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Office Depot's Version of the "Gay Wedding Cake"


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Regardless of what you think about the TOPIC of the flyer (and this thread is NOT about that, I'm sure there is a TON of disagreement about that particular untouchable topic) what do you think of Office Depot's refusal to print it?  Is this in the same vein as the "gay wedding cake" uproar?  Should Office Depot have the right to refuse to print the flyer?  

Suburban woman says Office Depot would not print anti-abortion flyer

Here's a copy of the flyer.

 

Is Office Depot wrong or within its rights?  Should an employee be forced to violate his/her deeply held beliefs about this topic by indirectly participating in the dissemination of these ideas, even though its a part of his/her job description?  

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I think Office Depot is wrong. There was nothing obscene or illegal about that flyer.

 

If your job is to print materials that customers bring in to the store, do the job or find another one.

 

This "violates my personal beliefs" excuse is being taken way too far.

 

Ditto.  He doesn't own the business.  It isn't his "right" to make those decisions.  If your job is to make copies, make copies.  If your job is to make a cake, make the cake. If your job is to serve alcohol, serve the alcohol.  If you don't want to do those things, quit.  There is someone else who will do the job.

 

At the same time, I believe that owners of businesses should have the right to run their business like they want.  If the owner doesn't want to make the copies, he can decline the business. There are other copy places.  If the owner doesn't want to make a cake, then go somewhere else.   If the owner doesn't want alcohol served on his planes, and you just have to have alcohol, then fly a different airline.

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I don't think the employee's deeply-held beliefs are being violated by making copies any more than I think a baker's beliefs are violated by baking wedding cakes for people who order them.

 

Now, if Office Depot wants to make a company policy that employees can refuse to make copies depending on whether they like the message on the original, then they're welcome to do so (as long as it doesn't violate public accommodation laws, and I don't think this particular case would). I can't imagine that would be a smart policy to implement though.

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My parents owned a copy shop for a while when I was a teenager.  We never really looked at what we were copying, and definitely didn't read it, unless it was something that needed a release due to copyright.  We just did the copying.  Refusing to print that is going overboard.

 

The Office Depot might have a leg to stand on, however, if it is not the content but if the prayer is copyrighted that is the problem.

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It sounds like they were following a policy that is already in place:

 

"Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said 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 also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material."

 

"The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," Denning said."

 

She was told she could use the self serve machine instead.

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Is the reason Abortion, or that it was someone else's published content? Based on the article, it seems like she's assuming it's the content, but Office Depot/Office Max/Staples has clearly posted that they will not copy copyrighted materials, and I know I've had to show managers the "copying permitted for use in single classroom settings..." Type statements before they would copy pages from a book for me to use in a class or co-op.

 

It seems like Office Depot (and the employee) may well be being vilified for following the law and protecting the original author's intellectual property.

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It sounds like they were following a policy that is already in place:

 

"Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said 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 also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material."

 

"The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," Denning said."

 

She was told she could use the self serve machine instead.

Where in the flyer did it advocate persecuting people who support abortion rights?

Would it be ok for the baker to tell the gay couple they could make their own Betty Crocker cake and use his oven just cause he had a policy in place?

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They won't copy if for her, but she can do it herself and pay them to do it.

 

Personally, I'd've used the self-serve machine anyway because, well, you don't have to talk to people much when you do that...

Me too! Given the customer service experiences I've had lo these many years, I'd be inclined to avoid hashing it out with the employee and just serve myself if it was an option.

 

The rare times I do go to Walmart, I use the self-checkouts! LOL

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Is the reason Abortion, or that it was someone else's published content? Based on the article, it seems like she's assuming it's the content, but Office Depot/Office Max/Staples has clearly posted that they will not copy copyrighted materials, and I know I've had to show managers the "copying permitted for use in single classroom settings..." Type statements before they would copy pages from a book for me to use in a class or co-op.

 

It seems like Office Depot (and the employee) may well be being vilified for following the law and protecting the original author's intellectual property.

What info is copyrighted? It looked like quotes were taken from different sources but that those sources were cited. Is that not ok? (She says looking around cause, gulp, she may have inadvertently broken copyright law in her shady past if that is copyright infringement)

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It sounds like they were following a policy that is already in place:

 

"Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said 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 also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material."

 

"The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," Denning said."

 

She was told she could use the self serve machine instead.

