The craft store chain Hobby Lobby came under fire on Monday, as did its founder and CEO David Green. Green has been a controversial figure for years because of the religious rhetoric surrounding his business and political decisions. This week, he told customers that he is not worried about the pandemic because "God is in control."
Green caused a stir on social media this week when news broke that he was laying off a huge portion of Hobby Lobby's employees. Many argued that Green and the other executives at Hobby Lobby should have realized that the pandemic would affect business earlier, and given its employees more time to prepare. Many were also outraged when a letter from corporate to employees surfaced, with phrases like "God is in control" included.
Green himself has a strong religious background as an evangelical Christian. He has often come under fire for letting his creed affect his work as a manager and a political force, since it drives the massive donations his company makes to religious groups.
For those unfamiliar with Green's style, here is a run-down of his career as the CEO of Hobby Lobby.
Green comes from a family of preachers, according to his bio on TheGivingPledge.org. In a profile by Charisma Times, Green explained that he started what would become Hobby Lobby in 1970, while working as a manager at TG&Y. With a $600 loan, Green began in his garage, assembling and selling miniature picture frames.
David Green- owner of HobbyLobby, who is keeping his businesses open endangering the lives of his employees, customers, and communities. pic.twitter.com/dlque084kk— Brandy R. McKinnon (@vampyreskiss) March 26, 2020
The business picked up over the course of five years. In 1972, Green and his wife Barbara opened a small shop for their picture frames in Oklahoma City, and in 1975 Green was able to leave his job at TG&Y to focus on Hobby Lobby full time. They opened their second location that same year, and soon became a national chain. Green went on to become a bona fide billionaire.
According to a 2012 report by Forbes, Green donates half of Hobby Lobby's total pretax earnings to a variety of evangelical Christian ministries. At the time, he estimated that he had donated about $500 million — half a billion dollars — in total. According to another report by BeliefNet.com, this makes Green the largest individual donor to evangelical Christian causes in the United States.
Affordable Care Act
Holy shit, I know I'm late to the game, but I'm reading a book about RBG and I just learned about how Hobby Lobby fought the ACA contraceptive mandate on religious grounds. pic.twitter.com/JgGZE41ox9— Missy, Master of the Slippery Slope (@aslipperyslope2) April 4, 2019
One of the biggest controversies of Green's career came in 2012, when he publicly opposed the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as "Obamacare." Green was angry over the act's mandate that employers include access to the morning-after pill in the healthcare coverage they offer to employees.
According to a report by Huffington Post at the time, attorneys for Hobby Lobby stated the company's intent to simply defy that federal mandate. A U.S. District Judge warned that: "Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations," and would therefore not be exempt from the law based on faith.
"The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees," Hobby Lobby's lawyer said. "To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."
Any Store is better than #HobbyLobby— kirsten houseknecht (@fabricdragon) March 30, 2020
Remember their "vision from God"?
How about them giving money to terrorists for smuggled art?
They just closed their stores after forcing workers to be exposed to #COVID19
And fired them all.
No severance, no health insurance... pic.twitter.com/vY9J1R6Vx2
Green has also come under fire for The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. He opened the museum in 2017 — an endeavor that cost him about $500 million, according to a report by Christian Headlines.
The Museum of the Bible is controversial because it possesses 17 fragments of ancient bibles that were reportedly stolen from a British non-profit organization called the Egypt Exploration Society. The museum eventually acknowledged that they were stolen by Oxford professor Dirk Obbink and then sold to the museum.
"We have collaborated with EES in the investigation, have shared all relevant documentation with them, and will continue to assist them in recovering other items that may have been removed without authorization from their holdings," said the museum's chief curatorial officer Jeffrey Kloha at the time.
The incident fueled speculation that the museum possessed other illegally obtained artifacts.
Hmmm... to the @HobbyLobby employee who just contacted me I did not notice the “royal crown” in Darsee Green Lett’s photo! I too guess that she thinks she’s a “Christian” Queen! 🤣😂🤣😂 “Let them eat cake....” LMAO Thx for the 😂 👍👍😄 pic.twitter.com/FWFSqxFbOd— Permanent Marker (@JustaDude767) March 27, 2020
Green and his wife have two sons and one daughter. Their eldest son, Mart, is the founder and CEO of Marden Christian & Education, a book store dedicated to supplying religious goods. Their second son, Steve, is now the president of the Hobby Lobby, as well as the primary funder of the Museum of the Bible.
Green's youngest child, Darsee Lett, is the creative director for Hobby Lobby stores. It was she who wrote the controversial letter sent to employees on Sunday, letting them know they were being laid off.
I see where Hobby Lobby finally closed and is laying off it's employees. Let give a big hand to the Green's for their christian generosity. 94th richest in the US, with an estimated net worth of $5.1 billion. 🖕👏🖕👏🖕🤬— Bob W Garner-just bob-Spaceman Spiff (@athikers_bob) March 29, 2020
"It is with a tremendously broken heart that I’ve been forced to take these unimaginable actions, and I genuinely hope you know that my prayers are with you and your family," Darsee wrote to Hobby Lobby employees this weekend. "It has been such an honor having you on my Team. I truly and deeply appreciate your service to this Department and the Company, and with you the very best as this calamity hopefully ends in the very near future."
Users were outraged, feeling that the Green family should have done more for employees in this uncertain time. They also felt that the family should have sacrificed more of its own wealth to pay employees given the historic unemployment rates on the way.