In a letter to the Thomas More Society public interest law firm, an attorney representing Office Depot says that the pro-life prayer its Schaumburg, Illinois store was asked to photocopy falls within the company’s definition of “hate material.”
Office Depot’s assistant general counsel Robert A. Amicone responded to Thomas More Society attorney Thomas Olp’s request that the company reconsider its action of refusing to print copies of a pro-life prayer flyer for customer Maria Goldstein, who was having the copies of the flyer made for her Catholic parish’s prayer campaign for the conversion of Planned Parenthood.
To be clear, 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. 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. 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 the decision. Thus, Office Depot’s actions violated no laws.
In his letter, Amicone references the pro-life prayer which says:
Therefore, Oh God, we stand against the evil that has been exposed in Planned Parenthood and in the entire abortion industry.
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.
Close the doors of the death camps in our midst, and open the doors of your mercy and healing! Close the grisly trade in baby body parts, and open the abundant gifts of your salvation and life!
Amicone writes that the language in the prayer, specifically that which “discusses ‘the killing of children in the womb’ and ‘the grisly trade in baby body parts,’” as well as that which characterizes those who perform abortions as “evil,” and “advocates for the closure of the ‘death camps in our midst’” is what led to Office Depot’s decision to refuse to provide copies of the prayer to Goldstein.
Consistent with what was relayed by customer service representatives to your client, Office Depot has an internal policy governing the reproduction of certain materials. There are two provisions applicable to this dispute. 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.
Pro-life religious groups are participating in the prayer campaign for the conversion of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, which is currently under investigation by Congress after a series of videos exposed its practices of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies for sale on the open market. Late-term abortion practices require dismemberment – cutting a baby up into parts while it is still in the womb – in order to abort it.
Olp wrote in his letter to Office Depot that the store in Schaumburg engaged in “unlawful discrimination” against Goldstein because of her religion, and that it violated her civil rights in a place of public business.
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 the Illinois Human Rights Act. The public accommodation laws were passed precisely to prevent businesses like Office Depot, who service the general public, from refusing service on the basis of race and other invidious reasons including religion, religious practice, and religious expression…
We suggest that you consider what your position would be if our client were black and your employees refused service because of her race. In that case it would not be hard to see how unreasonable that refusal of service would be. The public accommodation laws do not give any greater leeway for refusal of service when a customer’s religious expression motivates the refusal. The public accommodation laws reflect our country’s long tradition, enshrined in our Constitution and in many of our laws, of hospitality to religion and religious expression, which, in its diversity, contributes positively to the public weal. Our laws welcome religion and religious expression, treat it fairly and equally, and do not permit its marginalization or silencing. The public accommodation laws in particular require that businesses servicing the public do so in a fair and equal manner that does not countenance employees picking and choosing whom to serve based on favor or hostility to the customer’s religion, religious practice, or religious expression.
As Breitbart News previously reported, the pro-life prayer was written by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and a Breitbart News contributor.
In a press release sent to Breitbart News, Pavone responded to Office Depot’s refusal to print copies of his prayer by saying that it was time for pro-life advocates to fight back against an effort to restrict their freedom.
“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.
Pavone also urged supporters of Priests for Life across the country to bring the prayer to Office Depot stores in their own communities to have it copied.
“Let’s see how many come to the same erroneous conclusion, or whether some measure of reason will prevail instead,” he said.
Karen Denning, media spokesperson of Office Depot, did not respond to Breitbart News’ request for comment.