mother Teresa, Catholic League to protest

Mother Teresa, the Empire State Building and Anthony Malkin.
Mother Teresa, the Empire State Building and Anthony Malkin.


The company that operates the Empire State Building has said it will not run a lighting scheme to mark Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday, stating that it has a specific policy against honoring religious figures. In response the Catholic League cited several previous actions apparently contradicting the reported policy and announced a protest.

In a June 9 statement, Anthony E. Malkin of Malkin Holdings explained why his operating company would not light the landmark with the blue and white colors of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity on August 26, as requested by the Catholic League.

“The Empire State Building (ESB) celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lightings, and has a tradition of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al Fitr, Hanukah, and Christmas,” he explained.

But, Malkin qualified, “As a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations.”

Malkin’s statement did not report how long the policy had been in place.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said Wednesday that Malkin was “either misinformed or lying.”

Donohue cited the red and white lighting scheme the building displayed on John Cardinal O’Connor’s death in 2000. In 2005, at the death of Pope John Paul II, the lights were turned off in his honor. That same year, the Salvation Army’s 125th Anniversary was marked with lights of yellow, red and blue.

“Every year the colors red, black and green are lit in memory of Rev. Martin Luther King,” the Catholic League president continued. “In other words, there is no policy barring religious figures or organizations from being honored.”

He reported that when the application for Mother Teresa’s birthday was submitted to the ESB on Feb. 2, the public relations and events coordinator of the building acknowledged receiving the request and did not mention any policy which would hinder it.

“Malkin has made his decision to stiff Catholics,” claimed Donohue. “I have made mine.”

He announced that the Catholic League will call off its petition drive advocating the honor, an effort that garnered 40,000 supporters. The organization will proceed with a demonstration outside the Empire State Building on August 26.

Malkin’s decision in the face of “massive support” for the request is “something he will regret for the rest of his life,” Donohue remarked.

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