My parents, who are active Methodists, were visiting us yesterday. We were discussing the designs for this year's Christmas stamps, assuming they would be pleased with their religious theme. They were - but they told us about an email circulating among their local congregation, claiming that Royal Mail staff were under instructions not to issue the more overtly Christian 'Madonna and Child' stamps unless customers explicitly asked for them. Apparently, this was part of a plot to massage the demand for religious stamps downwards, so that the Post Office could get away with producing only secular images in future years.
A little bit of internet searching today revealed that this rumour is not confined to Nonconformists. The 'Anglican Mainstream' website reproduces the email circular in full:
Royal Mail has traditionally alternated between sacred and secular designs for their Christmas stamps and this year it is the turn for a religious image. Royal Mail has issued two sets of designs this year.
The main set of designs, available in all the main denominations is of angels, which is vaguely Christian but not explicitly so and certainly not specifically Christmassy. They have also issued a ‘Madonna and Child’ design for first and second class only. Post Office staff have been instructed to only sell this design if people specifically request it, but obviously people can’t request it if they don’t know it exists!
If people don’t buy these stamps, Royal Mail will claim there is no demand for religious Christmas stamps and not produce them in future.
Please therefore ask for ‘Madonna and Child’ stamps when you do your Christmas posting and also tell your friends, contacts etc. to do the same. Thank You.
I have it on very good authority that Royal Mail have issued no such instructions to their staff. And as for people not knowing the 'Madonna and Child' stamp exists: all of this year's designs are on display on the Royal Mail website.
Don't you just love the way these urban myths spread? Before you know where we are, this fake Post Office plot will be an established 'fact', like the 'Winterval' stories that circulated last year. You get the impression that some believers enjoy feeling persecuted, don't you?
The Royal Mail has issued the following statement:
We have become aware of an incorrect assertion being made about the motives behind the sales of our Christmas stamps. There is absolutely no intention on our part to suppress sales of the Madonna and Child stamps in order to be able to claim there is low demand for religious stamps in future years. Indeed, we have produced tens of millions of them, and we want to sell them!! We have given publicity to both types of Christmas stamps, and the availability of both has been widely covered in the national and local press. Furthermore we plan to have the Madonna and Child stamps available every Christmas in future, alongside each year's "special" set, which will continue to alternate between religious and secular themes.
It's been nice to see some of the more sensible Christian websites taking a lead in scotching the myth.