Hobby Lobby to Jews: “We don’t cater to you people.”


Obama-hatred and misogyny go quite nicely with Jew-baiting. (Hobby Lobby, you will recall, is the outfit that’s suing for the right to deny contraceptive coverage to its female employees on religious grounds.)

I’m glad to see that “Christian principles” means refusing to help celebrate a holiday that Jesus of Nazareth celebrated.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

66 thoughts on “Hobby Lobby to Jews: “We don’t cater to you people.””

  1. Wow. What a freak.

    I think it’s time for a Chanukah-In, right in front of that idiot’s office. All eight days! With a really, really loud band.

  2. What’s the problem here? Isn’t this confirmation that the owner of Hobby Lobby really IS serious about running it according to his own private values? I mean, you get outraged when Catholic churches don’t celebrate other religions’ holidays?

      1. Right, and the point being argued in the Hobby Lobby case is that it’s a smaller distinction than you’re making it out to be, that you don’t have to be a church to have free exercise of religion.

        There are companies, Hobby Lobby, Chik Fila, which are hybrids between regular secular companies and churches. They’re money making enterprises, but they’re tightly owned money making enterprises intended by their owners to operate according to the precepts of a specific religion.

        Oh, and being a Christian, and not doing anything to advance other religions, isn’t antisemitic. For that, you have to be affirmatively hostile, not merely unhelpful.

        1. No, they are not a hybrid between a business and a church. They are a business, full stop. Whether an entity is one or the other is not defined either by ownership structure or the personal beliefs of shareholders and managers. If your goal is to make profits, it’s a business and that’s what Hobby Lobby is.

    1. Brett,
      You’re conflating multiple issues; in no particular order, a list that surely isn’t comprehensive:
      1) There exist non-profit organizations called “churches” that exist to profess and propagate various beliefs. These organizations are held to be immune from penalty if they practice various sorts of discrimination in keeping with their beliefs but that clash with the values of the wider society.
      2) People work for organizations, in return for wages and other benefits. They aren’t owned by those organizations, nor must they agree with their employers in all things (this last is a bit less true for churches, which are allowed to impose various rules on the lives and beliefs of their secular employees). Just because your boss thinks it’s important to smear goat’s blood on his rump in veneration of Cthulhu doesn’t mean he can require you to do so, or even make you watch.
      3) Separately from the entire issue of whether the Hobby Lobby is permitted to impose a devout practice of Cthulhu Worship on its employees (short answer: no), there’s an issue of whether it’s inclined to cater to all of its customers, or instead to tell many of them to go fnck off.
      4) There’s no law about engaging in nondiscriminatory actions that happen to make a subset of your customers uncomfortable. You want to spend December with the store only stocking foam rubber tentacles? Go ahead! But you may get fewer customers, as people don’t like it when they are told to fnck off, nor when their friends are.
      5) And still yet again separately, there would be legal issues if this devoutly Cthulhu-worshipping employer were to post on the door of his establishment “Christians Not Welcome”. So far as I know, the owner of the Hobby Shop has not yet done anything of the sort, but given statements he has made he’s about half a step from doing so (saying No to Muslims, Gays, or Jews, of course – he loves Christians, which may be why you can’t see anything wrong here).

      So, in short: it’s legal for him to tell a lot of his customers he think they’re worthless sinners to whom he won’t cater. But it’s bad business, and it’s bad humanity. Sadly, it’s likely that it’s the low-paid retail employees who will suffer for it.

          1. Oh great Hastur the Unspeakable, it was Sabl and Wimbereley who japed at thee, not I. Please spare me, dread deity of the deep.

      1. Gee, poor Chick-Fil-A. They must be on the brink of going out of business. How do they stay open? Oh wait, they’re doing just fine.

    2. And that his values are odious.

      In what sense does not carrying merchandise Jews may wish to buy, out of an unwillingness to deal with Jews, a Christian value?

  3. I grew up in that area. Ignoring Hanukkah is not something a business owner does by accident — not at a store that sells holiday merchandise.

  4. There are four large retailers of arts and crafts supplies in the United States – Hobby Lobby, Michaels Stores, Joann Fabric and A.C. Moore.

    A quick scan of Hobby Lobby’s competitors’ websites reveals that A.C. Moore carries precisely 0 items with a “Hanukkha” or “Jewish” theme, Joann carries about 15 and Michaels carries about 30. The items in question for Joann and Michaels include a number of greeting cards and sticker sets (items which take up a negligible amount of shelf space), meaning that the number of “decorations” they carry in these categories is even smaller. This despite the fact that each of these retail chains stocks literally thousands of Christmas themed items every year.

