New York City Empire State Building in Mother Teresa debate

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building has raised questions and anger by refusing to light up blue and white for Mother Teresa's birthday. Image from user decadence on Flickr.

The Empire State Building in New York City is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in the city of millions. Recently, though, the owners of the Empire State Building have faced questions – and a possible City Council resolution – after they refused to participate in a tribute to Mother Teresa. In a debate that pits private property rights against the city council, the New York City Mother Teresa debate is becoming heated on both sides.

The New York City Empire State Building refuses to light up for Mother Teresa

The Empire State Building, on a fairly regular basis, will color the lights that shine on the building at night. The building has been lit green for St. Patrick’s Day, red for the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and blue for the release of new M&M’s colors. The New York City Catholic League requested that the Empire State Building light itself blue and white for Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday on August 26. The management of the building has refused without comment.

The New York City Council gets involved

After the New York City Empire State Building turned down the Catholic League, the League turned to the City Council. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has introduced a resolution that will be considered Wednesday that would “force” the building to participate in the Mother Teresa tribute. The head of the Catholic League has also taken this argument past the city council, starting an online petition and organizing marches in New York City.

The rights of the Empire State Building in New York City

The Empire State Building in New York City is a privately owned building. Empire State Building Company L.L.C. owns and operates the building. On the application to become a “lighting partner,” the Empire State Building Company outlines that:

“Due to the high volume of applications, the Empire State Building Company is under no obligation to provide specific feedback to any individual or organization regarding the status, merit, and/or denial of its application.”

The Empire State Building history also points out that the New York City building receives “hundreds of requests every year” to light the building. It is not clear under which city regulations the New York City Council can force the Empire State Building to honor Mother Teresa, or if the resolution will have any effect.

A church and state separation issue?

The question if the Empire State Building will be forced to light their New York City building blue and white in honor of Mother Teresa may encounter questions of legal separation. The request was made by the Catholic League, a religious organization. The Empire State Building, as a private entity, has freedom to decide which groups it makes “lighting partners.” The New York City Council, however, is a government entity. It may be a question of separation of church and state if the City Council tries to force a private entity to participate in a religious observation.

So what do you think? Should the Empire State Building be forced by the New York City Council to light itself blue and white for Mother Teresa?


Official Empire State Building website

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