Office Depot reverses course, offers to print copies of “A Prayer for the Conversion of Planned Parenthood”

By Dave Andrusko

Maria Goldstein (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Maria Goldstein (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

No sooner had we posted a story Friday that Office Depot had maintained its hard-line position than the company’s chief executive did a 180. Well, sort of.

As you recall, both a company spokesman and the company’s Assistant General Counsel said Office Depot was within its rights to refuse Maria Goldstein’s request that it run off 500 copies of “A Prayer for the Conversion of Planned Parenthood” that she intended to distribute at her parish the following Sunday. Ms. Goldstein said the company had discriminated against her based on her religious beliefs as a sincere Catholic.

But by Friday night Roland Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Office Depot, issued a statement in which Smith wrote, “We sincerely apologize to Ms. (Maria) 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.”

However, note that Smith’s statement began by saying its initial refusal last month was based “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.”

What were those “words and phrases” and “graphic material” and who was being “persecuted”? As we reported last Friday, Assistant General Counsel Robert A. Amicone argued that “Graphic material” can “include descriptions of dead or dismembered bodies.”

“Hate material,” he wrote, “advocates for the persecution of groups of people, regardless of reason.”

In a Chicago Tribune story last week, Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, explained its expansive definition of “persecution.”

“The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.”

In fact, the prayer, composed by Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, 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.”

In addition, according to the Tribune’s Manya Brachear Pashman, “The prayer also decries “the evil that has been exposed in Planned Parenthood and in the entire abortion industry.’”

Why the reversal? Here are two possible reasons. First, as NRL News Today reported last week, Ms. Goldstein was represented by the Thomas More Society which wrote Office Depot it would be pursuing action with the Cook County Human Rights Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Second, the Drudge Report reported on the case.

As for Ms. Goldstein on Friday, the Chicago Tribune said she needed “time to process the company’s latest response.”

“I need to take a step back and pray about it.”