Office Depot officials have apologized to a pro-life Catholic woman in Illinois after their store refused to print her pro-life flier on fetal organ harvesting and prayer for the conversion of the Planned Parenthood abortion provider. The apology followed company officials’ claims that the flier was “hate material,” “graphic,” or advocated “persecution of people who support abortion rights.” “I am grateful that God has used this situation to unite countless people in prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood,” Catholic pro-life advocate Maria Goldstein said Sept. 11. Office Depot chairman Roland Smith had issued an apology earlier that day for the store’s refusal to print her fliers. “We sincerely apologize to Ms. Goldstein for her experience and our initial reaction was not at all related to her religious beliefs,” he said, inviting her to return to Office Depot to have her fliers printed. The Chicago-based legal group The Thomas More Society represented the 42-year-old Goldstein, who wanted to print 500 of the fliers to distribute at her parish. “We are grateful that Office Depot has apologized for discriminating against Maria Goldstein based on the content of her flyers,” Tom Olp, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, said Sept. 11. “This situation is a reminder that religious liberty is increasingly under attack today, but it is a fundamental American right that every one of us should value and defend.” Goldstein’s flier included a prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood published by Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life organization. The prayer asked God to “bring an end to the killing of children in the womb” and 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 continued. The flier cited reports from the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life citizen journalism organization that has now released ten videos of Planned Parenthood officials and others discussing how fetal organs and tissues are harvested from aborted babies. The flier also cited statistics about the more than 300,000 abortions that Planned Parenthood committed in 2013, the millions of dollars in federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and the decline in the number of its cancer prevention services. Employees at the Office Depot in Schaumburg, Ill., a suburb located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, told Goldstein during a an August visit to their store that copying the prayer would violate company policy, the Chicago Tribune reported. The employees told her she could use the self-serve copiers, which Goldstein said would have inconvenienced her. She instead went to a different print shop. Before the apology, Office Depot spokeswoman Karen Denning had said company policy bars “the copying of any type of material that advocates any form of racial or religious discrimination or the persecution of certain groups of people.” She said the flier had material that “advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.” In a Sept. 11 letter to the Thomas More Society, Office Depot assistant general counsel Robert A. Amicone justified the store’s initial response. He said the flyer discussed “the killing of children in the womb” and “the grisly trade in baby body parts.” He said that the prayer on the flyer had “strong language presumably condemning those who perform or obtain abortions.” Amicone contended that the prayer characterizes such individuals as evil and he objected to its description of abortion clinics as “death camps in our midst.” “It is this type of language that led to the decision to refuse your client’s copying request,” he said, saying the material fell under prohibited “graphic material” and/or “hate material.” Amicone also suggested the employees were also unsure whether the material was subject to copyright protection. He rejected claims that the refusal was based on Goldstein’s religious beliefs. The Thomas More Society in a Sept. 10 letter had asked the company to reconsider its policy and print the fliers. Olp had said that if the company did not respond he would file complaints with the Cook County Human Rights Commission and Illinois Department of Human Rights. Olp argues that the refusal to print the fliers may have been an act of illegal religious discrimination. On Sept. 11 the Thomas More Society said its attorneys and Goldstein are still in discussion regarding Office Depot’s alleged discrimination against her. Goldstein said that because of the help of the Thomas More Society “I was able to stand up for my rights as a Christian, and I hope other people are empowered to stand up for their religious freedom, as well.”
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