Light the Empire State Building to honor Mother Teresa, or else?

Catholic forces in New York City are not-so-quietly mobilizing a massive petition drive, protest, lobbying effort and media campaign to attempt to force the owner of the Empire State Building to light the building blue and white on August 26 in honor of Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday. Their efforts have even infiltrated the City Council of New York City, in the form of a resolution which was referred to committee at the council meeting on June 9. 

The City Council resolution introduced by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. would force the building owner to honor the New York City Catholic League’s lighting request.

According to the New York Post, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was infuriated by the owner’s refusal to light the building to honor Teresa. Quinn said: “I just think it’s a really wrongheaded decision.”

Anthony E. Malkin, who privately owns the Empire State Building, said the building “has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations.”

The New York Post (June 9) featured a full-page cover story and photo of the Empire State Building with a huge headline: “THE EVIL EMPIRE.” The Catholic League plans to demonstrate outside the Empire State Building on August 26 and has collected 40,000 signatures for a petition in support of the Mother Teresa lighting.

The president of the Catholic League griped: “I think that too many Catholics have fallen asleep at the wheel. It’s time for people, the rank and file to say enough is enough. I hope it’s going to be nonviolent, I wouldn’t encourage violence but I know there’s a lot of anger.”

Speaker Quinn has additionally joined with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to declare August 26 a “day of service in honor of Mother Teresa.” 

Quinn said: “The Empire State Building does not have final say on how Mother Teresa’s life should be honored. That’s why we in the Council are inviting all New Yorkers on August 26th, light up their own windows, homes, businesses in blue and white as a tribute to her. Lighting up the Empire State Building as a tribute to her would be great. But honoring such an inspiring woman does not have to be limited to a single building.”

“It is inappropriate and unseemly for city council representatives to use their office to promote a denominational religious figure such as the nun, Mother Teresa,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said.

August 26 has long been celebrated as Women’s Equality Day by feminists as the date in 1920 when U.S. women finally won the right to vote, enshrined as the suffrage amendment — the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This year marks the momentous 90th anniversary of the suffrage amendment.

“Volunteerism is great: but let’s do it in the name of equality, to honor the foremothers who fought for nearly a century for civil equality. Do not let Women’s Equality Day be supplanted by cheerleaders for the Roman Catholic Church and its antiwomen, antigay, anti-stemcell research, antiprogress doctrines,” noted Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“Mother Teresa did not stand for women’s rights — she was all about taking away women’s rights: the fundamental decision of when or whether to become a mother. She used her podium relentlessly and globally to pound away at reproductive rights, including the right to contraception. She used virtually every public occasion to call for the recriminalization of abortion, and virulently opposed legalization of abortion, despite the fact that backstreet abortions are the leading cause of maternal deaths in countries outlawing abortion,” Gaylor added.

Gaylor suggested that in addition to being Women’s Equality Day, August 26 can also be celebrated as the birthdate of strong feminists and nonbelievers Barbara Ehrenreich and Zona Gale. Ehrenreich is a contemporary author and columnist; Zona Gale was the first female playwright to win a Pulitzer Prize.


Counter the powerful Catholic forces that see no problem bullying the New York City Council into forcing a private business to participate in religion. Tell council members this is a gross violation of the separation between state and church. Government has no business telling private business/property owners to participate in any religious observations. Remind them of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” You may also wish to suggest the council honor Women’s Equality Day, instead of a sectarian, anti-women’s rights religious figure. Also let the New York Post know you strongly object to their participation in and support of this unconstitutional demand.

Send messages of support to the building owner, Anthony Malkin, and thank him for standing up for the building’s secular policy, because religion is divisive. We are pleased to receive “blind” copies of your messages/correspondence by e-mail at [email protected]


New York City Council
Speaker Christine C Quinn

250 Broadway
Suite 1856
New York NY 10007
[email protected]

To write to other individual members, click here:

Remember to keep letters to the editor short (under 150 words) and sign your name, address and phone number, for verification.

New York Post
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10036-8790
[email protected]

Thank the owner of the Empire State Building!

Anthony E. Malkin
The Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave
New York NY 10118
To e-mail Malkin, click the following link and click “Contact Us” in the top right of the webpage:

For more information, see FFRF’s action alert against a postage stamp commemorating the nun and the following news stories:
Action Alert: Protest Mother Teresa Stamp

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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