    Joann is owned by Leonard Green Partners and Michaels is jointly owned by Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group. These are not exactly hotbeds of anti-Semitism. I’m not sure about the ownership structure of A.C. Moore, but their store footprint is overwhelmingly concentrated in the northeast, and thus I’d be surprised if it were owned by a bunch of raving anti-Semites.

    Jews account for about 2% of the U.S. population. They are concentrated disproportionately in urban areas in the northeast, plus Chicago, L.A. And San Francisco. The major arts and crafts retail chains have store footprints that are concentrated in suburban and rural areas with a skew toward the south and midwest. Hobby Lobby’s store footprint is skewed even more rural and even more southern than that of their competitors.

    And in general, retailers are loathe to localize their product assortment, as doing so adds significant cost and complexity. Something in the neighborhood of 5-10% of the merchandise in a typical Wal-Mart store is localized to tastes in the market in which the store is located, and I can assure you that Wal-Mart has significantly more sophisticated IT capabilities and supply chain infrastructure than any of the major arts and crafts chains.

    In other words, there is every reason to believe that Hobby Lobby has a perfectly rational reason to not stock Hanukkah decorations that has nothing to do with the biases of the owner of the company.

    Now, we have three comments in the article linked above. One is a second hand quote from a store associate (likely a high school educated employee with relatively thin experience (given the exceptionally high employee turnover rates that prevail in the retail industry) with zero direct insight into the merchandising strategy of the company). One is a second hand reference to an (unquoted) remark from someone at “the home office” (quaint) who apparently said something about a list of holidays but of course it’s impossible to know exactly what and in what context the remark was made. And of course the headquarters of a company the size of Hobby Lobby is likely to have several hundred employees, the vast majority of whom have zero direct insight into the merchandising strategy of the company. And the last is a direct quote from, again, a store associate who again, has zero direct insight into the merchandising strategy of the company. Note that the reporter did not directly contact company headquarters and did not make an attempt to talk to someone who might actually know something about how product merchandising decisions are made at the company.

    It’s possible that the owner of Hobby Lobby is an anti-Semite. But the article linked above provides close to zero evidence to support that assertion. The article provides moderately credible evidence that at least one, and possibly two in-store employees at a single store in New Jersey are anti-Semites.

    I’m sure that the fact that this article was written has NOTHING to do with the fact that the owner of Hobby Lobby has initiated a lawsuit aimed at several provisions of the ACA. Nothing at all.

    This article is outrage bait. It will get lots of referrals from people who want to believe what it purports to say, and it will get lots of page views, most of them from people who won’t think too closely about whether the thesis of the article is especially well supported but will very vigorously pat themselves on the back for not being one of the ignorant “those people” who haunt the gaps in the article’s logic.

    1. A lot of what you write is handwaving or irrelevant. Some points:
      1) If you look at AC Moore’s website, you mostly find a LOT of promotions for Halloween. You find nothing for either Christmas or Hannukah, because it’s October 3.
      2) The point is that an outspoken opponent of Gay people (who if I recall is no fan of Islam) has this week spoken out about how his stores will never carry Hannukah products. He didn’t say that he doesn’t see a market; he said that it’s not something he would countenance. He is effectively telling non-Christians his stores aren’t for them.

      1. 1). Ok – perhaps A.C. Moore is unusually seasonal. The same search that I conducted above at Michaels and Joann using “Christmas” instead of “Hanukkah” at Michaels and Joann yielded over 1,000 and over 1,500 results, respectively. And read the original article – this “issue” was first raised because Hobby Lobby is already putting Christmas decorations out.

        2). No. He. Did. Not. There is no statement whatsoever from Mr. Green to that effect. You are not reading the sources carefully, but are rather filling in details that are not there to fit a narrative that is implied in the articles but not supported by actual evidence. Inded the second article linked above has a statement from a named corporate spokesman (rather than the unnamed “sources” quoted in the first article, second hand in 2 of 3 cases) who explicitly says that Hobby Lobby will review which seasonal merchandise that the company carries after this matter was raised.

        1. Have you considered reading the linked article, maybe looking around for follow-up articles? The important passage in the linked article is:

          When one of our friends asked where the Chanukah goods were, was told there wouldn’t be any, and asked why. According to her, the answer was:
          “We don’t cater to you people”
          Understandably irate, she called the home office, and was told, indifferently, that hobby lobby doesn’t have Chanukah on its list of holidays.
          Having heard this, and always wanting to be certain of what I write about, I just called the Marlboro hobby lobby and asked whether it would be stocking any Chanukah merchandise. I was told it would not. When I asked why, the answer – verbatim – was:
          “Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values”

          This started with a blog post that was available online this past Friday, and that I first saw referenced no later than Monday (through some fairly large-audience, mainstream source or other). To be sure: the sourcing is a bit thin, it’s recond-hand hearsay of what a low-level spokesperon allegedly said, and other people similarly placed in the heirarchy. But it’s been a national story for almost a week. It hasn’t been meaningfully denied by the corporate press office (they’re “investigating”), and they deny the tone of the comments represents them) – but the substance stands unimpeached. A chain of stores that vigorously promotes holiday-themed items and that includes stores in heavily Jewish neighborhoods apparently sells no Jewish-themed items – nothing for Hannukah, for Passover, for Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, etcetera.

