Susan Fletcher | Cases | First Liberty

USPS Reg Chills Religious Freedom

Susan Fletcher is a graphic designer motivated to express her faith in everything she does. In particular, she feels called by God to use the artistic talents he has given her to communicate her faith to others. This includes designing stamps to celebrate religious holidays and to share her religious viewpoint with her friends and family members.

When she learned that United States Postal Service (“USPS”) vendors offer to personalize postage stamps, she was excited to employ her design skills to communicate the most personal thing to her: her faith. The USPS operates a customized postage program that allows third party vendors to print designs created by ordinary citizens.

While preparing to submit her personalized stamp design, Susan discovered that a USPS regulation prevents her from ordering personalized stamps with religious content. The regulation categorically prohibits images or text containing any depiction of religious content, despite allowing secular depictions of the same topics. Ironically, the USPS itself issues several religiously-themed stamps each year, even though it refuses to allow individuals to personalize religious stamps of their own.

Among the designs Fletcher hoped to create were:

  • A Christmas nativity scene recalling the birth of Christ, “Emmanuel, God with us.”
  • The phrase “God Bless Texas” to celebrate Texas Independence Day and reflecting her personal prayer for her home state.
  • A depiction of the empty cross of Christ with the phrase “I am with you always” to celebrate Easter, the most central of Christian holidays.
  • And, a stamp about missionary work—a Christian duty, according to Susan—featuring the words of Christ from Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples.”

Susan said, “I just want to express my faith in everything I do, at Christmas and all throughout the year. I am truly saddened that the country I love would keep me from expressing the most important message I could share with others: my faith.”

Incredibly, the USPS lumps religious content into a category described as “unsuitable for all-ages and audiences.” Other categories excluded by the USPS include content that is violent or filled with sexually explicit images.

Not only that, one of the private third parties facilitating customized stamp creation has stiff penalties for those customers who publicly complain about the rejection of a stamp design. Stamps.com, for instance, claims it will be harmed by customers who complain in public about the regulation—and may even pursue legal action against those who do!

First Liberty Files Lawsuit

In order to protect its client from a possible lawsuit or, worse, crippling financial penalties, First Liberty Institute, along with its network attorneys at the international law firm of Winston & Strawn, LLP, filed a federal lawsuit against the USPS to prevent it from continuing to enforce the regulation.

The lawsuit argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has held such categorical exclusion of religious content as viewpoint discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. Not only that, the lawsuit also argues the regulation substantially burdens the free exercise of Susan’s religion.

“USPS offers its own version of a religious stamp, but, ironically, it will not allow religious Americans to personalize a stamp for their own use with an expression of their own religion,” said Jeremy Dys, Special Counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty Institute. “This regulation by the USPS not only chills speech, it silences it.”

News Release
For Immediate Release: 12.19.19
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Lawsuit Against U.S. Postal Service Alleges Regulation Preventing Religious Content on Personalized Stamps is Unconstitutional
Postal regulations promote “viewpoint discrimination” by USPS, discriminating against religious speech by citizens at Christmas, throughout the year 

Plano, TX—Today, First Liberty Institute, along with its network attorneys from the international law firm of Winston & Strawn, LLP, filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) alleging that a 2017 USPS regulation barring “any depiction” of religious content on personalized stamps is unconstitutional.

You can read the complaint here.

“Personalized postage stamps do not violate the First Amendment just because they reference religion,” Chad Walker, partner with Winston & Strawn and First Liberty network attorney said.  “Government regulations prohibiting religious speech by Americans offend the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Susan Fletcher, a graphic designer from Frisco, TX, motivated to express her faith in everything she does.  Not only does the USPS regulation prevent Susan from creating a stamp involving the most personal thing to her (her faith), it lumps her religion into a category the regulation describes as, “unsuitable for all ages and audiences.”

“USPS offers its own version of a religious stamp, but, ironically, it will not allow religious Americans to personalize stamps containing an expression of their own religious beliefs for their own use,” said Jeremy Dys, Special Counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty Institute. “This regulation by the USPS not only chills speech, it silences it.”

Among the designs Fletcher hoped to create were:

  • A Christmas nativity scene recalling the birth of Christ, “Emmanuel, God with us.”
  • The phrase “God Bless Texas” to celebrate Texas Independence Day and reflecting her personal prayer for her home state.
  • A depiction of the empty cross of Christ with the phrase “I am with you always” to celebrate Easter, the most central of Christian holidays.
  • And, a stamp about missionary work—a primary duty of Christians, according to Susan—featuring the words of Christ from Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples.”

Susan said, “I just want to express my faith in everything I do, at Christmas and all throughout the year.  I am truly saddened that the country I love would keep me from expressing the most important message I could share with others: my faith.”

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 About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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