Hobby Lobby ordered to shut down stores after reopening amid COVID-19 pandemic

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

Hobby Lobby is facing criticism for reopening stores in states where governors have issued stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus.

The arts and crafts retail giant says its business constitutes an essential service since it's a supplier of education materials.

Business Insider reported that Hobby Lobby resumed business in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Carolina. The publication obtained a copy of a memo by Hobby Lobby Senior Vice President Randy Betts that instructed store managers on what to say if authorities questioned them about being open.

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At a Hobby Lobby location in Garland, Texas, the store reportedly posted mandatory social distancing rules on its doors, stating: "Operating as an essential business Offering PPE Mask supplies, educational supplies, office supplies, and various components for at home small businesses."

A resident in North Texas told FOX4 news station that Hobby Lobby should be allowed to stay open because it's where she and other women are buying material to make masks. 

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was adhering to advice from the Trump administration and the CDC to extend the self-quarantine through April 30 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state and save lives. The order mandates where residents can go and names locations they must avoid, including nursing homes and long term care facilities. 

In Wisconsin, Hobby Lobby reopened a store in Kenosha, but authorities shut it down on Tuesday after it was said to have broken the “Safer at Home” mandate, according to news station WTMJ-TV

"Your business, or identified portion of the business, must cease operation or be in violation of the order," a letter from the Kenosha police to the store read. "Please comply with this order to avoid legal action."

A Wisconsin state agency charged with determining which stores are essential amid the public health crisis had deemed the arts and crafts chain a non-essential service and ordered it to close. The store could be fined $250 for violating the order.

In Ohio, Attorney General David Yost ordered the business to close its doors Wednesday with a cease-and-desist letter. Stores in the Buckeye state had initially complied with the stay-at-home order that was in effect but then reopened. 

The founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green, is an evangelical Christian and instrumental in the funding and sponsorship of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

"We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now," Green wrote in a March letter to company staff.

The Christian Post reached out to Hobby Lobby to inquire about its store closure policy amid the ongoing pandemic and will update this article when a response is received.

The Oklahoma City-based company employs more than 43,000 people across 46 states and operates approximately 900 stores nationwide.

In 2014, the company won a 5-4 victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The ruling said that closely held for-profit corporations are exempt from an HHS mandate under Obamacare that required businesses to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs. The Greens argued that the mandate violated their rights under the Constitution.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalterFollow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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