          And: they have a CEO who is in federal court demanding that he be permitted to impose aspects of his Christian faith on his employees’ bodies. I will admit that there seems to be no documentation showing it’s the CEO’s militant Christianity that underlies the chain’s apparent policy of spurning non-Christian holidays and celebrations, nor any proof that the harshly worded explanation of that policy can be traced to him … but drawing those connections hardly seems unfounded.

          1. It hasn’t been meaningfully denied by the corporate press office (they’re “investigating”),

            They have denied that the comments are indicative of Hobby Lobby culture. Obviously, they can’t deny that some individual employee said something stupid to one of the customers.

            And: they have a CEO who is in federal court demanding that he be permitted to impose aspects of his Christian faith on his employees’ bodies.

            No, he’s not. He doesn’t want to have to pay for certain emergency contraceptives, and thinks he shouldn’t have to. He’s not trying to keep his employees from buying the drugs with their own money.

            nor any proof that the harshly worded explanation of that policy can be traced to him … but drawing those connections hardly seems unfounded.

            Maybe they don’t “seem” unfounded, but they are unfounded.

          2. So: the policy of ignoring and thereby of effectively (and perhaps even explicitly) denigrating non-Christian customers exists; the CEO is profoundly Christian, and imposes his Christian values through the administration of his business; and you feel it’s inappropriate to draw any connections. OK, then.

            Oh, and by the way: that “he doesn’t want to pay for certain emergency contraceptives” (1) is inaccurate: he doesn’t want to have to pay for contraception, period; and (2) rather neatly ignores the fact that “certain emergency contraceptives” are medical care. Also, that offering contraception coverage doesn’t cost health insurers money; just the opposite, in fact. He isn’t trying to save money by denying such overage; he’s trying to impose his beliefs.

          3. Seriously, not stocking menorahs next to the plastic ghoul hands is your idea of “antisemitism”? It doesn’t require anything more than that?

          4. Brett,
            Can you read? Did anyone other than you (and your fellow traveler below) accuse them of being antisemites? I said they were assholes, more or less; there’s a difference.

            Try talking to your non-white, non-Christian friends sometime – heck, try talking to your wife – about what it’s like not being a white Christian in large parts of this country, what it’s like dealing with the assumption that you don’t count, that no concessions should be made to the fact of your existence or your identity. This is a $3 billion company that is in the business of marketing the celebration of holidays – so long as they’re Christian, or perhaps secular. If you’re operating a store in a community that’s variously described as 1/4 to 1/3 Jewish and makes a lot of its money off of holiday items, and you ignore Jewish holidays, that’s not an accident: you’re sending a very clear message. That message isn’t antisemitic in the Nazi sense, but it isn’t welcoming of Jews, it doesn’t see Jews as being worthy of recognition or consideration. It is, in fact, a very noisome move, emblematic of a dismissive and exclusionary attitude to the Other that most of the rest of this country has spent the last several decades trying to move beyond.

          5. Mr. Terra,

            You suggested above that the owner of Hobby Lobby made statements that he in fact did not make. When this was pointed out to you you suggested that that didn’t really matter because his actions – in not carrying products in his stores that his competitors barely carry – demonstrated nonetheless that everything you accused him was basically accurate.

            Facts don’t seem to matter to you. You clearly don’t like Mr. Green, and are willing to believe anything negative about him that is suggested to you.

            If I were to write: “This week Warren Terra publically claimed that he despises Belgians” when in fact you had said no such thing, and then defended myself by pointing out that you’re kind of a bad guy and you rarely go out of your way to say nice things about Belgians then a disinterested third might conclude that I’m not especially trustworthy on this question.

          6. Stephen,
            I suggest you read my comments in this thread more carefully and completely. Also that your supposedly parallel situation rather lacks several key elements: to the best of your knowledge I do not run a large organization that systematically ignores the desires or interests of Belgians, nor have several underlings of mine explained this policy to you in contemptuous terms, some of which they directly attributed to me.

