So Office Depot refused to print a flier outlining some public facts about Planned Parenthood, in particular its funding. The flier also contained a prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood, along with a call for prayer and fasting.
That’s not exactly bomb-throwing stuff. In fact, it’s standard political activism in the US of A. It is also a clear exercise of a particular citizen’s freedom of speech regarding public issues.
So what’s the big deal?
You got me. I oppose Planned Parenthood, but people post comments favoring Big Pink on Public Catholic, which is my blog at Patheos, all the time. I limit the comments when I get dozens of them, saying the same thing, or when they get personal, use foul language, etc. But opinions are kind of like toes: Everybody’s got several.
A Chicago Office Depot decided not to print this particular flier. According to the Chicago Tribune, Office Depot’s position is that they did it, and they stand by the action. Their official comment is that company policy prohibits “the copying of any type of material that advocates any form of racial or religious discrimination or the persecution of certain groups of people. It prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material. The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.”
In truth, the flier does not say one word about people who support abortion rights. It also does not contain a call to persecute anyone. What it does is outline tax-payer monies received by Planned Parenthood, figures that were taken from Planned Parenthood’s own annual report. It calls for conversion of Planned Parenthood, not persecution. It does not mention any group of individuals except this one corporate entity. Go here to see for yourself.
Office Depot’s refusal sounds a lot like the knee-jerk reaction of someone who is riddled with post-abortive rage to me. I don’t think this stupid action was either philosophical or political. I think it was personal. What makes it something we have to notice is that the company backed it.
Now the lady who wanted it printed is all in a kerfuffle and talking lawsuit because, she says, her First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech was violated, along with her First Amendment right to Religious Liberty.
I know I’m going to get a lot of raspberries from my pro life fellows, but the lady is wrong. This was not a violation of her First Amendment rights.
It was rude, and it is certainly a reason for pro life people to take their business somewhere besides Office Depot. In fact, I’m sitting on a chair that I bought at Office Depot. Ditto for the desk in front of me. I have some color-coded files I bought from Office Depot just to my right on this same desk. But the truth of the matter is, Office Depot ain’t the only place I can buy these things; not by a long shot. I’ve been planning to buy bookshelves for my music room, and Office Depot has lost that sale. It’s good-bye Office Depot; Mathis Brothers, here I come.
But, I’m not about to get all worked up and claim that the jerks at the Chicago Office Depot in question violated anybody’s Constitutional rights. The Constitutional right to free speech means that the government cannot tell you what to say. It does not give anyone the right to force their speech on other people.
As a ‘for instance,’ I can, and do, delete filthy-mouthed comments from Public Catholic. If I’m walking down the street, and someone gets in my face and starts yelling at me, I can tell them to go away, and if they won’t go away, I can call the cops. If I run a copying business and someone comes into my shop with a flier calling for the imprisonment of, say, all homosexuals, you better believe I would tell them to take their garbage on down the road. Office Depot is free to refuse the business of people it disagrees with all day long if it wants, and that includes religious people and pro life people.
However, I would caution Office Depot to remember that they’re in business. I bought bagels for breakfast just a couple of hours ago, and when I looked at it, my money was still green. And my money is no longer going to Office Depot.