Mother Teresa and the lights

June 10, 2010 2:03:20 PM PDT
Of all the battles that need to be fought, it's hard to imagine that the kerfuffle over whether to light up the Empire State Building in honor of Mother Teresa's 100th birthday this August is in the top 10.

Or top 1000.

But the story is there, on the front burner, and great water cooler debate.

The official reason from the owners of the iconic skyscraper is that it "has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations."

Fair enough. So when the Catholic League - a private lobbyist-kind-of religious group that has one very visible, outspoken, and his critics say polarizing leader, asked the building's management to light up in blue and white to honor the famous nun from Calcutta, the owner cited the building's policy.

Then the poop hit the fan, thanks to the aforementioned leader.

Hey, it's a private building and legally the owners can do whatever they want. But the truth is the Empire State Building lights up in honor of just about every fashtoonkanah event, organization and anniversary known to humanity.

Oh yeah, including posthumous honors for Cardinal John O'Connor in 2000 and Pope John Paul II in 2005. I'm no religious studies expert, but I quite sure those two qualify as "religious figures."

Plus - if the Empire State Building lights up in honor of Mariah Carey - well, the qualification bar level has already been established.

And when Sarah Palin chimes in - on her Twitter page no less, citing the building's commemoration of the Chinese revolution anniversary - well, you know this issue has gone way way way out of control.

If they had just agreed to light it up for Mother Teresa, there would have been no controversy ? I mean who would argue against this woman, who brought the first AIDS hospice to New York City and did so much for poor people around the world?

Maybe if the Catholic League had made its pitch in a more subtle way - maybe through an intermediary? ? then this would not have gone public, and viral. Not to mention vitriolic.

Will the building's owners capitulate? Would probably be the smart thing to do. We're following the soap opera and will have the latest, after the NBA Finals Game 4 tonight.

Also after the game, we're following the latest chaos in Albany, where the arguably most dysfunctional state government in the country may be on the verge of shutting down.

These peeps can't agree on lunch, let alone how to close a $9 billion budget gap. Tonight, Governor Paterson says the state could run out of money and not pay its workforce, including troopers and corrections officers.

Blustering? Or real problem?

The answer is yes.

You can write your thoughts to us on our new Interaction blog by clicking here. We may share your comments on Eyewitness News after the game.

And our N.J. Burkett is in the Gulf of Mexico, following the latest on the oil spill crisis. It now appears that the flow estimates - which started at 2,000 barrels a day, then 5,0000, then 12,000 to 15,000 - are now at 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day. At 42 gallons a barrel, that's just staggering.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight after the game.

And one more note: I'll be off tomorrow. This column will resume on Monday.

BILL RITTER

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