Today would have been the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa and her supporters plan to protest outside the Empire State Building tonight because the iconic building's management refuses to light the New York City skyscraper in her honor.
A Catholic group is rallying its troops after it says the building "stiffed" Mother Teresa, denying a request to light up the landmark in blue and white lights in commemoration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's birth.
"To stiff Mother Teresa while giving this honor to every other Tom, Dick and Harry is not going to sit well with Catholics," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which initiated the request for the commemorative lighting.
The upper floors of New York's tallest building are often lit in festive colors for special occasions.
Three months after Catholic League officials submitted an application, its leaders say, they were stunned to receive a rejection. No explanation was given to them.
The building's management told ABC News today, "The Empire State Building celebrates many cultures and causes in the world community with iconic lightings.
"Although ESB has a tradition of lightings for the religious holidays of Easter, Eid al-Fitr, Hanukkah, and Christmas, our lighting partnership guidelines -- with which all organizations must agree as a condition for submitting an application -- state clearly that we do not accommodate requests for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations."
Since the rejection, Donohue, a well-known and often-polarizing figure involved in Catholic-American issues for nearly two decades, has mounted an ever-louder campaign to convince the building's owners to reverse their decision.
The league has now gathered more than 40,000 signatures, enlisted the support of several New York City council members, including the council speaker, and vowed to gather thousands of Catholics to demonstrate on the street outside the Empire State Building today.
Malkin Holdings, the building's owner, was silent on the matter until June, releasing a statement just before two City Council members held a news conference on the steps of City Hall. They announced a council resolution asking Malkin to reverse course.
A terse, written statement from Anthony Malkin, CEO and president, said "as a privately owned building, ESB has a specific policy against any other lighting for religious figures or requests by religions and religious organizations."
The Catholic League and its allies called the long-awaited statement less than illuminating. "Malkin is either misinformed or he is lying," said Donohue, adding that John Cardinal O'Connor's death was recognized with red and white lighting in 2005.
The death of Pope John Paul II was marked with a dimming of the lights overnight.
Malkin Holdings took over the Empire State Building in 2006 but some iteration of the company has held ownership in the building since 1961, when Anthony Malkin's grandfather purchased it with Harry Helmsley.
The company does not post information on its website about how it chooses from among the voluminous applications it receives each year. When asked about it during a media tour of the building last month, a spokeswoman said "no comment."