| January 10, 2013

Five reasons we're happy thousands shopped at Hobby Lobby last weekend

Last Saturday was "Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day," an informal holiday initiated by concerned Americans who support Hobby Lobby in its lawsuit to challenge the Obama administration mandate that all employers provide insurance that covers contraception -- including the "morning after" and "week after" pills that can and do cause early abortions -- to their employees.

More than 65,000 people signed up to support Hobby Lobby on the designated day by shopping at a local Hobby Lobby store or online. For all of the following reasons, we're glad they did -- and, in the words of Democratic state legislator Rebecca Hamilton, we hope they "keep it up."

1. Hobby Lobby employs more than 22,500 individuals at more than 500 stores in 41 states.

In an era when unemployment remains stubbornly high, an employer like Hobby Lobby is not to be taken for granted. The unemployment rate has ticked down recently -- but that's at least partly because the labor force participation rate continues to decline. In other words, even as many unemployed Americans become so discouraged that they cease to look for a job, 22,500 other Americans are able to wake up and go to work thanks to David Green, the CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby.

2. Hobby Lobby pays its full-time hourly employees well above the minimum wage -- and closes every Sunday.

Even in the midst of the recession, Hobby Lobby managed to increase the hourly wages of its employees. Every year since 2009, Hobby Lobby gave its workers a wage boost -- so that, now, full-time hourly employees start at $13 an hour -- or more than 80 percent above the federal minimum wage. Part-time hourly employees make $9 an hour. To boot, employees can enjoy a much-needed Sabbath on Sundays. Consistent with their Biblical principles, the Green family insists that no Hobby Lobby store open on a Sunday.

3. David Green and his wife, Barbara, have agreed to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Along with Harold and Sue Ann Hamm, T. Boone Pickens and others, David Green and his wife, Barbara, have signed the Giving Pledge, an effort to invite the wealthiest Americans to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. While liberal icons like Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg have signed the pledge, Barack Obama -- who is ultimately responsible for the mandate that could put Hobby Lobby out of business -- conspicuously has not.

4. Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma-based company.

We'd love Hobby Lobby if David Green and his family had started it by selling frames from their garage in any state -- but the fact that their garage happened to be in Oklahoma makes us particularly proud of the mega-retailer. The Green family very much embodies the frontier spirit of self-reliance and ingenuity that so characterizes Oklahomans -- and we're grateful the rest of the nation has a window into that spirit through the Hobby Lobby stores in their states. Browse the shelves of a Hobby Lobby store -- the wreaths, frames, fabrics, stationery, etc. -- and the warmth, hospitality and pride-in-craft of Oklahomans is evident. Furthermore, we can't help but think that, in contrast to Obama administration policies, the particular mix of policies in Oklahoma makes it easier, not harder, for the Green family to do business.

5. Hobby Lobby reminds us that religious liberty applies first and foremost to individuals.

It's easy to take our hardwon freedoms for granted -- until they're challenged. The contraception mandate -- and, even more importantly, the courageous resistance to it on the part of the Green family and the more than 20 other non-profit religious organizations suing the federal government to oppose it -- reminds us to actively exercise our right to religious liberty by applying the principles of our faith to the public square. As I wrote in an op-ed after the Green family first filed its lawsuit against the federal government:

The discussion of whether the mandate abridges religious liberty has so far focused on the administration's definition of what constitutes a “religious institution” for the purposes of an exemption from the mandate. Historically, all sectarian institutions with a ministerial mission have qualified as religious institutions. Under the HHS mandate, only churches qualify. That is too narrow a definition.

The Hobby Lobby case, though, underscores that First Amendment rights apply first and foremost to individuals. Whether Hobby Lobby as a business exists to fulfill a religious mission or simply to make a profit is immaterial. Either individuals have a right to freely exercise religion — to allow religion to inform not just their private beliefs, but also their public actions, including the way they engage in business and commerce — or they don't. The Obama administration claims they don't; the Constitution says they do.

In fact, the right to religious liberty is antecedent even to the Constitution. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

It will truly be a shame if the Supreme Court upholds the contraception mandate. Such a decision would mean that the members of the Green family would have to pay fines of up to $1.3 million a day for the "privilege" of exercising their religious liberty. At the same time, their willingness to face those fines would serve as a powerful reminder that government, while supposed to be the guarantor, is not, nor ever can be, the originator of our "certain inalienable rights."

Photo: Cheryl Casey /

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