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7 Major Hobby Lobby Controversies That Led to Boycotts

Shoppers haven't always been thrilled with the craft chain's policies.

Craft retailer Hobby Lobby is no stranger to controversy. Throughout its over 50 years in business, the company has been entangled in several snafus, often tied back to founder David Green's religious beliefs. Some of the company's moves have been so contentious that shoppers called for boycotts of the stores. Read on to find out more about seven major Hobby Lobby controversies that really ruffled feathers.

RELATED: Hobby Lobby Shoppers Threaten to Boycott Over Pulled Holiday Merchandise.

Not providing birth control to employees (2014)

birth control pills on wooden background, close up .

In 2014, Hobby Lobby came under fire when it opted to not cover employees' birth control. Things really heated up, however, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor, deciding that some businesses can decide not to comply with federal laws requiring contraception coverage due to their religious beliefs (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores).

All female justices and one male justice voted against the decision, deeming the ruling a detriment to women's rights. Many members of the public were also unhappy with the decision, leading to protests in several Northeastern states. Protesters gathered outside of a store in Seekonk, calling for a boycott of Hobby Lobby, as well as in Warwick, Rhode Island.

"We don't think businesses have any business getting into the details of their employees' health plan," Carolyn Mark, president of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Women, told The Providence Journal. "We can't have bosses deciding what kind of health care workers should get."

Putting up a pro-Trump display (2020)

Some customers decided to avoid Hobby Lobby after a pro-President Donald Trump display was put up at one of its stores in 2020. A photo of the display, which read "USA Vote Trump," was shared on X (then known as Twitter), having first been shared in a Facebook group for political action committee the Lincoln Project, Forbes reported.

The photo ended up going viral, with several social media users calling for a boycott, using #BoycottHobbyLobby.

"I haven't shopped at Hobby Lobby since they denied female employees birth control coverage," a Sept. 2020 post on X reads, attaching a photo of the display. "Here's the icing on the cake."

While it was unclear if Hobby Lobby sanctioned the display, Green did write an op-ed for USA Today in 2016, voicing his support of Trump as "our only hope for a Supreme Court that will protect freedom of religion."

RELATED: 8 Best Things to Buy at Hobby Lobby.

Practices during the COVID pandemic (2020)

A sign hanging on a businesses door telling customers they are closed due to COVID-19

The COVID pandemic was a trying time for the retail world, as non-essential stores were forced to close during quarantine.

Hobby Lobby really pushed its luck, however, opening up in March 2020 and arguing that it was an essential retailer. According to Business Insider, Green claimed that his wife, Deborah, received a message from God that compelled him to keep stores open.

When the company was forced to shut down once again and follow state orders in April 2020, Hobby Lobby announced it would be furloughing almost all of its store employees and a large portion of its corporate and distribution employees, ABC News reported.

With stores closed, Hobby Lobby ended its emergency leave pay and paid time off benefits. While furloughed through May 2020, employees still had medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits, Hobby Lobby's statement said.

But calls to boycott were rampant once again: In an April 14, 2020, post on Instagram, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) asked people not to shop at Hobby Lobby, calling it the "Most Outrageous, Hypocritical Coronavirus Response of Any Large Business."

Eliminating Hanukkah decorations (2013)

menorah and presents and blue ribbon, hanukkah decorations

In 2013, Hobby Lobby faced allegations that it was antisemitic after a shopper in New Jersey inquired about the apparent lack of Hanukkah decorations. An employee allegedly told the shopper, "We don't cater to you people," NBC News reported.

Another New Jersey resident, Ken Berwitz contacted the company about the situation and was told that Hobby Lobby wasn't selling decorations for the Jewish holiday due to Green's religious beliefs.

"Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he's a Christian, and those are his values," Berwitz alleged he was told. In a blog post, Berwitz said that, as a result, he'll "never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever." His comments also spurred similar statements from other bloggers, HuffPost reported.

"If they want to sell all over the nation then they must include all people within that nation," a Jewish visual artist named Abbey wrote in a blog post entitled "Is Hobby Lobby Anti-Semitic?" per HuffPost.

Hobby Lobby's president Steve Green ended up issuing an apology on behalf of the company, stating, "Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We're proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States. We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination."

Green confirmed that Hobby Lobby stores previously had merchandise for Jewish holidays, later announcing that the company would re-introduce these products at stores in New York and New Jersey "due to overwhelming demand in the Northeast."

RELATED: Hobby Lobby Shoppers Threaten to Boycott Over Christmas Ornaments.

