HomeNewsHobby Lobby’s 5 Biggest Controversies in Company History

Hobby Lobby’s 5 Biggest Controversies in Company History

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People on social media called for a boycott of Hobby Lobby earlier this week. This came after a photo of a sign, allegedly endorsing President Donald Trump, surfaced online. This wasn’t the first time the arts and crafts company invited controversy. The company has had several controversies over the past decade, ranging from policing birth control pills to stolen artifacts.

In 2013, an employee made anti-Semitic remarks to a customer.

An employee at a New Jersey based store made anti-Semitic remarks to a customer. The customer asked the employee if the store sold decorations for Jewish holidays. And, the employee allegedly responded that the store “does not cater to your people.”

Founder and CEO David Green issued a formal apology to the Anti-Defamation League in response. He promised the company was “investigating this matter and absolutely [does] not tolerate discrimination.” 

In 2014, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit for the right to deny contraceptives to its employees.

In 2014, the company challenged the right to refuse birth control to its employees. The company denied access to the contraceptives through its health insurance plans. The company claimed it violated their religious beliefs and practices against using birth control in particular. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and ruled in the company’s favor. They ruled that some companies could deny certain coverages on health insurance based on religious principles.

The ruling caused nationwide protests and rallies, according to Business Insider.

In 2014, religious leaders sent a letter to the White House for exemption from laws prohibiting discrimination.

A group of religious leaders cited the Supreme Court’s ruling as a precedent in a private company’s operations. The group sent a formal letter to the White House demanding an exemption from Obama Administration laws that prevent discrimination based on sexuality.

The company garnered controversy for this association. According to Business Insider, it was discovered that David Green is a massive donor to the National Christian Foundation. The religious organization’s platform includes anti-LGBTQ efforts.

In 2017, the federal government discovered Hobby Lobby smuggled stolen artifacts.

The company had illegally acquired thousands of rare artifacts, such as cuneiform tablets, from Iraq. The artifacts were to be displayed in the Museum of the Bible, which the company’s president Steve Green sponsors. The company had the artifacts shipped to Oklahoma City, under the label “ceramic tile samples.”

A court ordered the company return the artifacts and also pay a $3 million fine. In March 2020, Steve Green announced he plans to return an additional 11,500 artifacts from the museum to Iraq and Egypt.

Also in additional to the artifacts, experts discovered the entirety of the museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls collection are modern forgeries.

In 2020, Hobby Lobby refused to close its doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the company drew backlash for its decision to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. They argued that they fell under the criteria for an essential retailer. David Green also chose to keep the doors open based on a message his wife had received from God.

According to Business Insider, the company also refused to give employees coronavirus sick leave. The company eventually closed its stores to abide by state mandates. But, it reopened some locations illegally, causing employees to speak out.

“This has all been so stressful and exhausting,” a Hobby Lobby employee told Business Insider at the time. “I don’t want to stay home because I’m too lazy to work. I want to stay home to do my part to stop the spread of the virus.”

After backlash from this discovery, Hobby Lobby officially closed all its stores and furloughed employees as a result.

“The line our manager gave us [from corporate] was, ‘The employees got what the employees wanted; the stores were closed,'” a Hobby Lobby employee said in an interview with Business Insider after he learned of the furloughs. “My question was, ‘Did God tell them they needed to close the stores and not pay us?'”

[H/T: Business Insider]