Monday, December 30, 2019

Suit Challenges Postal Service's Rules On Content of Customized Stamps

Suit was filed earlier this month in a Texas federal district court challenging the constitutionality of a portion of the U.S. Postal Service's regulation (39 CFR §501.21) that limits the depictions that may be placed on customized postage stamps produced by private providers authorized by USPS. The regulation limits, among other things, "Any depiction of political, religious, violent or sexual content".  The complaint, (full text) in Fletcher v. U.S. Postal Service, (ED TX, filed 12/19/2019), contends that plaintiff's free speech and free exercise rights (including her rights under RFRA) are violated because she will be unable to create personalized postage stamps that allow her to share her love of Christmas and other holidays through's website.  According to the complaint:
16. The website also requires customers to agree that, in its sole discretion, may determine if designs meet the eligibility criteria and may also reject orders without explanations. If customers submit a design determines is in violation of their requirements, those customers may be charged a processing fee of $10 per image.
17. If customers publicly complain about the rejection of a stamp design, claims it will be harmed and may pursue legal action. The website states, “[if] you intentionally publicize such violation, you acknowledge that will suffer substantial damage to its reputation and goodwill and that you can be liable for causing such substantial damage.”
The complaint goes on to allege that:
... USPS chose to promulgate a regulation allowing third-party providers, such as PhotoStamps, to discriminate against speech. Regulation 39 C.F.R. § 501.7(c)(1) requires the provider—here, PhotoStamps—to ensure that what it prints is “[c]onsistent with the Postal Service’s intent to maintain neutrality on religious, social, political, legal, moral, or other public issues.”
First Liberty Institute issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.