 

I read the flyer linked above.  I don't see any calls for persecution.   What wording or phrasing am I missing?   My reading comprehension is usually pretty good.  

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If Office Depot has a policy of not printing pamphlets with inflammatory rhetoric this flyer would certainly qualify.

 

Bill

You see that as inflammatory rhetoric? Really? I see it as cherry picked facts and a prayer. I have no idea if the facts are correct so it certainly could be an error riddled flyer at worst. I just dont see how this flyer is an example of inflammatory rhetoric or encouraging the persecution of anyone.

Would it be different if it were a flyer posting about bullying and assault facts against homosexuals and then a prayer for those who oppose gay marriage to change their minds? Woudl that be advocating the persecution of people who oppose gay marriage? I just don't see it.

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Copy shops do keep an eye out for copyright and in this case company policy though I never expect them to scrutinize every word.

My assumption in this case:

quick glance...looks iffy policy-wise...you'll need to use the self serve machine.

If it was a copyright concern, I agree that would be an entirely different thing, but I was under the impression that this was yet another "personally held beliefs" issue, where the employee opposed the content of the flyer for personal reasons.

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I don't see anything dangerous about the flyer on its face.  The lady said she planned to hand it out at her church - if true, that is fine.  But if her intent was to use it as part of a harassment campaign against people who are in a pregnancy crisis, then I could see declining that business.  I am very pro-life and I might decline that business.  And how was the printer supposed to know how the flyer was going to be used?

 

I think a private business has a right to decline business.  However, there may be reasonable consequences to that choice.  If it renders some of the company's advertising false, it might be subject to a civil lawsuit.  Or people could boycott.  The boss of the local decider could fire whoever made the decision.  The central headquarters or franchisor could cut them off due to causing a loss of business.  These are all examples of private companies / individuals exercising their rights.

 

I've had one or two situations where we've declined business because things were likely to get ugly, and we didn't want any part of that ugly.  Political or moral views notwithstanding.

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I doubt they scrutinized the flyer beyond a quick glance.

If I were an employee who was going to tell a customer I wasn't going to print something, I think I'd make sure that I gave it more than a quick glance. Just printing it for them = quick glance. Deciding that you are going to tell the customer it is against company policy = looking it over carefully.

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It sounds like they were following a policy that is already in place:

 

"Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said 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 also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material."

 

"The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," Denning said."

 

She was told she could use the self serve machine instead.

There was nothing in that flier that advocated the persecution of people who support abortion rights.

What's interesting is that since this now a "news story" more people will probably read the flyer than if Office Depot had copied it.

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The flyer does not appear to violate any copyright laws.  Based on the wording of the Office Depot policy, I don't believe it violates their standards.

 

However, Office Depot does have the right to interpret their policies as they choose, and there is no grounds for a religious discrimination claim as they are not singling out a particular religion.

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You see that as inflammatory rhetoric? Really? I see it as cherry picked facts and a prayer. I have no idea if the facts are correct so it certainly could be an error riddled flyer at worst. I just dont see how this flyer is an example of inflammatory rhetoric or encouraging the persecution of anyone.

Would it be different if it were a flyer posting about bullying and assault facts against homosexuals and then a prayer for those who oppose gay marriage to change their minds? Woudl that be advocating the persecution of people who oppose gay marriage? I just don't see it.

 

Sure, I think the "prayer" of this Catholic Priest contains inflammatory language. No question.

 

As an exercise try replacing "abortion" with "sexual abuse of children by priests" and "Planed Parenthood" with "The Roman Catholic Church." 

 

Such a revised flyer would seem "inflammatory" to me. 

 

So is the original.

 

Bill

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If it was a copyright concern, I agree that would be an entirely different thing, but I was under the impression that this was yet another "personally held beliefs" issue, where the employee opposed the content of the flyer for personal reasons.

From the article I read (can't link...it was the Chicago Tribune) it sounds like a company policy call not a personal belief thing.

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It sounds like they were following a policy that is already in place:

 

"Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot, said 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 also prohibits copying any type of copyrighted material."

 

"The flier contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights," Denning said."

 

She was told she could use the self serve machine instead.

 

That seems like Ms. Denning has a pretty loose interpretation of persecution since all it actually calls for is prayer. 

