Tavia Hunt was just trying to get into the holiday spirit when she decided to request through a private vendor a customized stamp with a family photo (above). Unbeknownst to Hunt, she made the mistake of choosing a picture of her family posing in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.
Hunt’s request was denied. She was told that the photo was a violation of a United States Postal Service (USPS) regulation that prohibits “content that is unsuitable for all-ages audiences, including . . . [a]ny depiction of political, religious, violent or sexual content.” The cathedral, apparently, was too religious.
According to USPS, it aims to “to limit content to family-friendly images or text that would not cause concern among mainstream, multi-generational users of the mail.”
It’s a bizarre state of affairs when even arguably religious content is considered as unsuitable as violent or sexual content or as cause for “concern.” First Liberty Institute, which has filed a demand letter on behalf of Hunt, pointed out the irony that St. Basil’s Cathedral “was secularized and converted into a museum decades ago.”
First Liberty rightly called out the USPS and said:
If the USPS insists that Tavia’s family photo in front of a historic cathedral contains religious content in violation of the USPS guidelines, then the guidelines raise significant First Amendment concerns that may require further legal action.
USPS has said the regulation prohibits any religious content to avoid “delegat[ing] unduly fine-grained distinctions to providers and increas[ing] First Amendment and [USPS] liability.”
Well, so much for that. The overbroad prohibition has created exactly the scenario USPS sought to avoid. Yet again, government treats religion as a leper, and now citizens are shut out from even being in the same picture with a cathedral if they want to appear on a stamp for their family Christmas card.