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An effort to include a unique stamp to send family Christmas cards has instead turned into a dispute between one family and the United States Postal Service.
Tavia Hunt wanted to use customized stamps for her Christmas cards. The stamps featured a family photo from a recent visit to Russia. The family photo was taken in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.
The design was initially accepted, but Tavia was informed her order was being cancelled because of the “religious” nature of the stamp — specifically the presence of the cathedral in the background. Zazzle, an approved licensed vendor by the USPS, said the order could be approved if the photo would be cropped in a way that made the cathedral “less obvious.”
Tavia’s order remains unfulfilled. Her Christmas cards have not been sent either.
First Liberty Institute was contacted to represent Tavia. First Liberty sent a letter to the USPS seeking clarification of its policies regarding custom postage.
The regulation, First Liberty said, is overly broad and may violate the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.
“All I wanted was to add something personal to my family’s Christmas cards,” Tavia said. “I was shocked that a family photo that includes a historic cathedral in the background is considered too religious by the Post Office.”
Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute, said this entire ordeal is ridiculous.
“No one should have to go to court to send a Christmas card,” he said. “USPS policies are so ambiguous and unequally applied that even its approved vendors don’t know what is allowed and what isn’t. The USPS has made both Zazzle and Stamps.com agents of discrimination.”
The USPS does print its own religious stamps.
“They’re just saying that you’re not allowed to,” Sasser said. “‘We’ll sell you our religious stamp, but you can’t have one.'”
The USPS says images must not contain content that is unsuitable for all-ages audiences, including but not limited to…any depiction of political, religious, violent or sexual content.
“Religion I guess is the new pornography for the postal service,” Sasser said. “They can change this tomorrow if they want to.”