When my family and I started our company 40years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assemblingminiature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn't much bigger than mostpeople's living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived andworked according to God's word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of thenation's largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run HobbyLobby together, as a family.
We're Christians, and we run our business onChristian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our businessare (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus onpeople more than money. And that's what we've tried to d o. We close early soour employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed onSundays, one of the week's biggest shopping days, so that our workers and theirfamilies can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God's grace thatHobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We've notonly added jobs in a weak economy, we've raised wages for the past four yearsin a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.
But now, our government threatens to changeall of that. A new government healthcare mandate says that our family businessMUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our healthinsurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions,which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pillor the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the momentof conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. Itgoes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company sinceday one.
If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3million PER DAY in government fines. Our government threatens to fine jobcreators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that'sraised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family forrunning its business according to its beliefs. It's not right. I know peoplewill say we ought to follow the rules; that it's the same for everybody.
But that's not true. The government hasexempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenienceor cost. But it won't exempt them for reasons of religious belief. So, HobbyLobby and my family are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, wefiled a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. Wedon't like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believepeople are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is moreimportant than turning a profit.
My family has lived the American dream. Wewant to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands ofemployees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. Thegovernment is forcing us to choose between following our faith and followingthe law. I say that's a choice no American and no American business should haveto make.
The government cannot force you to follow lawsthat go against your fundamental religious belief. They have exempted thousandsof companies but will not exempt Christian organizations or churches.