(CNSNews.com) - Office Depot has retreated from its refusal to make 500 copies of a flyer featuring a pro-life prayer—that calls for the conversion of Planned Parenthood—that was written by a Catholic priest.
The company had initially refused to make the copies, according to a letter written by a lawyer for Office Depot, because language in the prayer “falls within the definition of ‘graphic material’ and/or ‘hate material’” under the company’s internal policy.
Office Depot’s reversal came after a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm, sent the company a letter arguing it had “unlawfully discriminated” against Maria Goldstein, the customer who had asked that it print the flyers.
The prayer was written by Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life.
“Bring an end to the killing of children in the womb, and bring an end to the sale of their body parts,” says part of the prayer, which was printed in full on the flyer.
“Bring conversion to all who do this, and enlightenment to all who advocate it,” says the prayer. “Close the doors of the death camps in our midst, and open the doors of your mercy and healing! Close the grisly trade in body parts. And open the abundant gifts of your salvation and life.”
As explained in a Sept. 10 letter that Thomas Olp of the Thomas More Society sent to Office Depot CEO Roland C. Smith, customer Goldstein had asked the company’s Schaumburg, Ill, store to make 500 copies of a flyer featuring this prayer.
“We believe that by allowing and ratifying your employees’ refusal to serve Ms. Goldstein because of their hostility to and disagreement with her flyer, you have unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Goldstein because of her religion and religious expression within the meaning of the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance and Illinois Human Rights Act,” Olp said in his letter to Office Depot CEO Smith.
The company explained its decision in a letter its assistant general counsel, Robert A. Amicone, sent Olp on Sept. 11.
“You also say that [the flyer] is ‘religious throughout in tone and content’ and ‘contains a prayer’ seeking an end to abortion,” said the Office Depot attorney in this letter. “You do not mention, however, certain language within the prayer that discusses ‘the killing of children in the womb’ and ‘the grisly trade in baby body parts.’
“Nor do you address the strong language presumably condemning those who perform and obtain abortions,” said the Office Depot letter. “Indeed, the prayer characterizes those individuals as ‘evil,’ and it advocates for the closure of the ‘death camps in our midst.’ It is this type of language that led to the decision to refuse you client’s copying request.”
“There are two provisions [of the company’s policy] applicable to this dispute,” explained the lawyer. “The first prohibits the copying of ‘graphic material,’ which can include descriptions of dead or dismembered bodies. The second provision prohibits the copying of ‘hate material’ that advocates for the persecution of groups of people, regardless of the reason.”
Goldstein’s flyer did not contain any illustrations—and called for the “conversion,” not persecution, of those who advocate aborting unborn children.
“To be clear,” said Office Depot’s lawyer, “Office Depot’s position is that the above-quoted language falls within the definition of ‘graphic material’ and/or ‘hate material,’ making the refusal to print the flyer appropriate.”
The Office Depot lawyer also said the decision not to make copies of the flyer was lawful.
"Office Depot's decision was not based in any part on the fact that the message here is couched in terms of Ms. Goldstein's religious beliefs," he said. "In other words, the language at issue would violate Office Depot's policy regardless of the content surrounding it.
“The fact that the flyer was related to your client's beliefs—whether based in religion or not—did not bear on our decision," he wrote. "Thus, Office Depot’s actions violated no laws."
As reported by Lifenews.com, however, before the end of the day Friday Office Depot had reversed its position and apologized for its initial refusal to print the flyers.
“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,” said a statement from Office Depot spokeswoman Karen Denning published by Lifenews.com.
The statement included an apology from Office Depot CEO Smith.
“We sincerely apologize to Ms. Goldstein for her experience and our initial reaction was not at all related to her religious beliefs,” he said. “We invite her to return to Office Depot if she still wishes to print her flyer.”