Hobby Lobby Lawsuit: Did "Standing With Hobby Lobby" Flop?


Hobby Lobby Lawsuit: Thousands Turn Out to Support hobby Lobby

"Thousands" of shoppers turned out to Hobby Lobby locations nationwide on January 5 – dubbed Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day – to support the retailer in its willingness to risk massive federal fines in fighting Obamacare regulations. Or did they?

Hobby Lobby is currently engaged in a court battle against a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires them to provide contraception coverage to its employees, including the morning-after pill. Hobby Lobby owner David Green, a conservative Christian, opposes contraception, sterilization, and abortion aids, and argues that compliance with the mandate would violate his religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby could potentially face fines of up to $1.2 million a day if it continues to defy the orders.

While religious organizations are exempted from these provisions, in November a U.S. federal judge said that Hobby Lobby did not qualify for that protection. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court for relief against the federal fines during the appeals of their lawsuit was also rejected. While some Christian groups have criticized the lawsuit, more than 100 other plaintiffs have filed suit over the contraception mandate.

"We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles … I've always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money … but now, our government threatens to change all that," Green related in an open statement.

While "tens of thousands" pledged their support for the retailer – with over 64,000 people members of the "Standing With Hobby Lobby" event – it remains a little unclear just how many people actually showed up.

Reporters visited a Sacramento, California Hobby Lobby store, finding that while the store was busy, most shoppers were either unaware of or uninterested in the ongoing lawsuit. One woman holding a cross was interviewed, saying, "like our Founding Fathers believed … we don't want to kill anybody. We just want to be free to have limited government and freedom to worship God however we want to." 

However, the Examiner received reports of "packed parking lots, long lines, and everyone happy to be supporting the Christian company," while KOAA saw "hundreds" of supporters outside a Colorado Springs location. A Sioux Falls, South Dakota location had "hundreds" of shoppers arrive. A video from reporter Michael Pickett in Evansville showed many shoppers at a local store, but few protesters. A Facebook group set up to capture photos and stories of the event had notably austere, featuring just 4 photos, only one of which showed a small crowd of sign-waving supporters.

Whether or not the event fell below expectations, it would be difficult to draw conclusions about what that means for Hobby Lobby's customers or the lawsuit. It could indicate a lack of popular support for the company's position. However, less than two months out from a brutal November general election and weeks of exasperating fiscal cliff negotiations, many activists may simply be exhausted from a rough political season. Activism – and tensions – may ramp up in the near future, with the Supreme Court projected to rule in the lawsuit.

While the evidence suggests Hobby Lobby supporters mounted a somewhat mild effort on Saturday, others have been less subdued. Former Arkansas Governor and evangelical Christian Mike Huckabee had harsh words for opponents of Hobby Lobby, saying that if the retailer was "forced to eat the 'king's meat' and 'bow on their knees' to a human government in direct conflict with their fundamentals of faith, then how long will it be before they come for you and your family?"