Officials said Friday it was strictly “a business decision” when they opted to offer customers no new religiously themed holiday stamps in 2015, not part of an effort to reduce religion’s influence in the U.S. Postal Service’s commemorative collection.
Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service issued the comment in a letter to yesterday’s Daily Caller News Foundation report disclosing that the postal service will not be printing new religiously-oriented holiday stamps in 2015. Such stamps have been issued almost every year for more than half a century.
Saunders said in the letter that postal officials decided to end the practice of printing new religious stamps every year for Christmas, Chanukah, the Muslim Ramadan holiday of EID and Kwanzaa. The special stamps will now only be offered every other year, starting in 2016.
Saunders did not say when the decision was made of who made it, but decisions about proposed commemorative stamps have been made since 1950s the Postal Service’s Citizens Advisory Stamp Committee.
No evidence was found of public notice of the change in policy, or soliciting public comment before implementing the new printing schedule.
Ken Martin, chief operating officer for the American Philatelic Society, which represents professional stamp collectors, said he has heard of objections to the alternate-year printing schedule.
Mark Sharp, a legal counsel for the Alliance for Defense of Freedom echoed Martin’s account.
“We’re seeing more and more, a government that is silencing and censoring of religious views, of religious beliefs and of religious symbols,” Sharp said. “This is one symptom of a very broader effort to purge religion from the public square.”
Commemorative stamp decisions have been shrouded in secrecy within the postal service since citizens advisory group was formed. No public hearings are held and decisions are made behind closed doors in meetings for which no minutes or transcripts are made available outside of the Postal Service.
Martin favors more openness and transparency in Postal Service deliberations.
“I think their deliberations should be made public after a reasonable period of time,” he said. “I would argue there should be some sort of minutes or transcripts, with the subjects they considered and then some comments why they accepted or didn’t accept stamps.”
Saunders noted in his letter that there is a large inventory of religiously-themed stamps issued in previous years available for purchase by the public.
He didn’t say how many in the inventory depict religious images or how many feature non-religious images like 2015’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Snowflake” commemorative stamps.
Sharp said that generic snow flakes or snowmen replace the Christian symbols of Christmas.
“They can only do Frosty the Snowman or something that has no religious content. It’s part of other efforts to take down religious symbols and religious monuments. It’s part of the effort to completely drive religion out of the public square,” Sharp said.
The Postal Service has issued between 40 and 100 different commemorative stamps each year. Martin said the costs for producing a commemorative stamp are “minimal.” Costs for using religious images are nearly free compared to contemporary secular images, which often require payment of hefty royalties or licensing fees.
“Most of the religious ones are based on paintings without any copyright,” he said. “Most of them are Italian Renaissance painters. I’m not aware any of those qualify for royalties,” he said.