        2. Speaking as a musician and an occasional woodworker, I will note here that:

          1. If you intend to have music ready for the December holidays, you need to start rehearsing in November. If it’s easy-ish music and your musicians are pros you can reduce that to a read-through in December and on to the gig(s).
          2. If you intend to rehearse in November, you need to have the music ready. That means you need to start in August, or Labor Day (at the latest). If music is your hobby rather than your profession, start earlier.
          3. If you intend to sell holiday music, it has to be available by early November. Recording and post-processing take time. See above dates.
          4. Arts and crafts like woodworking are pleasurable past times for some people, but again fairly time-consuming. If you want to have a chessboard ready to give your son as a holiday gift, you can’t start ordering wenge and birch and rosewood in December.

          In other words, for folks working on year-end holiday arts projects, the time is now. Their suppliers are well aware of these things.

    2. And in general, retailers are loathe to localize their product assortment, as doing so adds significant cost and complexity.

      I guess that’s why I can never find matzo in the grocery store at Passover.

  5. Does Hobby Lobby sell Hallowe’en decorations?

    (FWIW, I don’t shop there, and the question is not rhetorical.)

    1. I went to the website, keyed in “Halloween” into the search box, and got 39 items.

    2. fwiw, I’m friends with a number of very devout Christians who think that Hallowe’en is a form of devil worship, and don’t let their kids participate in it. But then again, they’re tolerant and open folks: not the kind of Christianists who think that the Gospels begin and end with a woman’s crotch, or a man’s proper attitude toward same.

  6. Well, there’s some cost to localizing store content, but on the other hand there’s revenue to be gained from catering to the local clientele. It doesn’t take a whole lot to do that unless the chain denies individual locations any discretion in what they stock. That could be corporate policy, ie all stores carry the standard stock, period. Well, fine. The stuff I’ve seen so far tells me that for corporate central in OK, Jews really don’t exist. (I don’t think that’s quite the same as anti-semitism, btw, but it’s still stupid.) Site studies of that location might have discerned them, and that’s usually what site studies are done for, but I’m sure Hobby Lobby gets the deliverables they want on these deals.

    So, on this point, meh. As the rabbi quoted in the article basically says, Green’s a creep who’s probably within his legal rights.

    But for me there’s a somewhat tangential bigger issue here. Hobby Lobby claims to be a Christian organization. If so, it’s a Christian organization that benefits in many ways from legal privileges that go along with the business form it’s chosen, which I believe is a corporation. Corporations are artificial persons granted rights– by the state– that natural persons don’t have. The state giveth limited liability, perpetual succession, special tax treatment, internal self-government, and other benefits. There’s nothing biblical about any of that (indeed I try to picture Hobby Lobby forgiving all debts every seven years but it doesn’t seem to come up on screen).

    If Green and family want those privileges from the state, they have to render something unto Caesar. That something is obedience to, or at least compliance with, the laws of the land. If the laws say they have to provide coverage in accordance with what other employers have to cover, that’s the law. They could explore other alternatives that didn’t involve those special state-granted privileges, and if they paid enough money to enough lawyers I bet they could find a way to cover only what they want to cover. It might cost them limited liability, but hey, what profiteth it a man, etc.

    1. “…unless the chain denies individual locations discretion in what they stock?”

      The vast majority of retailers deny individual locations discretion in what they stock. It’s enormously costly to procure product from vendors. Stores have neither the scale nor the expertise to procure product. The question that every retailer faces is whether a given product category opportunity is sufficiently large to justify allocating merchants’ time to sourcing and buying the product.

      The kinds of stuff sold in most arts and crafts retailers is overwhelmingly manufacturered in China. Stores that happen to have a local niche market that would be better served by product outside of the corporate assortment are almost never capable of addressing that opportunity.

      1. Okay, I’ll take your word for it on hobby and crafts chains, that they don’t allow sourcing outside the chain for local niche clientele, or that they require exclusive-source agreements if these are franchises (the article’s unclear but but it doesn’t really sound like a franchise). Not quite like regional grocery chains then, that often still do some local sourcing and/or stock for local market profile. There are some categories of merchandise I’ve seen, like greeting cards, that don’t seem to take quite the same approach– either the standard stock assortment includes something for everybody and it gets racked everywhere (kwanzaa and hannukah in Idaho), or it’s set up with package options for different clienteles.

        I disclaim any knowledge of the nitty-gritty, but even so I’m not entirely convinced that forbidding individual chain locations from stocking non-standard items for local clienteles, or requiring exclusive sourcing, is a decision that’s arrived at on strictly economic grounds.

        1. I last worked at a chain retail store in the 1990s, and they definitely did not have “sophisticated IT capabilities”. However, the way this worked was emphatically NOT that the central office shipped us a standardized assortment of goods. The central office had an assortment that they’d sourced, and we stocked a varying subset of that assortment. Some of those decisions were made by hand by the store manager, some seemed to be handed down from HQ. We had items that other locations didn’t, but that doesn’t imply that we did our own sourcing.

