The United States Postal Service pulled the plug on a profitable custom stamp program rather than let Americans use religious imagery.
The cash-strapped agency generated millions of dollars by allowing customers to design their own stamps before eliminating the program in June. Jeremy Dys, special counsel at nonprofit religious freedom law firm First Liberty, said the decision came shortly after several people attempted to create stamps featuring religious backdrops and imagery. Dys criticized USPS—which requested $75 billion from taxpayers in April—for leaving money on the table.
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"Rather than permit anything that might be religious to appear on a custom stamp that you would pay for and then give money to the U.S. Postal Service through a revenue stream, they decided to walk away from multimillion-dollars' worth of custom stamp programs," Dys told the Washington Free Beacon.
A USPS spokesman said that the decision to end the program resulted from the "insignificant" revenue, adding that the program had become an "unacceptable risk" to the service's brand.
"After careful consideration, the Postal Service has concluded that the Customized Postage program constitutes an unacceptable risk to our legal brand and business interests that outweighs any countervailing benefits, given the program's declining demand, its insignificant contribution to the Postal Service's revenues, and the availability of alternatives," a spokesman told the Free Beacon.
The issue first came to light in 2018 when a custom stamp vendor, citing USPS regulations, blocked an order from Tavia Hunt, wife of Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, to make a customized stamp of her family posing in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. In 2019, Susan Fletcher, a Texas graphic designer, attempted to make a custom stamp to celebrate Christmas, only to be thwarted by USPS officials. While religious imagery drew objections from the USPS, the service has still made room for customizable postage for corporate clients, allowing commercial mailers to use corporate logos and trademarks on stamps.
The service's finances and policies have faced scrutiny in recent weeks as Democrats push for expanded mail-in voting ahead of the 2020 election. House Democrats are voting on a bill to provide the service with $25 billion in additional funding ahead of the election.
Dys said Congress should demand answers from USPS officials before it considers further bailouts.
"If they're considering giving millions or billions of dollars to the Postal Service, they should know that the Postal Service decided to walk away from their own revenue stream," Dys said. "It is an absolute mess. And it's a mess of the Post Office's own creation here."
The USPS is facing a dire financial situation with a net loss of $8.8 billion in 2019.
"The Postal Service's business model is broken and will only produce widening losses in the coming years, absent dramatic changes," the USPS admitted in its 2019 financial report.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is slated to testify before the Senate on Friday to discuss reports of delivery delays, as well as the administration's decision to halt any reforms until after the election.