David Green felt like the black sheep of his family. His five other siblings had followed their preacher father into church work; David went into retail.
But as his business successes mounted, he found his religious calling: using the financial might from his Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain as an engine for evangelism. That mission, until recent years carried out largely within the world of Pentecostal Christianity, took the 72-year-old Green all the way to a landmark victory Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court over the birth control coverage rule in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
“I don’t think they decided to go into that kind of an area. I think it was forced on them by the government,” said Vinson Synan, a friend of the Greens and a prominent scholar of Pentecostal history at Regent University. “They’ll be heroes to the very conservative religious people who are very much against abortion.”
The justices ruled 5-4 that requiring closely-held companies such as Hobby Lobby to pay for methods of women’s contraception to which they object violates the corporations’ religious freedom.
Women’s rights groups and their supporters condemned the decision. But the ruling revitalized religious conservatives. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, said after Monday’s ruling, “I’m so happy about this I almost want to be dancing in the streets about it.”
Hobby Lobby, based in Oklahoma City, has about $3 billion in yearly revenues and donates millions of dollars in profits to charity.
The Greens close their stores on Sundays so employees can attend church or be with family, and they pay full-time employees a minimum of $15 per hour. The family buys full-page newspaper ads each Christmas and Easter to emphasize the religious beliefs behind the holidays and advertise a Christian ministry they support called Need Him. They have spent tens of millions of dollars to buy vacant buildings, land and entire campuses, which they have given away to churches and religious colleges.
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