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My experience with the man behind Hobby Lobby's religion

Don't tell me how to read my Bible or run my life
Catherine Hill

Today I learned from Daily Kos that Steve Green of Hobby Lobby, fresh from his Supreme Court victory, is now working on a four year Bible curriculum which he proposes to be mandated in public schools. It would be introduced as an ‘elective’, of course, so as not to scare people too much.

According to Mother Jones of July 2, 2014, Hobby Lobby is still involved with recently disgraced Fundamentalist Evangelist Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles. Among the favors Hobby Lobby has done for Gothard, documented by Mother Jones, is to buy the former Memorial Hospital complex in Madison, Tennessee and sold it to him in 2005. Since the Memorial Hospital property adjoined my mother’s property on Due West Avenue in Madison, I became somewhat acquainted with him and his Institute.

Gothard became interested in our property sometime around 2003. I cannot be exact because at that time I was trying to manage my mother’s estate while she was in a nursing facility. Also, I was having chemotherapy for part of this time. It did not surprise me that the new owners of the hospital complex would be interested in Mama’s directly adjacent property. What did surprise me was a telephone call from her house cleaner while I was at work. She had spotted in passing a strange car and strange men in my parents’ driveway. Pulling into the drive, she challenged them. Thus she got me an appointment to meet with Gothard and discuss the property after work.

After meeting Gothard and an associate, I looked up the Institute in Basic Life Principles up on the internet and found out this Institute is considered a cult. This was no surprise, for Bill Gothard, in all his effort to please and find common ground, set off immediate alarm bells in my head. I am very familiar with the smarmy religious type who will take over your life and run it if you let him. As he talked, I thought about how all my parents’ teaching had warned me against such men. I come from a long line of strong minded, free thinking, and scholarly people.

I was glad to forgive him for trespassing and his faith healer friend for being unable to cure my brother’s schizophrenia. What I desired most of all was to put a hard-headed, experienced realtor between me and this man who was obviously determined to have Mama’s property. I was not going to be persuaded from my current position of weakness. In the end, I had no choice but to sell to the IBLP after Mama died, but an experienced realtor negotiated the best deal for me.

No, there was no question of sexual impropriety on his part at our meeting. I was in my late 50’s then, and he wanted the property I controlled. He did call me many times at work afterward to invite me to dinner at the converted hospital; the realtor finally attended a dinner.

The IBLP has kept up their purchased property much better than I had expected, and I have no complaints about the transaction. I just want Bill Gothard and his ideas – and Hobby Lobby – far away from me and mine.

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