Printing a flyer or baking a cake, the freedom to be uncomfortable matters
“The company says upon further review, the fliers did not violate company policy that bans certain words that persecute groups or people. They say it had nothing to do with religion.”
It doesn’t get much more succinct than that. It is safe to assume that Office Depot didn’t want all the noise they were about to receive from people objecting to a company statement that employees made “uncomfortable” by material related to print orders did not have to fulfill them.
Perhaps Office Depot didn’t want to hear the obvious question, the one that seems to dog all of these ‘refusal of services” cases: if the material to be printed offended the sensibilities of one employee, why couldn’t another employee simply do the print-job?
For that matter, why couldn’t a gay couple simply go to another baker for their wedding cake?
Why couldn’t Mrs. Goldstein just find another printer?
Why couldn’t Kentucky simply create a means by which both religious consciences and gay weddings were accommodated, as North Carolina has apparently managed to do?
All of these stories share a common thread in that participants — either the ones finding their consciences singed or the ones denied a service — were unwilling to step aside and let someone else do it, or to kick the dust of their sandals and take their business elsewhere. Rather than allow people to just be who they are, there is a need to compel the “correct” behavior of others. “Don’t be who you are,” goes the thought, “be what I demand you to be.”
Office Depot made a savvy choice with this decision, but this is no victory for Christians who were quick to cry “discrimination”; they should not feel vindicated, unless they are ready to say that the Christian baker should have baked the gay wedding cake, as well.
Original piece, below.
It was bound to happen.
Sooner or later, some Christian, somewhere, was bound to face a refusal of service by someone who was not comfortable fulfilling their order for something. And now it has happened, over the printing of a religious flier.
Maria Goldstein went online to Office Depot, and ordered the printing of a number of flyers listing “Quick Facts about Planned Parenthood” (pdf), and a prayer for the conversion of all connected to that organization, written by Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life
According to this letter to Office Depot, written by The Thomas More Society, an employee of Office Depot informed Ms. Goldstein that her flyer would not be printed, as its content was “restricted by corporate policy.” A representative from the Office of the Chairman, confirmed it, saying, “if it makes employees feel uncomfortable they don’t have to print something,” and adding that the company was still formulating a policy for situations such as this.
Does this sound familiar? Once upon a time, a Christian baker refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, and in the midst of the ensuing high drama and media fixation, some sensible people said, “why didn’t the couple just leave the man to his conscience, and go find another baker? Plenty of bakers will bake their cake.”
The Thomas More Society is arguing that by refusing to print these religious flyers, Office Depot is violating Ms. Goldstein’s human rights.
Because printed flyers, like wedding cakes, are basic human rights now, and don’t you forget it.
This really is the Great Wedding Cake Debacle in reverse, and as with that story, the issue of racial discrimination is being used to make the plaintiff’s point. The attorneys did not make a full-throated “Jim Crow” accusation, but after taking great pains to spell out what is meant by “public accommodation”, “discrimination” and “religion” their letter hints that they might, if pushed: “…your employees refused to say why they were “uncomfortable” with printing the flyer, but its thoroughly religious nature, coupled with their reluctance to disclose why they wouldn’t print it, unmistakably suggests an invidious reason. We suggest that you consider what your position would be if our client were black and your employees refused service because of her race.”
Fortunately for Office Depot, Ms. Goldstein is not currently suing for damages; all she wants is a written document stating the company’s willingness to print her flyer, after she updates it.
Thank goodness. Ms. Goldstein is demonstrating that even while perhaps understandably aggravated, she can be reasonable. You know what would be even more reasonable? Going to another printer, preferably some small business happy to get the work.
Look, the loss of religious freedom is a serious issue, and in an increasingly secular age, one wherein a New York Times columnist can feel noble for suggesting that the practice of religion is fine, as long as it is kept indoors, and away from the public square, people of faith should be on their guard, and fight for their fundamental right to exercise their religion freely. Following one’s conscience ought not lead, for instance, to the loss of one’s business and livelihood, but that has happened, and some people have called it a good thing.
Which is why we cannot help but wonder whether the Thomas More Society, in agreeing to address this situation, has really thought this thing through.
Perhaps they simply don’t realize it, but they have just argued that a Christian baker has no choice but to bake a cake, and conscience be damned.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?