 

 

I don't see it as religious discrimination, but I also don't see any reason why the employee could refuse to print it. If I worked there and someone gave me that flyer I'd roll my eyes (though not so the customer saw me), but I would print it. 

 

I read it several times, and while I disagree with what's in the flyer I can't find anything illegal nor do I see persecution. I haven't checked the stats to see if they're correct, but there's no rule against printing false statistics. It doesn't call for violence against pro-choice people or PP. The language is graphic and intended to be shocking, but again, not illegal. One could call a prayer as persecution but it isn't.

 

FTR, I'm 100% pro-choice and 100% behind Planned Parenthood.

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Sure, I think the "prayer" of this Catholic Priest contains inflammatory language. No question.

 

As an exercise try replacing "abortion" with "sexual abuse of children by priests" and "Planed Parenthood" with "The Roman Catholic Church."

 

Such a revised flyer would seem "inflammatory" to me.

 

So is the original.

 

Bill

Actually I think they would be quite similar. They would be focusing on only one part of a larger whole - but a single part that colors many people's perceptions of the larger organization. But I still wouldn't see it as inflammatory or threatening.

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If I were an employee who was going to tell a customer I wasn't going to print something, I think I'd make sure that I gave it more than a quick glance. Just printing it for them = quick glance. Deciding that you are going to tell the customer it is against company policy = looking it over carefully.

I personally would rather that the Office Depot clerk not scrutinize my stuff.

 

I'm guessing they'd rather not be stuck analyzing stuff either.

 

Again, I can imagine it looked iffy and just sending her over to a self serve machine probably didn't seem like a big deal.

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That seems like Ms. Denning has a pretty loose interpretation of persecution since all it actually calls for is prayer.

 

 

I don't see it as religious discrimination, but I also don't see any reason why the employee could refuse to print it. If I worked there and someone gave me that flyer I'd roll my eyes (though not so the customer saw me), but I would print it.

 

I read it several times, and while I disagree with what's in the flyer I can't find anything illegal nor do I see persecution. I haven't checked the stats to see if they're correct, but there's no rule against printing false statistics. It doesn't call for violence against pro-choice people or PP. The language is graphic and intended to be shocking, but again, not illegal. One could call a prayer as persecution but it isn't.

 

FTR, I'm 100% pro-choice and 100% behind Planned Parenthood.

Ms Denning is a spokesperson after the fact. I'm guessing some random employee made a judgement call and now ms. Denning is dealing with the fallout.

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There was nothing in that flier that advocated the persecution of people who support abortion rights.

What's interesting is that since this now a "news story" more people will probably read the flyer than if Office Depot had copied it.

I doubt Office Depot cares if it's read or not. It seems that they had no issue with her copying it. I'm guessing the clerk just made a judgement call in regard to company policy.

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1. Office Depot is a little different from Sweet Cakes in that Office Depot is a large chain. This decision might not be representative of the entire chain's normal policy. (That's not crucial to my comment, I just wanted to point it out.)

 

2. Anti-abortion groups are not a protected class, therefore, anti-discrimination statutes do not apply in this case. I'm not a lawyer, however, legally, I think Office Depot is in the clear.

 

2a. This is true even if, as seems clear, her stance on abortion is highly influenced by her religious beliefs.

 

3. However, it's far from certain that this flyer DID violate Office Depot's standards. That prayer is not nearly as inflammatory as pictures (and it's poor graphic design as well, that wall of text - I had to force myself to read it, I was bored before I even tried!), and while I'm dubious of their "facts", I don't expect or even particularly want Office Depot employees to fact-check every flyer they're asked to print.

 

4. If I ran my own private copy shop, I might not print this. I'm firmly pro-choice, and I can refuse business provided it's not on the basis of belonging to a protected class. However, if I were an employee in a copy shop, unless the standards are MUCH more stringent than they appear, I would - it's not my business, and so not my decision, and I don't believe that the decision to print or not to print is anything that has to do with my own conscience.

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Would the decision be supported if the flyer said "pray for muslims / jewish / atheist people to convert"?  I mean, "convert" implies they currently hold religious beliefs that are inferior to those of the writer of the flyer.  So maybe that is why the employee said no.

 

On the other hand, it could just be that the employee hated the flyer so much that she thought it was too horrible to print.  And the management has to decide whether to say "our employee was wrong and we fired him/her" or "our employee was making a bona fide attempt to apply company policy."

