Office Depot Against Free Speech?

Office Depot Against Free Speech?

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A Chicago area woman has accused Office Depot of discriminating against her religious faith after the company’s employees refused to let her print copies of an anti-abortion prayer critical of Planned Parenthood because it violated company policy.

The woman, Maria Goldstein, 42 of Rowling Meadows said she ordered 500 copies of “A Prayer for the Conversion of Planned Parenthood” at an Office Depot in Schaumburg to distribute at her church the following Sunday.

The flyer detailed abortion statistics in the U.S. that was critical of Planned Parenthood’s role in the abortion industry – an organization rocked recently by a series of hidden camera video stings of senior Planned Parenthood executives allegedly negotiating with undercover journalists posing as baby body part industry buyers in violation of federal law.

Quoting the Chicago Tribune:

“The prayer, composed by the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, an anti-abortion group, calls on God to “Bring an end to the killing of children in the womb, and bring an end to the sale of their body parts. Bring conversion to all who do this, and enlightenment to all who advocate it.””

The prayer also decries “the evil that has been exposed in Planned Parenthood and in the entire abortion industry.”

Karen Denning, speaking for Office Depot, said the company prohibits:

“…the copying of any type of material that advocates any form of racial or religious discrimination or the persecution of certain groups of people. It also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material.” “The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.”

Goldstein countered that the point of the weeklong prayer and fasting campaign planned by the church was to change hearts not persecute pro-abortion advocates. Goldstein added that the pro-life vigil was sparked by the series of videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress exposing alleged widespread efforts by Planned Parenthood to traffic in the harvested body parts of babies killed by abortion.

“The intention of the prayer is to ask for conversion,” Goldstein said. “The conversion of the staff, employees, everybody who is part of this at Planned Parenthood. It means they will recognize life has dignity and that it is valuable and not a commodity to be bought and sold.”

Office Depot employees said Goldstein could use self-serve copy machines but the cost and time it would take to make 500 copies was prohibitive. The flyers were printing by another shop in Des Plaines.

Goldstein said she felt discriminated against and secured the help of the Thomas More Society to press her case. Thomas Olp, a lawyer for the Chicago-based public interest law group that agreed to represent Goldstein said the situation fits into the public accommodation laws that date back to when businesses refused to serve African-Americans and Jews. Olp said:

“We’re a country of diversity. We don’t want to allow people to pick and choose based on their bigotry or hostility.” “You need to offer services to the public on a fair and equal basis. This is an example of religious expression. Therefore the law prohibits you from discriminating.”

“To accommodate religion you have to go out of your way to do something you wouldn’t normally do,” Olp said. “If it was simply negative comments about Planned Parenthood, it wouldn’t be as strong of an argument.”

Earlier this week, Olp sent a letter to Office Depot CEO Roland Smith asking the company to reconsider its policy and fill Goldstein’s copy order.

Because the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination for a variety of reasons, including religion, Olp will file complaints with the Cook County Human Rights Commission and Illinois Department of Human Rights if the company doesn’t respond in five days.

“The best resolution would be that they would say ‘This was unjust. You were discriminated against because of your religion’ and then admit this was wrong,” Goldstein said. “I’d appreciate them printing the flier. The statistics are still valid and the prayer is still valid.”