Hobby Lobby 'Hypocrisy': Company Invests Millions in Contraceptives

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

People who support Hobby Lobby's choice to withhold contraceptive healthcare coverage from their employees rally outside the US Supreme Court March 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty)

Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, made headlines last week in a case before the Supreme Court, in which they claimed that the emergency contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates their religious beliefs.

See Also: Do Corporations Have a Right to Religious Freedom?

Hobby Lobby's argument centered on its refusal to conduct business with companies that undermine their faith. For example, Hobby Lobby does not sell shot glasses. Based on that logic, the company claims, it shouldn't be compelled to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives.

But it turns out that Hobby Lobby does not hold it's retirement plan for employees to the same standard, as Molly Redden, a staff reporter for Mother Jones, discovered in her article "Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy: The Company's Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers."

In an analysis of documents filed with the Department of Labor, Redden found that Hobby Lobby's 401k retirement plan for employees holds more than $73 million in mutual funds with companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs used in abortions. 

"We thought this was important to bring to the political conversation because to Hobby Lobby, the idea that their employee healthcare plans might someday be used for one of their female employees to take emergency contraceptives was so offensive to them that they argued all the way up to the Supreme Court," says Redden. "We thought it was interesting that in their investment portfolios the same indirect support for some of these companies were there."

The documents were filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company's owners filed their lawsuit.

“It’s not clear to us to what extent they knew, we reached out to Hobby Lobby last week with a pretty detailed summary of some of our findings,” she says, “They never got back to us on whether they’ve changed their policies since these papers were filed in 2012—after they first sued the government.”

According to Redden, if Hobby Lobby wants to divest from these companies they can do so easily. There’s a cottage industry of mutual funds run by religiously minded people who screen companies that religious business owners might find objectionable.

“We do find this inconsistent, but I don’t think this has a lot of bearing on Hobby Lobby’s legal argument,” Redden says. “Because neither Hobby Lobby nor the government asked the Supreme Court to consider the sincerity of their religious beliefs. But we do think it's important to mention for the political conversation—an ordinary person probably wouldn't mind if some very small portion of their employee savings plan was vested with a company who's business they didn't agree with. But Hobby Lobby isn't an ordinary company—when they disagreed with a very small provision of their employee healthcare plan under Obamacare they took it to the Supreme Court.” 

But Redden remains skeptical of preserving principles in the world of business.

“When you’re a business owner and you're involved in our markets in lots of complicated ways, inevitably you have ties with businesses whose operations you might not agree with,” Redden says. “The ability to insulate yourself from that is not infinite.”

Additionally, it may reflect poorly on the company itself.

“For a business to selectively pick out items of its operation and demand the ability to run those according to the personal moral beliefs of some of their owners can be very hypocritical,” Redden says. 

Hobby Lobby did not return our calls for comment.


Molly Redden

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael


Chris Williams

Comments [10]

What is most disturbing to me is that the Supreme Court even agreed to take this case and that the (male) majority of the Justices might actually rule that a corporation's (the owners) religious beliefs trump the rights of their employees to basic healthcare - contraception is basic healthcare. What's next, no blood transfusions? A health plan that only allows "hands on healing" by a church elder? Where does this absurdity end? Why is it that access to such a basic healthcare product as contraception is even up for debate?

Apr. 02 2014 09:44 PM
gpo from Massachusetts

What a gross hatchet job. It's unworthy of this pretty cool show.

As just one example, the host's question "So does this prove that Hobby Lobby puts making money ahead of their other values?" is just stupid -- uncharacteristically so, I might add. This is a 401(k) plan. It doesn't make any money for Hobby Lobby. It is for the employees' retirement. Also, the employees typically choose which funds offered by the plan administrator they select.

Does John Hockenberry ask the smarmy Mother Jones person to prove that all of her own retirement funds are in mutual funds that contain no pipeline companies, or defense contractors, etc., etc.? No, of course not. I believe that that is the real hypocrisy here.

I'm really disappointed by this piece of work. Please do better next time, thanks.

Apr. 02 2014 02:41 PM
NLE from OKC, OK

Farnorth ...
Not only the 16 of the 20, according to a comment by Linda Geenhouse last week:

Until compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate became a hot political issue, Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan for its 13,000 employees ... in fact covered the very contraceptives, Ella and Plan B, that the company’s evangelical owners now describe as religiously intolerable, as Hobby Lobby had to acknowledge when it filed its lawsuit in September 2012. It explained then to the Federal District Court in Oklahoma City that it had removed the two drugs from its approved formulary “recently, after learning about the nationally prominent HHS mandate controversy.”

I would think that fact alone would have had SCOTUS refuse to hear the case without having to deal with the dangerous result of their decision, no matter which direction it eventually goes.

Apr. 02 2014 02:34 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mother Jones bursts "Hobby Lobby's" balloon!

Pregnant Pause...

Apr. 02 2014 02:19 PM

There's an additional point of hypocrisy in Hobby Lobby's position missing from your conversation. Before the advent of Obamacare and their new-found moral objections, Hobby Lobby already provided 16 or the 20 contraceptive provisions in their insurance coverage for women. Did so for decades. Only after implementation of the ACA and before going public with their moral qualms, they deleted that coverage so they could object to it. What a corporate mess they are.

Apr. 02 2014 02:04 PM
Sterling from St. louis.

Another example of the news subtlety chipping away at the fabric of society while not giving the complete story. Hobby Lobby has gone beyond that of other major businesses to be consistent with their beliefs and they are criticized for something presented as a simple hypocrisy, but in reality is complex.

What are these business that Hobby invests in? Oh that's right, it's the employees who chose what to invest in.

Like any business Hobby Lobby doesn't dictate what their employees chose to invest in.

If Hobby Lobby is a hypocrite then so is every company that has a 401K, but they aren't being talked about because they don't stand up for anything.

Apr. 02 2014 01:05 PM

What a crock! It's fine to make money with investments, but H.L. doesn't want to pay tax, and will toss aside human rights when it suits. They want to control how people who work for them live their lives think, and behave. That is tyranny. "Oppressive power

Religious belief is used as an excuse for IMPOSING many irresponsible behaviors.

Apr. 02 2014 12:37 PM
wayne rice from New England

Please mention on your show that they sell Chinese goods - a country that FORCES abortions on citizens, not to mention numerous other "concerns."

Apr. 02 2014 12:12 PM
ML from Miami FL

When it comes to health and medicine a lot of religions follow superstitions instead of science. Corporate healthcare plans should cover their employees' well being not their employees' moral compasses.

Apr. 02 2014 09:51 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Hobby Lobby isn't Catholic, they allow 45 or so of the 48 contraceptives, they won't pay for the ones that cause abortions. This is different from these investments. They are in mutual funds, which means investment in a collection of many companies. But now that you have pointed it out, they will probably withdraw from these mutual funds.

Apr. 02 2014 09:25 AM

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