White, straight billionaire wants to keep his hobby stores open amid coronavirus because his wife had a message from God

Hobby Lobby

The evangelical owner of Hobby Lobby has told staff they must continue working through the coronavirus pandemic because his wife had a message from God.

More than 90 US retailers have temporarily closed their doors in the past week in a bid to protect employees’ health and control the spread of the virus.

But on March 19, Hobby Lobby managers received a letter from owner David Green telling them that the arts and crafts superstore chain will stay open because his wife, the “prayer warrior”, says God’s got everything under control.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

Hobby Lobby hires around 43,000 people across the US. Green told them he “appreciate[s] every one of you” but did not give any indication that the store will be following social distancing guidelines by closing its doors.

Quoting the late anti-gay preacher Billy Graham, Green’s letter reassures the managers that the company is in a stable position financially – although they will all have to “tighten their belts” very soon.

Green, whose net worth is $6.4 billion, does not offer paid sick leave for his hourly employees. “I ask that you all pray for our health and a return to normalcy very soon,” he concludes.

David Green’s religious beliefs have brought Hobby Lobby into controversy before.

In 2014 the store was at the centre of a landmark Supreme Court battle as it challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which required businesses to offer health insurance plans that covered the cost of birth control.

In a move that raised serious alarm with LGBT+ activists, the court sided in favour of Hobby Lobby, ruling that privately-owned companies could be exempt from such policies on the basis of religious belief.

This foreshadowed the ongoing Supreme Court battle over Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, colour, national origin and religion.

When announced, the Supreme Court ruling will decide whether or not it’s legal to fire someone for being gay.