Op-Ed: This Holiday Season, USPS Should Offer Custom Postage | Opinion

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It’s almost that time of year again, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) marks the occasion by releasing new “A visit from Saint Nick“Forever stamps. And for mail consumers who don’t celebrate Christmas or celebrate other holidays besides Christmas, there are stamps too. celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Diwali.

Some people are not happy with religion The figures and sentences that appear on USPS stamps and quote the Establishment clause (which prohibits the government establishment of religion) as a cause for concern. The agency could alleviate these problems by allowing consumers to create their own personalized religious stamps instead of official designs ordered by the USPS. Unfortunately, the US mailman banned religious content on personalized stamps and ended the personalized postage program completely in the face of free speech and religious freedom lawsuits. The USPS should withdraw from its postal patronage of religion and let all Americans speak their minds as they see fit.

Beginning in 2004, the USPS allowed private companies to sell custom postage to consumers. Everyone benefited from this arrangement, including the agency, which charged an annual license fee for the right to resell the postage and did not have to fork out any money for the production, distribution or promotion of personalized postage. Meanwhile, consumers were able to get the images they wanted on the stamps instead of the limited choices offered by the agency. Personalized stamps with religious content were a fair game until 2017, when the USPS promulgated regulations prohibiting all depiction of religious content.

The agency’s decision to ban religious imagery was criticized at the time. Many commentators and stakeholders have warned that the ban will create legal problems for the agency. The problem is that the USPS is a federal agency and the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act states that “[g]government should not impose a substantial burden on the exercise of a person’s religion even if that burden results from a rule of general applicability … ”least restrictive way of promoting that interest.

The agency knew it would never be able to meet this standard. After all, the government was placing a substantial burden on a religiously motivated act by banning all religious content on personalized stamps. And, any “compelling interest” asserted by the USPS wouldn’t make much sense, since the agency itself regularly prints and circulates religious stamps. Faced with an impossible legal situation on its own initiative, the agency ended its personalized franking program in 2020. Leading personalized franking printer Stamps.com was not very satisfied and submitted comments to the Postal Regulatory Commission challenging the decision. The company correctly noted that the personalized stamp market is worth at least $ 15 million per year, which the USPS shares with private stamp sellers. That total could quickly increase if the agency restarted the program and lifted the ban on religious stamps.

The USPS may even be legally required to restart the program. 39 USC §404a prevents the agency from “establishing[ing] any rule or regulation (including any standard) the effect of which is to prevent competition or to establish the conditions for competition, unless the postal service demonstrates that the regulation does not create an unfair competitive advantage for it – even or any entity funded (in whole or in part) by the Postal Service… ”The USPS has its own“ Picture Permit Indicia Program ”to produce personalized (limited) postage. Ending the privately run personalized postage program certainly gives the impression of creating an “unfair competitive advantage” for the agency.

The USPS is therefore on shaky legal ground until it restarts the personalized postage program. And, the agency is on shaky financial ground after losing more than $ 80 billion in the past 15 years.

Letting consumers print religious themed stamps is not only the right and legal thing to do, but also a small step towards financial sustainability. The USPS can spread the joy of non-denominational holidays by giving more freedom to its consumers.

Ross Marchand is a Principal Investigator at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.


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