Hobby Lobby said in a July 15 news release that despite rumors on social media and in an online article continually redistributed, the company’s founder and CEO David Green is not closing stores.
The popular arts and crafts retail chain, in the news most recently for its forfeiture of thousands of ancient artifacts from Iraq, has been targeted by inaccurate reports that include republishing a letter Green wrote in 2012.
In fact, Hobby Lobby “is experiencing tremendous growth” and anticipates opening 50 new stores in 2017 – with plans for more in the future, according to the release.
“Hobby Lobby often hears from concerned customers who have read on social media that the company is closing its doors,” the release said, after the latest round of “fake news.”
Green had said in the open letter said he might close all stores – then 500 in 41 states – because of what he called religious persecution by the Obama administration following a battle with the government over the Affordable Care Act.
The family-owned business in 2014 won a lawsuit it filed objecting to having to provide abortion-causing drugs to its employees as a result of the healthcare mandate.
ANTIQUITIES FROM IRAQ
More recently the company settled with Department of Justice over an investigation into its improper purchase and importation of more than 5,500 ancient biblical artifacts from Iraq.
Hobby Lobby agreed in the settlement to forfeit the items in question, pay a $3 million fine and institute new policies and procedures to prevent such handling in making future related procurements.
In a statement, Green said the company “should have exercised more caution” over the transactions – but disavowed knowledge the rare thousands of tablets and bricks, and clay bullae used in writing or written on in cuneiform may have been looted from museums or historic sites.
“At no time did Hobby Lobby ever purchase items from dealers in Iraq or from anyone who indicated that they acquired items from that country,” Green said in the corporate statement.
A year before the items forfeited were purchased (2009), Green began collecting rare Bibles and other artifacts and circulated them in a traveling exhibit to promote a greater understanding of the Bible’s accuracy.
Previously it had been widely reported that when the staff of the National Museum of Iraq deserted in 2003—before members of the U.S. Armed Forces were able to assist in securing some cultural sites—thousands of antiquities were stolen and for sale on the black market.
In 2014-2015, nearly a decade later, ISIS was blamed for the largest-scale mass destruction of cultural heritage since the Second World War.
MUSEUM OF THE BIBLE
Hobby Lobby is set to open the Museum of the Bible in November in Washington, D.C. in a 430,000-square-foot structure three blocks from the nation’s Capitol.
“Our passion for the Bible continues, and we will do all that we can to support the efforts to conserve items that will help illuminate and enhance our understanding of this Great Book,” Green said.
— Joni B. Hannigan is an award-winning writer, editor, teacher, PR specialist, and the author of thousands of news and feature articles. She is also an accomplished photojournalist. In 2015 Joni won the Frank Burkhalter Award in Religious Newswriting at the Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition. She is a U.S. Navy veteran. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook