Tavia Hunt was only looking to print some nice stamps for the family Christmas cards. But what she found might become a pivotal Supreme Court case testing the deep state’s war against Christmas.
Lawyers for Hunt on Thursday sent a letter to the U.S. Postal Service demanding an explanation for a policy adopted in early 2017 that allegedly bars “all religious content” from being used on U.S. postal stamps, even those created privately through third-party printers authorized to create customized stamps.
A bar on religious imagery in stamps would be unconstitutional, according to Tavia’s lawyers at First Liberty Institute, a legal group dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.
Hunt is the wife of Clarke Hunt, the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. Earlier this year she decided to have custom stamps made from a picture of her family taken in front of the easily recognizable onion-shaped minarets of St. Basil’s Cathedral. It’s a cute if familiar image: American tourists, standing in front of St. Basil’s in silly fur hats. Hunt and two of her daughters are holding a flag reading “Chief’s Kingdom” in the team colors.
A few days after she had uploaded the photo to Zazzle, a company licensed to create customized stamps, Hunt learned that her order had been cancelled. The company said the image violated its content policy.
When Hunt asked Zazzle to clarify what was wrong with the image, she was told by a company representative that it was the prominence of the cathedral that violated the content policy. The company backed off of that position when Hunt said in an email that this appeared to be a “ban on religion.” The next day it told her that her order was approved and would be shipped soon.
But when Hunt tried to track her shipment online, she learned it had been cancelled again. This time Zazzle told her to make inquiries with Stamps.com, which it said is responsible for all content decisions, according to Hunt’s lawyers.
Stamps.com initially claimed the rejection had nothing to do with Hunt’s religious devotion or the image of St. Basil’s. Instead, it said the stamps were rejected because the image included the logo of the Kansas City Chiefs. To prove she had the rights to the logo, Hunt signed an affidavit and had it delivered to Stamps.com and Zazzle.
Which is when Zazzle returns to the story. Zazzle called to say that the original explanation was correct–this was all about St. Basil’s. In a December 10 email, Zazzle confirmed that the rejection was “due to the prominence of St. Basil’s Cathedral on the background.” The order would be approved if “the image is cropped so that the cathedral is not obvious,” the company added.
Later, Stamps.com told Hunt’s assistant Ashleigh that “all religious content is forbidden no matter the intent or faith.”
In other words, Zazzle and Stamps.com were not rejecting Hunt’s stamps because of their policies. They were rejecting them because of what they understand to be a regulation of the United States Postal Service. As Postal Service vendors they are obligated to follow rules set by the government.
The letter from Hunt’s lawyers sent Thursday morning seeks clarification on what the Postal Service’s rule actually is. If it has been misinterpreted by vendors, the Postal Service should clarify its position. If it is being correctly interpreted as a ban on religious content, then it is likely an unconstitutional restriction on the free exercise of religion, Hunt’s lawyers say in the letter.
Zazzle has recently told Hunt that it has suspended all printing of stamps customized with images while it tries to sort “multiple variables involving federal guidelines.”
In other words, they want Hunt to cancel her Christmas stamps this year while they figure out how much of the world-famous cathedral can be included on a stamp.
Hunt isn’t giving up so easy. Her lawyers conclude their letter by saying they are willing to take the matter to court if necessary:
Mrs. Hunt considers these stamps to be an essential aspect of her Christmastime message for friends and family and is withholding sending the cards until this issue is resolved. For these reasons, we ask that the USPS contact its approved vendors Stamps.com and Zazzle no later than 12:00pm Central Time, Friday, December 21, 2018, to clarify that Mrs. Hunt’s image does not violate USPS guidelines from customized postage. If you insist that Mrs. Hunt’s photo contains “religious content” in violation of the USPS guidelines, then the guidelines raise significant First Amendment concerns and we will consider appropriate legal remedies to vindicate Mrs. Hunt’s constitutional rights.
It’s not too late for the Postal Service to explain this has all been a terrible misunderstanding, but that might take a real Christmas miracle. Or at least a lawsuit defending the right to express a belief in the original Christmas miracle.