When friends told me the Helena Hobby Lobby store was still open, I couldn’t believe it. Local businesses across the community not providing essential services, following the guidance of the Governor’s office and public health officials, shut their doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 last week.
Surely, I thought, it was just a rumor that Hobby Lobby, which is highlighting products like a sale on remaining Christmas trees and yarn and needle art, was still open.
So I called today, and the very polite person I spoke to on the phone told me the store would be open until 8:00 this evening.
The open store in Helena is no aberration. In a deeply irresponsible move, Hobby Lobby is defying orders across the country to close.
Even officials in red-state Texas are blasting the company, as CBS News reports:
Hobby Lobby is facing a multi-state backlash for keeping some of its stores open amid the spreading coronavirus, with a Texas official suggesting that the arts-and-craft retailer is endangering public health.
The Oklahoma City-based company’s controversial stance comes as some of the nation’s biggest retail chains temporarily close or limit their hours of operations because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 6,500 Americans.
“I just want to make it clear to Hobby Lobby and anybody who is foolish enough to follow in their footsteps that in Dallas County, the government and 99.9% of the business community, puts public health over profits,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a news conference on Thursday.
It’s no surprise that Hobby Lobby’s owners believe they can act with impunity. The CEO and owner of the chain initially terminated a huge number of employees by e-mail, but after reassuring them that everything would be fine because God had spoken to his wife:
In her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard and Groom. 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 letter to company employees. “While we do not know for certain what the future holds, or how long this disruption will last, we can all rest knowing God is in control.”
The local businesses who support our community shuttered their doors, not because they didn’t want to keep serving us, not because they didn’t want to be at work, but because they wanted to join the community fight to keep COVID-19 infections in check. Hobby Lobby, already practically a criminal organization, one that fought for–and won– the right to discriminate against access to birth control for employees, apparently thinks it’s above that fight, and that profit for the family that owns it matters more than the public’s health.
The Lewis and Clark County Health Department should shut them down now. And the people of Helena should remember where Hobby Lobby stood in this crisis.