I have never been a great fan of non-discrimination laws, particularly public accommodation laws. We have certainly seen their egregious abuse in the cases of the bakers, the florist, and the photographer. Even if one says (correctly) that "sexual orientation and gender identity" are bizarre items to add to such specially protected lists, and even if they were taken back off, I still tend to think that such laws do more harm than good, involving government in micromanaging every aspect of hiring or accepting a contract, attempting to delve into hidden motives, and in the end more or less requiring affirmative action in hiring so as to avoid costly lawsuits.
But despite my libertarian-ish leanings in that regard, I have also always said (as far as I know, consistently ever since I have been blogging) that it is completely appropriate for Christians and other non-PC groups to demand that such laws be applied to them consistently, otherwise we get the worst of both worlds: The baker is forced to bake the sodomy-celebrating cake, but the Christian employee can be harassed and fired for his un-PC, "bigoted" beliefs. That, of course, is what we often get anyway, and that status of ideological dhimmitude for us "bad guys" is exactly what the left wants. The left revels in double standards while usually not quite admitting doing so.
Hence I never blame Christians who have been obvious victims of discrimination for pointing this out and even engaging a lawyer. Craig James is entirely within his rights to do so, for example.
The latest case of this kind, cum happy ending, comes from a customer denied service in Illinois.
Office Depot refused initially to print an order of fliers that criticized Planned Parenthood and that included a prayer that God would bring an end to abortion. What was (to my mind) even more disturbing than the refusal was the reason given. Office Depot has a policy that it refuses to take print orders for material that "advocates any form of racial or religious discrimination or the persecution of certain groups of people." The corporate representative claimed that this flier "contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights."
Think about that for a minute. If the fliers had talked about Wal-Mart's allegedly cut-throat business practices and contained a prayer calling for the end of overseas sweatshops, would the material ipso facto be advocating "persecution" of Wal-Mart executives, employees, or those who defend the company? By this standard, any criticism of anybody is an advocacy of "persecution" of those who disagree.
The worrisome thing about this defense of the refusal is that it blatantly takes an allegedly content-neutral rule and applies it in a way that is clearly politically biased. Moreover, it tries to give the passive-aggressive impression that Office Depot, by its policy, is attempting to protect poor little victims rather than, in fact, being a large corporate entity trying to make it more difficult for a pro-life message to be heard. While in a more libertarian-ish economic climate they would have the legal right to do that, in plain honesty Office Depot's policy makers should give up the cant that the flier violates a policy against "advocating persecution or discrimination" (or kicking puppies) and just admit, "We [heart] abortion. Abortion is wooonderful! Planned Parenthood is full of heroes. We refuse to cooperate in any way in criticizing abortion or Planned Parenthood."
And since the fact is that we don't live in a remotely libertarian-ish economic situation, there are indeed public accommodation laws that apply even more obviously to the printing of this flier than to using one's artistic abilities to celebrate a homosexual ceremony.
So Maria Goldstein, the customer, got in touch with Thomas More Society, and they sent a letter to the offices of Office Depot.
What do you know? Shortly thereafter, Office Depot reversed course:
In a statement emailed from Karen Denning, a spokeswoman for Office Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, she said the company “has contacted Ms. Goldstein’s representative to explain that the store associate’s decision to decline a print order was in no way based on religious beliefs, but 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.”
She said, “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.”
However, she said, “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.”
The statement included an invitation from company CEO Roland Smith to Maria Goldstein to return to have her work completed.
Cough, cough. I note that Karen Denning was the same representative who previously said that the flier did violate company policy. Interesting how her vision has improved upon receiving a letter from a law firm. One wonders how hard it would have been to undertake the "more detailed review" when the story first broke, before making her first statement. I note that Denning did not originally say, "Well, I haven't read the flier, so I'm merely going on the basis of what the employees at the store told me, but it sounded like they judged that..." Not at all. She implied that it was a cut-and-dried case of Being Mean In Print, meaning that the kind-hearted folks at Office Depot couldn't possibly cooperate.
The volte-face is pretty obviously the result of the fact that Goldstein didn't take things lying down. It's a small thing, but I applaud it. This sort of thing is going to become more and more common: Non-discrimination enforcement of the most jack-booted sort against Christian and other businessmen who aren't on-board with the leftist agenda coupled with increasingly blatant, and illegal, discrimination against Christians and other ideological minorities in all the usual areas--employment, school admissions, and public accommodations.
Even just a little bit of pushback that shows that we are not going to accept that kind of faux-neutral nonsense is worth doing. Kudos to Maria Goldstein and the Thomas More Society for one small victory.