 

What would the reaction be if we learned that the employee had had an abortion herself?

 

Just throwing it out there.  People are humans and they are going to react based on feelings sometimes.  Then their company has to do damage control.

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Actually I think they would be quite similar. They would be focusing on only one part of a larger whole - but a single part that colors many people's perceptions of the larger organization. But I still wouldn't see it as inflammatory or threatening.

 

I agree they would be similar. And I think groups with concerns about abortion or the sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests have positions they have a right to express. But there are ways to make ones point in a manner that is not inflammatory and a way that is purposefully inflammatory.

 

No doubt in my mind that the language of this flyer is in the latter category. This may or may not be the basis of Office Depots policy.

 

Bill

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I don't think the employee's deeply-held beliefs are being violated by making copies any more than I think a baker's beliefs are violated by baking wedding cakes for people who order them.

 

Now, if Office Depot wants to make a company policy that employees can refuse to make copies depending on whether they like the message on the original, then they're welcome to do so (as long as it doesn't violate public accommodation laws, and I don't think this particular case would). I can't imagine that would be a smart policy to implement though.

 

Actually, I think that refusing to make a flyer because of the Christian content is a perfect example of a violation of public accommodation laws.  

 

I think it's important to wait and hear all the sides of the story.  I feel like there are 3 possible outcomes.

 

1) There was some reason, unrelated to content why company policy said they couldn't print the flyer.  For example, there was a long back up, or it wasn't possible to determine whether the prayer was copyrighted.  

 

2) This was the action of an individual staff member, who was violating Office Depot's policy.  Office Depot should discipline the staff member, and provide training, and perhaps a small settlement to cover any difference in cost, plus wasted time.

 

3) Office Depot actually has a policy that either says that employees can't copy political or religious content, or that individuals can turn down content that they disagree with.  In that case, I'd say that Office Depot is in violation of the law.

 

If 3 is actually true, then I think the individual who brought the content has a case.  How serious of a case depends, in part, on the way that the company responds.  On one hand, O.D. has deeper pockets than the baker in the wedding cake case, so it may take more of a fine to make an impact.  On the other hand, in that case the baker didn't just refuse to bake, but engaged in harassment, as I understand it.  There doesn't seem to be evidence of that in this case.

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Refusing over content is very different than refusing due to the group to which a customer belongs - the plaintiff would have to show they were refused because they were a Christian. If Office Depot provides other services to Christians (example: church flyers which I know they will print) then it is a tough case to win.

 

Example: a print shop owned by African Americans cannot refuse to serve white customers. They can refuse to print flyers for the Klan.

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1. Office Depot is a little different from Sweet Cakes in that Office Depot is a large chain. This decision might not be representative of the entire chain's normal policy. (That's not crucial to my comment, I just wanted to point it out.)

 

2. Anti-abortion groups are not a protected class, therefore, anti-discrimination statutes do not apply in this case. I'm not a lawyer, however, legally, I think Office Depot is in the clear.

 

2a. This is true even if, as seems clear, her stance on abortion is highly influenced by her religious beliefs.

 

3. However, it's far from certain that this flyer DID violate Office Depot's standards. That prayer is not nearly as inflammatory as pictures (and it's poor graphic design as well, that wall of text - I had to force myself to read it, I was bored before I even tried!), and while I'm dubious of their "facts", I don't expect or even particularly want Office Depot employees to fact-check every flyer they're asked to print.

 

4. If I ran my own private copy shop, I might not print this. I'm firmly pro-choice, and I can refuse business provided it's not on the basis of belonging to a protected class. However, if I were an employee in a copy shop, unless the standards are MUCH more stringent than they appear, I would - it's not my business, and so not my decision, and I don't believe that the decision to print or not to print is anything that has to do with my own conscience.

 

The bold, in and of itself, nullifies the idea this is a "version" of sweet cakes' stunt. 

 

I agree with you on everything else, and with Bill's assessment of the inappropriateness of this flyer for the purpose of good business and community relations. 

 

It also illustrates, I think, the utter absurdity of appealing to sincerely held beliefs for the purpose of deciding when to impede another's legally protected rights. It's dangerous because it calls for political anarchy over civil rights. It's ridiculous because there are a lot of sincerely held batsh*t crazy beliefs. 

