Hobby Lobby Made Fight a Matter of Christian Principle
By ALAN RAPPEPORTJUNE 30, 2014
David Green, the chief executive of Hobby Lobby, fought the Affordable
Care Act's contraceptives mandate to the Supreme Court. Credit Image by
Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images
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Continue reading the main story WASHINGTON -- For the family behind Hobby Lobby, fighting the Affordable Care Act's contraceptives mandate all the way to the Supreme Court was a calling, not a choice.
Since the company's creation in 1972, Christianity has infused the culture
of the chain of craft shops, dictating everything from its hours of
operation to the choice to remain privately controlled.
"We believe wholeheartedly that it is by God's grace and provision that
Hobby Lobby has been successful," David Green, the company's chief
executive and founder, said in September 2012, announcing the company'splans for a lawsuit. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."
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Activists reacted Monday to the Hobby Lobby ruling outside of the SupremeCourt.Justices Rule in Favor of Hobby LobbyJUNE 30, 2014
Representative Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican.News Analysis: Hobby Lobby Decision Highlights Parties' DivideJUNE 30, 2014
The Supreme Court ruled narrowly in the case, with the majority 5-4
opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.Supreme Court Ruling on
Union Fees Is a Limited Blow to LaborJUNE 30, 2014 Bea Belcher received communion from Sister Carolyn Martin at a home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Evansville, Ind.More Cases on Religion Await, With Eye on Opinion by AlitoJUNE 30, 2014 Anthony Elonis in an undated photo. Sidebar: On the Next Docket: How the First Amendment Applies to Social MediaJUNE 30, 2014 Various models of IUDs, circa 1960 to 1994. Inserted into the uterus, they
provide long-lasting and effective birth control, but they are not without
controversy.Debate That Divides: How Hobby Lobby Ruling Could Limit Accessto Birth ControlJUNE 30, 2014Mr. Green, the son of two Oklahoma pastors, turned to retail while hissiblings flocked to the ministry. He rose through the ranks of the ive-and-dime chain TG&Y, then started Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City with a $600 loan. He used that money to buy a frame chopper, and, on the family's kitchen table, he made miniature picture frames with his wife and sons doing most of the gluing.
Within three years, Mr. Green's company had $150,000 in annual sales. Now, Hobby Lobby has $3 billion in yearly revenues, with nearly 600 stores
across 47 states. The company, which employs more than 13,000 workers,
donates a tenth of its profits to charity and carries little debt.
Christianity is pervasive at its stores, which are open 66 hours a week,
play evangelical music and close on Sundays. Mr. Green has said that Hobby Lobby has no Christian requirement for its workers, but that it sets "a positive environment that happens to be based on biblical principles."
Full-time employees earn a minimum of $15 an hour.
Hobby Lobby's fight against the contraceptive coverage mandate is not thefirst example of the company's culture clashing with secular America.
"They don't see their secular and their spiritual life as bifurcated. They
see it as intertwined," said Rob Hoskins, president of the OneHope
ministry and friend of the Greens.
In the mid-1990s Mr. Green, displeased with how local newspapers were
writing about Christian holidays, took out Christmas and Easter ads in
newspapers across the United States, spreading the message of his beliefsand referring readers to a toll-free help line for spiritual help.
The ads angered some who accused the retail chain of mixing religion with
business. One person even sent a bomb threat emblazoned with the image of Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people when he detonated a truck bomb at an Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.
For a company with roots in Oklahoma, the response was chilling. But its
leaders were not deterred, and have gone on to make promoting Christianitya central part of their business. Affiliated companies, also run by the family, sell furniture and Christian educational supplies.
"There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people," Mr.
Green wrote in "More Than a Hobby," his book about the business.
"Nevertheless, he is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of
mentioning his name."
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That sentiment also applies to Steve Green, who is Mr. Green's son and
Hobby Lobby's president, who is planning the construction of a Bible
museum near the National Mall in Washington for his multimillion-dollar
collection of ancient Bibles, Torahs and religious manuscripts. With plans
to open in 2017, the museum will feature 40,000 ancient biblical texts,
including private collections of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a New Testament
papyrus from the second century A.D.
His 72-year-old father, who according to Forbes data is worth more than $5billion, has also been a benefactor to Christian causes, famously aiding
the troubled Oral Roberts University with more than $70 million in 2007.
"Hobby Lobby is an extension of the Green family," said Mark Rutland, who
took over as the university's president in 2009. "He sees the purpose of
holding Hobby Lobby as a closely held company to extend his personal
It is not a mission that some of his former employees completely embrace.
Rebecca Lynch, who worked as a cashier for Hobby Lobby in Warner Robins, Ga., in 2012, said that while she considered herself to be a religious Christian, she was disappointed with the court's decision. She needs to take one of the types of birth control that the company will no longer have to cover and said she would not be able to afford it without
"If I were working there right now and they weren't able to pay for it, I
might not be able to get the medicines I needed," Ms. Lynch, 22, said.
"It's good that they are fighting for religious rights, but at the same
time, if you need the medicine and you can't get it, sometimes you have to
As for the Greens, they believe their prayers have been answered.
Said Barbara Green, David Green's wife, "We are truly thankful for a
decision that allowed us to continue to run our family business according
to our principles."
Correction: July 1, 2014
An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly the minimum hourly
wage earned by full time Hobby Lobby employees. It is $15 an hour, not $14an hour.
A version of this article appears in print on July 1, 2014, on page A13 of
the New York edition with the headline: Hobby Lobby Made Fight a Matter of Christian Principle. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe.