Office Depot Backs Down From Censoring Pro-Life Flyer, Apologizes to Customer
by Steven Ertelt | LifeNews.com | 9/11/15 6:29 PM
After offending pro-life advocates nationwide, the office supply store Office Depot has reversed course and apologized to a customer for its censorship of a pro-life flyer that a pro-life woman wanted it to print copies of to encourage prayers for de-funding the Planned Parenthood abortion business. The company claimed the prayers advocate the persecution of people who support abortion and said that was the reason why it could not fulfill the print order for the flyers.
As LifeNews.com reported, on August 20, Maria Goldstein placed her order for printing at the Office Depot in Schaumburg, Illinois. The item to be printed was a flyer that stated several statistics from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 annual report, mentioned the abortion company’s harvesting of fetal body parts, and included a prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood.
Goldstein was told by an Office Depot employee that the printing of her flyer was “restricted by corporate policy” and that her order would not be filled.
Goldstein contacted the Office of the Chairman multiple times to discuss the company’s refusal to fill her order. Diane Demma from the Office of the Chairman stood up for the Office Depot employees’ refusal to print Ms. Goldstein’s flyer and offered no other alternatives.
“Office Depot is discriminating against me based on my religion,” said Maria Goldstein. “If the store can pick and choose what orders it fills based on religious content, it is refusing to treat people of faith equally. In America where we value freedom of religion, this is simply unacceptable.”
The Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal firm, sent a demand letter to Office Depot, challenging the company’s refusal to print religious flyers for customer Maria Goldstein at its Schaumburg, Illinois location as discrimination and a violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.
Earlier today, Office Depot responded with a letter describing Goldstein’s prayer flyer as falling under the category of graphic material or hate speech.
Now, Office Depot has issued a statement backing down and has apologized to Goldstein. The statement, from Office Depot spokeswoman Karen Denning, says:
Office Depot has contacted Ms. Goldsteins’s representative to explain that the store associate’s decision to decline a print order was in no way based on religious beliefs, but on the fact that it contained certain words and phrases that could be construed as graphic or advocates the persecution of groups of people, which is a violation of the company’s copy and print policy. Office Depot has long maintained a policy of not allowing associates to print items that violate copyright laws, advocate persecution of any group or contain graphic material.
Upon a more detailed review, we have determined that the content of Ms. Goldstein’s flyer is not a clear violation of the company’s policy.
“We sincerely apologize to Ms. Goldstein for her experience and our initial reaction was not at all related to her religious beliefs. We invite her to return to Office Depot if she still wishes to print the flyer,” said Roland Smith, chairman and chief executive officer, Office Depot.
Office Depot will continue to have policies that guide the refusal to reproduce material that is protected under copyright, contains graphic material or advocates the persecution of any groups of people, regardless of the reason. In addition, all customers are free to use the self-service copy machines in our stores without being subject to the policy.
In the letter Office Depot sent earlier today, before backing down, the letter claimed Goldstein was given a chance to print the hundreds of copies of her flyer that she wanted on the self-serve copy machines and declined to do so. It also claimed that store staff thought the prayer she wanted to make copies of was copyrighted and Office Depot admits it understand snow that that is not the case.
The letter went on to say that it found the language of the pro-life prayer flyer offensive and that characterizing those who support abortion as “evil” is the “type of language that led to the decision to refuse your client’s copying request.” The letter said Office Depot has a policy of not reproducing materials it considers “graphic material” or “hate material” and that the pro-life flyer came under that policy thus “making the refusal to print the flyer appropriate.”
The company claimed Goldstein has no religious right to have Office Depot copy the flyer and it claims it violated no laws in prohibiting the copies.
“Anyone can order printing at Office Depot,” said Thomas Olp, Thomas More Society special counsel attorney. “But because Ms. Goldstein’s flyers had religious content—namely calling for prayer for Planned Parenthood—Office Depot refused to complete her order. This is a blatant violation of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance, which forbids public businesses from discriminating based on religion.”
Thomas More Society’s demand letter stated that Office Depot must cease its unlawful refusal to service Ms. Golstein’s copying order or the Society will act to secure Ms. Goldstein’s rights before the Cook County Human Rights Commission, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, or other appropriate venue.
Before it backed down, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life,told LifeNews.com he’s upset by Office Depot’s decision to refuse to print the pro-life materials — and noted the flyer was meant for a prayer campaign his group is sponsoring.
“One of the prayers I wrote for this campaign was taken to an Office Depot in a Chicago suburb by Maria Goldstein, who wanted to make a few hundred copies for her parish,” explained Fr. Frank. “The store refused to print it and the Chicago Tribune reports that an Office Depot spokeswoman said this is because the prayer ‘advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.’ Actually, the opposite is true: the prayer advocates their conversion, enlightenment, and salvation.”
“I am proud of Maria Goldstein for standing up for her rights, and I call upon Office Depot to reconsider this decision by evaluating more carefully the words of the prayer and the intent of its author,” he said.
The prayer campaign that utilizes this Prayer for the Conversion of Planned Parenthood, and several other prayers with a similar theme, launches again this Saturday, September 12 and runs through the 20th. It will take place again from October 10-18th.
ACTION: Contact Office Depot here.