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The flyer has an obviously Catholic prayer on it. I think a case could be made that the clerk refused service because of the customers religion. Anti-abortion groups aren't protected but we do still have freedom of religion. If the clerk didn't want to print it, someone else could have done so.

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The flyer has an obviously Catholic prayer on it. I think a case could be made that the clerk refused service because of the customers religion. Anti-abortion groups aren't protected but we do still have freedom of religion. If the clerk didn't want to print it, someone else could have done so.

 

Beg your pardon, but the tirade on the flyer is not an "obviously Catholic prayer."  The Church has a well established liturgy;, this scree has nothing to do with Catholic prayer.

 

Bill

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Beg your pardon, but the tirade on the flyer is not an "obviously Catholic prayer." The Church has a well established liturgy;, this scree has nothing to do with Catholic prayer.

 

Bill

I should have been more clear. I meant that since it notes that this is a prayer from a priest that is it obviously Catholic. I think in general if someone sees that Rev. so and so said something and see that it is the group Priests for Life they assume it is Catholic.
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Is the reason Abortion, or that it was someone else's published content? Based on the article, it seems like she's assuming it's the content, but Office Depot/Office Max/Staples has clearly posted that they will not copy copyrighted materials, and I know I've had to show managers the "copying permitted for use in single classroom settings..." Type statements before they would copy pages from a book for me to use in a class or co-op.

 

It seems like Office Depot (and the employee) may well be being vilified for following the law and protecting the original author's intellectual property.

They've even refused this for me. :/ So annoying. 

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The flyer has an obviously Catholic prayer on it. I think a case could be made that the clerk refused service because of the customers religion. Anti-abortion groups aren't protected but we do still have freedom of religion. If the clerk didn't want to print it, someone else could have done so.

 

I'm sure they'll try to make that case, however, I'm not so sure they'll win it. I mean, by that argument, you could get anything printed just by shoving a prayer on it. Racist sentiment? Shove a prayer on it about the Children of Ham and race-mixing. Can't stand poly-cotton blends? Shove a prayer on it and maybe something about Leviticus. You happen to just hate daylight savings time? Shove a prayer about railroad time supplanting God's time. Who's to say this isn't a sincerely held belief of your little church, after all?

 

(And if you're about to say that one, two, or all three of those are nutty - yeah, go ahead. But from my perspective, even the most mainstream church has a few really *weird* ideas. That doesn't mean they aren't "sincere".)

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I should have been more clear. I meant that since it notes that this is a prayer from a priest that is it obviously Catholic. I think in general if someone sees that Rev. so and so said something and see that it is the group Priests for Life they assume it is Catholic.

 

I certainly assumed the author was Catholic priest, which might be a false assumption, but probably not.

 

That the author is a Catholic, and even a priest, does not make what he wrote into a "Catholic prayer." That is not the way it works in the Church.

 

As I said, if you take the same words, make the substitutions I offered, one might have a different perception of the inflammatory language (or not).

 

Bill

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I should have been more clear. I meant that since it notes that this is a prayer from a priest that is it obviously Catholic. I think in general if someone sees that Rev. so and so said something and see that it is the group Priests for Life they assume it is Catholic.

The plaintiff would have to show it was rejected based on class, not content.

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I suspect that the store would have printed a pro-abortion flyer without batting the proverbial eyelash. If there is documented evidence that they would not, I should like to see it.

 

The only internally consistent store policy would be to refuse the printing of anything related to a rally, no matter what the subject matter.

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Refusal should come from corporate headquarters, not from low-on-the-totem-pole sales clerk.

Maybe so; but that didn't seem to be the question in play. The OP asked, "Should Office Depot have the right to refuse to print the flyer?" The Constitution gives that a clear "yes."

 

Certainly, if Office Depot as a business is happy to print the item, they can easily say "Our employee was confused! We have no problem with printing your document!" But the company spokesperson quoted above didn't seem to be distancing the business from the employee.

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I suspect that the store would have printed a pro-abortion flyer without batting the proverbial eyelash. If there is documented evidence that they would not, I should like to see it.

 

The only internally consistent store policy would be to refuse the printing of anything related to a rally, no matter what the subject matter.

 

All flyers are not equal.

 

And they don't have to have an "internally consistent" policy.  They simply have to have a policy that doesn't discriminate against the class of customer.

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