Rolling Meadows woman accuses Office Depot of religious discrimination

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SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (AP) - A suburban Chicago woman is accusing Office Depot of religious discrimination, saying employees told her that making copies of an anti-abortion prayer violated company policy.

Maria Goldstein of Rolling Meadows is Roman Catholic. Last month, she asked the Office Depot in Schaumburg to make 500 copies of "A Prayer for Planned Parenthood."

The prayer was composed by the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life. It 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."

The prayer also includes statistics about abortion in the U.S. and decries "the evil that has been exposed in Planned Parenthood and in the entire abortion industry."

Office Depot 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," as well as copyrighted material, company spokeswoman Karen Denning told the Chicago Tribune. The flier that Goldstein wanted to copy "contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," she said.

But the handout is part of a weeklong prayer and fasting campaign that aims to change opinions on abortion, according to Goldstein.

"The intention of the prayer is to ask for conversion," she said. "The conversion of the staff, employees, everybody who is part of this at Planned Parenthood. It means they will recognize life has dignity and that it is valuable and not a commodity to be bought and sold."

Goldstein was invited to use the use the self-serve copy machines at Office Depot, Denning said. But Goldstein said that would've been an inconvenience, so she went to another printing shop to run her copies.

"I feel discriminated against," Goldstein said of the incident.

Thomas Olp, a lawyer for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a public interest law group that represents Goldstein, sent a letter on Thursday to Office Depot CEO Roland Smith, asking the company to reconsider its policy and fill Goldstein's copy order. If the company doesn't respond in five days, Olp plans to file complaints with the Cook County Human Rights Commission and Illinois Department of Human Rights.

"The best resolution would be that they would say 'This was unjust. You were discriminated against because of your religion' and then admit this was wrong," Goldstein said. "I'd appreciate them printing the flier. The statistics are still valid and the prayer is still valid."

Office Depot is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

***** Thomas More Attorneys and client Maria Goldstein are still in discussion regarding the religious discrimination by Office Depot against Goldstein. However, in light of an apology received from Office Depot, they have issued the following statements:

From Tom Olp, Thomas More Society Attorney:

"We are grateful that Office Depot has apologized for discriminating against Maria Goldstein based on the content of her flyers. 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."

From Maria Goldstein, Thomas More Society Client:

"Thanks to 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. I am grateful that God has used this situation to unite countless people in prayer for the conversion of Planned Parenthood."