          How does this add “cost and complexity”? The most basic supply-chain operation in the world is “see what you’re out of and restock that”. Restocking is always a custom-picked, store-by-store shipping operation. If your system can handle decisions like “The Peoria location is out of Sculpey, add that to their restocking list.”—and, with the possible exception of 99c-type stores, they all can—then it can handle decisions like “The Provo location doesn’t need a Hanukkah order, don’t add that to their restocking list.”

          1. Thanks, Ben M, I thought it probably worked something like that. I could imagine that since the 90s most operations have added automatic reordering, or set up automatic review lists for the managers, in order to maintain chain-wide inventory and purchasing control. Iirc correctly, something like that is one of Walmart’s claims to fame.

            With Hobby Lobby, Christian devoutness is central to the brand. Green and family have chosen to make it that way. Maybe that’s just normal in OK, maybe they’re sending commercial missionaries among the heathen, maybe they’re offering support to beleaguered fellow Christians furtively attempting to live a Christian life among so many others, maybe that’s the demographic they want and they don’t care about anybody else’s money, I don’t know. But we have chain stores headquartered around here and they’ve always made a point of how much location research goes into any decision to open a new store. They have a whole division that does nothing but that research.

            I have to assume Hobby Lobby does the same thing. So either they know the demographic profile of the location, or their site research people are incompetent and don’t know. Assuming they know, which is the rational way to go, by not stocking for non-Christian customers they’re really just maintaining the brand.

            That doesn’t really bother me so much. They’re free to be creepy assholes, to be commercially short-sighted, to choose whatever branding they want, and to avoid stocking what they don’t want to stock. Fine.

            They may be free to create a corporate culture where two employees in a town with a sizable Jewish population seem perfectly fine with representing the company in the way they did; I’m not sure of the law on that. It’s stupid and offensive, but it may be legal. And no doubt that kind of defiant self-righteousness is good for business in some precincts, as it has been for Chick-fil-A. Maintaining the brand.

            They’re not free, though, to hide behind the state for corporate privileges and then claim exemption from the state because of their religious branding. I’m stressing branding because I don’t think it’s really anything more than that. If it was, the Greens would have bent heaven and earth to find a legal way to create an ownership format that would let them do with employee insurance what they want to do. But they’re playing this for maximum noise value, not for effectiveness.

            As it is, they want it all ways from Sunday at the same time.

          2. Ben,

            You’re talking about stores having the ability to flex their inventory from a master company-wdie assortment, not stores having the ability to source unique product outside of the master assortment to respond to local tastes. There is a huge difference. Most retailers do the former. An exceptionally tiny percentage do the latter.

            The question isn’t “is there enough demand locally for a store to over-assort a product category?” but rather “is there enough demand chain-wide for the company to source product in that category?” If Target offered ice fishing sheds in stores in northern Minnesota they would probably sell them. But they don’t do that because its absolutely crazy for merchants at target HQ to spend their time developing relationships with vendors of ice fishing sheds, negotiating terms on ice fishing sheds, developing logistics plans to flow ice fishing sheds into the company’s distributions centers and out to stores, developing pricing and promotions policies for ice fishing sheds, etc.

            Again – Jews are 2% of the U.S. population. They are concentrated in geographic areas where Hobby Lobby has few stores. At 2% of the population the ceiling of U.S. households that celerate Hanukkah is probably about 2%, as opposed to probably 80% or more that celebrate Christmas (the vast majority of Christian households, most secular households, and even quite a few Jewish households). And holiday decor is simply a much bigger part of the culture of Christmas than it is the culture of Hanukkah. The U.S. market for Christmas decor is probably about a hundred times larger (give or take) than the U.S. market for Hanukkah decor. And in the geographic markets where Hobby Lobby is concentrated, that ratio is even more lopsided.

          3. Sure, Jews are less than 2% of the population. Chinese-Americans are less than 1%, but Hobby Lobby manages to stock a full line of specialized Chinese calligraphy inks and brushes. Likewise, pretty much any Hobby Lobby product you can think of appeals to some ultra-narrow constituency: oil painters, or needle-felters, or woodblock-printers, or candlemakers. Hobby stores are accustomed to having a zillion SKUs, each of which is just the right thing for 0.1% of your customers.

            What’s this about Hobby Lobby being too “rural”? It has dozens of stores in Florida, the tri-state area, Los Angeles, Phoenix … ? Sure, it’s rural compared to Saks Fifth Avenue. It does not occupy in some notional all-Christian archipelago scattered across the country.

            In the particular case of Hanukkah decorations, I would note, it’s not like your purchasing office needs to reach out to Chabad to find inventory. You’ve got a generic distributor of generic Chinese paper products, and I’m sure that their standard “Happy Hanukkah” garlands are precisely as easy to order as everything else in the catalog.

