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None shall profit from "nun bun'

Published May 23, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

Mother Teresa won't even allow her name on Bibles to raise money for the poor. And she's not about to let a Nashville coffeehouse profit from a cinnamon bun that bears a remarkable resemblance to her.

Last October, the Bongo Java shellacked a bun and enshrined it in a counter display after a customer discerned a likeness of the nun in the folds of the pastry. The coffeehouse later began selling T-shirts, mugs, prayer cards and other items emblazoned with an image of the "nun bun."

This week, the coffeehouse received a letter from Mother Teresa asking it to stop the merchandising. On Thursday, owner Bob Bernstein agreed to comply _ at least for now.

"My legal counsel . . . has written asking you to stop, and now I am personally asking you to stop," Mother Teresa wrote from Calcutta, India. "I do know that you have not done anything out of ill will, and so trust that you will understand and respect my wish. . . . God bless you."

Bernstein said he will confer with Mother Teresa's attorneys before deciding whether to permanently remove the merchandise.

"I've made so little money on this that there's no point antagonizing anybody," Bernstein said.

Attorney Jim Towey, who has represented Mother Teresa for 12 years, said she strictly forbids use of her name, voice or likeness for commercial ventures, even if it could raise money for her own Missionaries of Charity.

"The world loves Mother Teresa, and people want to use that to make a buck," Towey, former secretary of the the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, said Thursday from Tallahassee. "But you'll never see Mother Teresa make a financial appeal, ever, ever."

He said Mother Teresa "has a great sense of humor and wasn't concerned at first," until the coffeehouse decided to sell "Mother Teresa's special roast coffee" and other items. The shop has since removed Mother Teresa's name from the merchandise and was promoting only the bun's likeness.

"We're just a funky little cafe that has a cinnamon bun that people like to look at," said Bernstein. "We're not trying to be martyrs. We're just trying to run a little business and have a little fun."

Bernstein's attorney, Jack Waddey, said he does not believe Mother Teresa's rights have been violated.

"We're not reproducing a likeness of Mother Teresa," he said. "We're reproducing a likeness of this bun, which was baked just by happenstance."

Towey said if the coffeehouse decides to resume selling the goods, "she'll pray over it and we'll weigh the options."

He insists she is not upset.

"She runs an order of 570 houses in 100 countries administering to the poorest of the poor. In the grand scheme of things, this hasn't had a lot of her attention."

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