Eliminating holiday decorations—again (2023)

hanukkah candles
Naamah_B / Shutterstock

While Hobby Lobby may have brought back Hanukkah decorations for some time, that turnaround didn't last forever. In 2023, shoppers were again up in arms when it was confirmed that the retailer had pulled these decorations, along with decor for Mardi Gras and Halloween.

"The decision on what to offer our customers are based on many factors, including customer interest and what sells well," a statement read to Snopes by a Hobby Lobby corporate customer service employee explained. "Our seasonal merchandise assortment carried at Hobby Lobby is constantly changing, and they evaluate it annually. Due to the need to find additional space for some of our stronger categories as well as our newer ones, the decision was made over the last couple of years to discontinue several seasonal product lines, including Mardi Gras, Halloween and Hanukkah."

In response, customers said they wouldn't be returning to Hobby Lobby during the holiday season.

"Hobby Lobby has stopped selling any Hanukkah items," a Nov. 2023 Facebook post reads. "Not only boycott them but flood them with emails and messages what you think of them. And very often share to your followers and friends."

On X, another former customer wrote, "I was already boycotting Hobby Lobby but here is another reason to do so if you haven't."

Selling gun-related Christmas ornaments (2023)

christmas decorations at hobby lobby
Retail Photographer / Shutterstock

This past holiday season was a rough one for Hobby Lobby, as certain Christmas ornaments also caused a stir.

After receiving reader inquiries, Snopes validated claims that Hobby Lobby was selling different ammunition-themed Christmas ornaments. A Nov. 16, 2023, Facebook post included photos of the ornaments at a Hobby Lobby store, including the "Shotgun Shell Wreath Ornament."

"I shop at the [Hobby Lobby] somewhat regularly, but this baffles me," the text overlaying the picture reads. "They don't stock Halloween items [because] evil, but do sell ammo ornaments for the birth of Christ?"

Commenters cited this as "one of the MANY reasons" why they don't shop at Hobby Lobby.

In a Dec. 7 Facebook post that's since been taken down, another shopper wrote, "Some of us didn't need one more reason to never set foot in a Hobby Lobby store but they just gave me one more," attaching what appears to be the same photo of the in-store shotgun shell ornaments. The text overlaying the picture says that the decorations are "another reason I boycott Hobby Lobby."

It's worth noting that Snopes looked into the source code on Hobby Lobby's website, concluding that the ornaments were meant to appeal to shoppers who enjoy hunting and fishing.

RELATED: 8 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Hobby Lobby Employees.

Illegally smuggling artifacts (2010)

hobby lobby smuggled cuneiform tablet
United States Attorney's Office

Rounding out this list of controversies is the infamous smuggling scandal. In 2010, Hobby Lobby purchased over 5,500 artifacts—namely cuneiform tablets and clay bullae—for $1.6 million and imported them, violating federal law, PBS reported. (The items originated in Iraq, and there have been restrictions on important Iraqi cultural property since 1990, according to a civil complaint)

The artifacts were smuggled by a dealer from the United Arab Emirates in several packages, with some being intercepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, per a July 2017 press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The packages were falsely labeled as product "samples" and addressed to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of the company's corporate affiliates.

Back in 2009, Hobby Lobby began collecting historical Bibles and other artifacts as a way to serve "the Company's mission and passion for the Bible," the company said in a July 2017 statement. Addressing the artifacts settlement, Steve Green said, "We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled. Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today's settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved."

The company also noted that it was "new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process," which "resulted in some regrettable mistakes."

Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine for its part in smuggling the items, which it was also required to surrender.

Making things a bit more complicated, in 2019, the company found itself in hot water again when the DOJ seized a portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh from the Museum of the Bible, which is owned by Hobby Lobby.

In a press release, the DOJ confirmed that the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet—one of the most ancient works that originated in modern-day Iraq–entered the U.S. "contrary to federal law" and was sold to Hobby Lobby by an auction house for display. Law enforcement agents took the tablet from the museum in Sept. 2019, and Hobby Lobby "consented to the tablet's forfeiture based on the tablet's illegal importations."

Still, calls for boycotts persist today, with some citing this scandal as the reason they don't shop at Hobby Lobby.

"Boycott Hobby Lobby for pilfering religious artifacts during the invasion of Iraq," a March 2023 post on X reads.

In Aug. 2022, another wrote, "Boycott hobby lobby and ask them about all the stolen ancient artifacts they 'acquired.'"

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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