Is Hobby Lobby Deliberately Excluding Jewish Merchandise?

Hobby Lobby doesn’t really try to hide that their owners are very devout Christians. If the instrumental hymns on the store’s sound system didn’t clue you in, maybe the evangelical Easter newspaper ads, the company’s legal fight over health insurance reform, or stores being closed on Sunday would be a hint. But does that translate to deliberately excluding merchandise and holiday decorations for other religions?

This mess started, as many messes do, with a blog post. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby opened a new store in Marlboro, N.J. A blogger recounted a friend’s story about how an employee said, “We don’t cater to you people” when she asked whether the store carries bar mitzvah cards. It also happens that the chain doesn’t sell any Hanukkah merchandise, but does start putting out Christmas (or, as their signage renders it, Christmas) decorations at some point in mid-summer.

Now, it could be that the store is deliberately excluding Jewish people, but a tipster who grew up there tells us that’s a bad idea in this particular town in New Jersey. Why alienate so many potential customers? Oh, well: if they don’t want to carry Hanukkah merchandise, then they won’t make money from it, or from the people who decide not to patronize their stores because of it. That’s the free market at work.

What got people riled up was how a Hobby Lobby employee allegedly said this. If that employee really did say “We don’t cater to you people,” that’s incredibly rude and disrespectful when “No, we don’t carry any bar mitzvah cards” is a factual and polite way to put it.

Some market research might have showed the company that a little bit of inclusion can be good for business, but there’s no law requiring them to carry merchandise for everyone’s religious holidays. Maybe it just didn’t occur to them.

UPDATE: Hobby Lobby sent out a new statement today:

We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. 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. We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States.

We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination.

We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.

It’s worth noting that the store in Marlboro just opened this year, and this is its first holiday season. Maybe they’ll change the lineup based on customer feedback. Of course, when Hobby Lobby does start carrying a few items of Judaica, they’ll put the menorahs out in May.

WHY I WILL NEVER EVER PATRONIZE HOBBY LOBBY [Hopelessly Partisan]
Hobby Lobby reconsiders selling Jewish items [MyCentralJersey]
Hobby Lobby Backtracks After Reportedly Refusing to Stock Jewish Holiday Goods [Entrepreneur]