The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Sticky problem: atheists slam Mother Teresa stamp

As one might expect, they’re not crazy about the Virgin Mary, or Father Flanagan, either:

motherteresa_slideshow_604x500.jpgThe Freedom from Religion Foundation is urging its supporters to boycott the stamp — and also to engage in a letter-writing campaign to spread the word about what it calls the “darker side” of Mother Teresa.


The stamp — set to be released on Aug. 26, which would have been Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday — will recognize the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her humanitarian work, the Postal Service announced last month.

“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,” the Postal Service said in a press release. “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.”

But Freedom from Religion Foundation spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor says issuing the stamp runs against Postal Service regulations.


“Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution. You can’t really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did,” Gaylor told

Postal Service spokesman Roy Betts expressed surprise at the protest, given the long list of previous honorees with strong religious backgrounds, including Malcolm X, the former chief spokesman for the Nation of Islam, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“In fact we honored Father Flanagan in 1986 for his humanitarian work. This has nothing to do with religion or faith,” Betts told

Gaylor said the atheist group opposed Father Flanagan’s stamp but not those for King and Malcolm X, because she said they were known for their civil rights activities, not for their religion.


Martin Luther King “just happened to be a minister,” and “Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure,” she said.

“And he’s not called Father Malcolm X like Mother Teresa. I mean, even her name is a Roman Catholic honorific.”

There’s more at the link, including pictures of other offending stamps.

Comments read comments(7)
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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted January 29, 2010 at 7:28 am

You know – people really need to give it a rest. Let the stamp be!

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Christopher Nocera

posted January 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

“You can’t really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did,”
How I wish it could be said of all of us “that you can’t really separate us being a Roman Catholic from everything we did”!

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Steve P

posted January 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

There’s a way to win converts to atheism– bash Mother Teresa. I thought only Christians undermined their witness with that sort of crude behavior! (tongue inserted in cheek)
And Amen to that, Christopher!

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posted January 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I am really sick of these people who call themselves “atheists”. They think more about God and religion than I do. they’re actually “antitheists.”
The woman from the Freedom from Religion group said, “Martin Luther King “just happened to be a minister,” and “Malcolm X was not principally known for being a religious figure,” she said.”
I think she needs to read his speeches.

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posted January 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I meant that she needs to read MLK’s speeches.
I think that Martin Luther King would be insulted if someone told him he wasn’t a religious figure.

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posted January 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Atheists are indeed anti-theists. At least, the arrogant ones who want to destroy the faith of those of us who believe in a Higher Power. They claim to have a “live and let live” philosophy, and then go on the attack. How many atheist organizations help other people? How many atheist individuals are altruistic? They even have their own national holiday, April 1…

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Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk

posted July 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

Oh, good grief!
As a progressive person dedicated to supporting human rights AND interfaith work, I think the stamp is a WONDERFUL idea! I care deeply about the seperation of church and state, as I think that is for all of our benefits. But there are much bigger issues that threaten that than a stamp commemorating the wonderful work of Mother Teresa.
In her own words she once said in answer to an angry mob that was threatening her and her sisters for buying an abandoned building that had served as a Shrine to the Hindu Goddess of Compassion to revamp into a clinic for the poor afflicted by illness:
“A Hindu must be a good Hindu, a Muslim must be a good Muslim and a Christian should be a good Christian.”
The people forced their way in and stood in awe of her compassion to those they themselves had ignored. They became supportive of her work, saying that it was by far a greater means of worshiping their Goddess of Compassion than the abandoned temple had been. Her earliest endeavor, was thus an interfaith one!
We could all learn so much from her!
She is one of my heros! (and I’m not even Christian!)

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