            On the whole, I feel like you are addressing an entirely fictional version of this story. In your version, we’re criticizing a small Montana art store, in a town 500 miles from the nearest synagogue, where the manager decided it wasn’t worth her time to send a carrier pigeon to Kiryas Joel to place an order with a reclusive gelt wholesaler. In the version actually documented, Hobby Lobby’s practice makes no sense from a retail perspective (which is why Michael’s, etc., don’t follow it) but makes lots of sense if it’s a religious whim of the company’s (also documented) intolerant Christianist owner.

          4. Stephen is apparently correct. Ken Berwitz, who started this whole shit-storm, reports that he got it straight from the horse’s mouth:

            Steve then assured me in strongest terms that, my observations notwithstanding, Hobby Lobby not only is not intentionally refusing to stock Jewish-oriented items, but that it is very supportive and respectful of Jews, and is a very pro-Israel organization…

            …He told me that the reason no Chanukah or Passover goods were in Hobby Lobby stores was that the company worked with a model of “cookie cutter” simplicity – i.e. that stock is identical from one store to the next. He noted that Hobby Lobby carries 70,000 items, and every one of them is available in every store. He said that, at some point in the past (I don’t know how long ago) Hobby Lobby had, in fact, offered a section of Jewish oriented goods, but that they did not sell well and were therefore dropped.

            Berwitz goes on to report that the two of them agreed that this policy may no longer be an optimal strategy for HL to strictly pursue and that HL’s “people were actively looking into how they can more specifically address the different populations in their stores’ immediate areas.”

  7. It will be interesting to see how this develops. My guess is that this story has legs, and the reputational hit will be bad for Hobby Lobby’s sales. Then they will sell Jewish holiday stuff, demonstrating that Green’s Christian principles, aside from ignorance and bigotry, however profound, are for sale for money.

    1. Hobby Lobby stores are not open on Sundays, specifically because of Mr. Green’s religious convictions. Arts and crafts retail is a highly promotional category. Much of the business is driven off of weekly promotional sales inserts in Sunday newspapers. As such, Hobby Lobby’s competitors will generate 30-40% of their weekly sales on a Sunday. The policy of remaining closed on Sundays is a significant headwind on the performance of the business. Mr. Green has voluntarily foregone tens of millions of dollars over the years in adherence to a understanding of Christian moral imperatives that is not the least bit politicized or controversial.

      You may find him to be politically distatsteful. But the evidence suggests that he is willing place principle (as he undersatands it) ahead of his own financial interests to a degree that is exceptional.

      There is an ugly tendency in politics to acribe to one’s political opponents not only bad motives but every bad motive possible. It’s not enough that Mr. Green is wrong, he MUST be a bigot. It’s not enough that he’s a bigot, he MUST be a craven and greedy bigot.

      1. Stephen, you’ve alluded to an interesting theory–that Mr. Green’s “religious convictions” include not selling Jewish merchandise to Jews.

        Which religion would that be, that includes that conviction?

        1. I did no such thing. Mr. O’Hare suggested this, and further suggested that under pressure Mr. Green would likely abandon his religious convictions rather than suffer financially. In other words, Mr. O’Hare suggested that Mr. Green was craven and greedy.

          I simply polinted out that if Mr. Green were the type of person to put his financial interests ahead of his religious convictions then he almost certainly would not have maintained for decades a policy of keeping his stores closed one day per week (and indeed, likely the highest volume day of the week in the category). And I expressed displeasure at the fact that in these kinds of highly politicized debates there is a tendency to pin every possible moral shortcoming onto one’s political opponents.

          I have no idea why Hobby Lobby stores don’t sell Hanukkah merchandise. The articles linked above suggest that this is because of animus that Mr. Green holds against Jews, and indeed many of the commentors here including the author of the original post seem to find this explanation fully convincing – nearly self evident in fact. I have pointed out in a separate comment above that the “evidence” provided for this is remarkably thin: 1 second hand comment that certainly sounds bigoted from an in-store associate who is not Mr. Green, 1 second hand reference to a comment of unreported wording from an unnamed source at “the home office” with an unspecified title, in response to an unstated question, and 1 first hand comment from an in-store associate who is not Mr. Green, reported as verbatim although the question put the source is not specified so it’s not entirely clear what question the associate was attempting to answer; none of these sources can be assumed to have direct knowledge of the merchandising strategy of the company). And I further pointed out that one can easily explain the fact that Hobby Lobby does not carry such merchandise based on the economics of the business. Indeed, competitors of Hobby Lobby, which have store footprints that are much more exposed to the centers of the U.S. Jewish population, carry only a tiny number of Hanukkah-themed items despite carrying hundreds of Christmas-themed items.

