The Corner

UPDATED: Office Depot Stands By Employee’s Refusal to Make Copies of a Pro-Life Prayer

An Office Depot in Illinois last month refused to print copies of a flyer that contained facts about Planned Parenthood (mostly taken from Planned Parenthood’s own annual report) along with a pro-life prayer, and the company is standing by that decision in the face of legal threats:

Last month, Maria Goldstein, a Roman Catholic, asked employees at an Office Depot location in Schaumburg, Ill., to make 500 copies of “A Prayer for Planned Parenthood”, the Associated Press reported . . . Company spokeswoman Karen Denning tells the Chicago Tribune that Office Depot prohibits the copying of material that advocates “the persecution of certain groups of people,” among other criteria. She says the flier “contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.”

Does it advocate the persecution of pro-abortion Americans? You be the judge:

First, my opinion on these matters is pretty clear: private companies can choose which messages they choose to help disseminate, and they have that right even when they make terrible, idiotic choices. Consequently, I hope the customer, Maria Goldstein, chooses not to file a human rights complaint — especially since the company apparently offered to let her use the self-service copier.

Second, since it’s now clear that Office Depot supports the First Amendment rights of private corporations – even when those First Amendment rights conflict with the desires of members of a protected class (in this case, a person of faith sharing a religious message) – I eagerly await its corporate amicus briefs supporting bakers in Oregon and Colorado who are facing crushing fines or mandatory ideological re-education for exercising the exact same rights that Office Depot so proudly exercises.

Third, I’m sure that I’ll be waiting a long time. I have no expectation that Office Depot — or most of its supporters — show the slightest intellectual integrity on this matter. After all, this is the same company that in 2012 partnered with Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Foundation to help launch the school year. I suspect Office Depot decision-makers are leftists, not civil libertarians, and thus their philosophy is likely summed up by the old saying, “free speech for me, but not for thee.” We’ll see if my cynicism is rewarded.

UPDATE: Office Depot has backed down, releasing a statement that essentially says the flyer wasn’t all that bad:

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 isn’t backing down from the policy that allows it to refuse service. Instead, it’s saying the flyer doesn’t fit within that policy (which is plainly correct — it’s stunning that they ever thought the prayer advocated persecution.) As I said above, companies have the right to choose which messages they help disseminate, and we have the right to evaluate them for their choices.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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