  8. Unofficial update: Senior Mgmt. has issued a statement (paraphrasing)…..”Hobby Lobby has an interest in catering to its customers, [and] is “reassessing” its Holiday mix of merchandise.

    In my opinion, I doubt that this event (issue) will have any meaningful impact on the chain’s financial health. First, convenience is very important to retail store customers and it just seems to me that this issue isn’t quite important enough for those who already shop there to boycott a close-by location. And, secondly, we had a somewhat analogous situation recently with the “Chick-fil-A” anti-gay policy, and, the flare-up that ensued. It was a reported on “scandal” for several days and an attempted boycott simply energized their Evangelical customers who came out in huge numbers in support of Chick-fil-A. The chain reported record sales for a while and the temporary “outrage” was a stark reminder of the idea: “Be careful what you wish for, Blowback’s a B*tch.”

    My personal opinion? The company owners are moral midgets, religious hypocrites, and deeply flawed humans. But, speaking as a naturalized citizen, I respect the fact that they are entitled to their opinions.

    And, so am I.

    1. “who came out in huge numbers in support of Chick-fil-A.”

      No kidding. I now can manage to have lunch at Chick fil A maybe once every couple of months; Ever since the boycott the line has extended around the building and out into the street, you have to be determined to eat there, they’ve got so many customers now.

      That boycott ruined my lunchtime dining habits. The effects are still going on.

    2. Chik-fil-A reports that sales increased 14% in 2012. (The number of stores increased 5.7%, so per-store sales would’ve increased somewhat less. Fond reports of continuing lines around buildings reflect local conditions, at best.) In 2011, before the dicta against supporters of same-sex marriage, they increased 13.1%. To whatever limited extent the 2012 increment was the result of a political gesture by consumers, it’s because of the special place public displays of contempt for homosexuals occupy on the contemporary right. Jews may once have occupied an analogous position, but no longer. Mike Huckabee won’t be organizing any Appreciation Day in support of firms’ right to snub Jews. If Fox News is unlikely to turn this Hobby Lobby thing into a continuing series on “The War Against Hanukkah,” we can at least hope that it refrains from using it to whip up undisguised anti-Semitic resentment. This is progress, and it calls your analogy into question.

  9. Oh for crying out loud! Are you going to whine next that they don’t carry Kwanzaa merchandise either? You can’t buy dreidels and menorahs because one store chain doesn’t carry them?

    You’re free to shop there or not, as you wish. But pointing fingers and shrieking “anti-semite” just because you don’t get to control their product offerings brings you down to the “us vs. them” mentality that you accuse them of.

    Neil Diamond, Jewish singer of some note, has released no less than three Christmas albums totaling 43 songs, and the only Chanukah song on any of them is a cover of Adam Sandler’s irreverent comedy song. (And that didn’t come out until 2009 — the other two Holiday-themed albums are 20 years old or more and contain exactly zero Chanukah songs.) Nevertheless, my Jewish wife and her Jewish mother adore Neil Diamond, and would get quite upset with you if you were to accuse him of anti-semitism just because you don’t like his choice of song offerings.

    Have a gin-and-tonukah, smoke some marijuanukah (in a bongukah), and chill out!

    1. If Hobby Lobby simply said they did not carry this merchandise because they felt it would not be profitable, I doubt there would be objections.

      But when the reason is, “We don’t cater to you people,” it’s a different matter entirely.

      1. But “Hobby Lobby” didn’t say that. One in-store associate in one store was quoted second hand as saying that. There has been no statement from Mr. Green or anyone in any kind of official capacity with the company who has said anything of the kind.

        1. And another said it was because of Mr. Green’s “Christian values.”

          I simply polinted out that if Mr. Green were the type of person to put his financial interests ahead of his religious convictions then he almost certainly would not have maintained for decades a policy of keeping his stores closed one day per week (and indeed, likely the highest volume day of the week in the category). And I expressed displeasure at the fact that in these kinds of highly politicized debates there is a tendency to pin every possible moral shortcoming onto one’s political opponents.

          I don’t doubt that. The question is the nature of those convictions.

          1. And another said it was because of Mr. Green’s “Christian values.”

            And Mr. Green says these unidentified second-hand sources (assuming both comments weren’t made by the same person) are wrong about that:

            Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby. Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear.

    2. I remember how subversive that marijuannakah line sounded back in the day. God I’m old.

  10. Freeman, after reading your screed here, I went back and re-read Mark’s original post. I searched in vain for “whining” or “shrieking” or “anti-Semite” or “us-vs-them mentality.”

    What I found, rather, was a little note of irony, implying (while not overtly stating) that the Hobby Lobby owner is a two-faced jerk.

    From your vast overreaction, I suggest that maybe you are the one who needs to have a drink and chill out.

    1. Freeman, the point is Hobby Lobby says it’s being discrimated against while it seems to think it can remain pure by not “catering” to those people.

      People love pointing out hypocrisy.

    2. I went back and re-read Mark’s original post. I searched in vain for “whining” or “shrieking” or “anti-Semite” or “us-vs-them mentality.”

      Perhaps you missed the headline accusing the whole of Hobby Lobby for what someone says one of their peons said. Or maybe you missed the part about “Jew-baiting”. You must have missed this line from the first article linked to: But I have a major problem with anti-Semitic idiots. as well as the title of the second article linked to: Hobby Lobby accused of anti-Semitism over lack of menorahs, Chanukah decorations, along with this bit of Mark-Snark accusing the whole of Christianity: I’m glad to see that “Christian principles” means refusing to help celebrate a holiday that Jesus of Nazareth celebrated. — If that’s not an us-vs-them mentality then what is?

  11. Does EVERY flipping store have to “cater” to a segment of the population that’s 2% of the population at most? They probably don’t sell Mormon Magic Underwear, either. What, no Tefillin? No Amish bonnets? Can a dude find some halal meat or a Kirpan up in here? What fresh hell is this?

    From my acquaintance with the ideological perspective of Mark Kleiman and especially James Wimberly above, I assume that he would like to make it a law that all religions’ holidays must be accommodated in every store. Just a hunch. I shudder to think what the sanction for violating Kleiman’s sensibilities would be.

    I’ve never found a good reason to go into a Hobby Lobby. (I once found a bad reason. I was looking for a board game. Wrong store.) But, holy crap, if I ever do find a need for the schmaltzy garbage they sell at HL, you can bet that I’ll be spending my shekels at the actual Lobby and not one of their competitors just as in solidarity for the freedom-to-do-as-you-damn-well-please.

    1. Does EVERY flipping store have to “cater” to a segment of the population that’s 2% of the population at most?

      The grocery stores where I live, Cuyahoga County, OH – even the chains, even the large ones – have much larger kosher sections, since approximately 10% of the population is Jewish, compared to 1.3% for the state overall.

      I wonder if the Jewish population of East Brunswick, NJ is disproportionately large as well? Oh, if only there were some way to find out!

      1. 1) Grocery stores can typically source a portion of their assortment from wholesale distributors that pool demand across multiple retailers and thus allow them to go much deeper into categories economically than they could do if they had to have direct supplier relationships with the manufacturers of those products.

        2) Food items generate year-round demand, providing a larger base of revenue (vs. seasonal decor items) onto which to amortize the fixed cost of sourcing product.

        3) The typical customer spends much more on food than they do on decor items, again providing a a larger base of revenue onto which to amortize the fixed cost of sourcing product.

        Not comparable examples.

  12. Wow, there are more freaks around here too than there used to be. Trollsville R Us. Where do they come from?

    So, you’d all rather argue about this than the disaster in DC?

    Mark, someone, I need some answers. According to Chait, default is probably coming, and maybe it will be default-plus-break-the-law-by-continuing-to-pay somehow (which I favor, and which we need a better name for). So what’s it going to be? How on earth can we unbleep ourselves this time?

    1. It is sad that this is the only blog on the internet, and they refuse to post on what you want.

  13. You can find all the wind-up dreidels (with feet to walk across the table), tinsel menorahs, and blinking, light-up Stars of David with convenient suction cups for window display you’ll ever need at your local Party City store. At least I can here in the Cincinnati suburbs. My local store also has a smattering of Hanukah craft kits, e.g., make-your-own plastic stained “glass” Star of David in the oven (with all the carcinogins you can breathe in for free!).

    Most everything in Hobby Lobby is crap. The other stores in this category are better sources for whatever your project is, plus they tend to provide coupons very frequently. I’m a midwestern mom, I know these things.

    The irony of all of this is that Hanukah is supposed to be a *very* minor, low key holdiday, the antithesis of Christmas. We aren’t supposed to decorate for this holiday, that’s for Sukkot and the Sukkah. I say this as someone who has a string of light-up menorahs & dreidels I trim the dining room with every year.

  14. Ken Berwitz (who started this whole thing) has calmed down after speaking with Steve Green personally, and is now saying “But in a spirit of good will and comity – which I hope Steve Green and his people have for me – I am very much inclined to give Hobby Lobby the benefit of the doubt, and see what happens next.”

    Huffpo posted an update the very next morning after Mr. Green issued a public statement on the subject, quoting the company’s official position on the matter in it’s entirety.

    It’s now been three days since Hobby Lobby’s official response has been published and still no update here. Given the extremely misleading headline, the vitriolic tone of the OP, and the reliance upon “remarkably thin” (as Stephen accurately put it) hearsay evidence in support if it’s premise, I think an update acknowledging the official response is owed, at the very least.

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