Since 2008, the Christian-owned chain Hobby Lobby has run full-page ads in newspapers across the country on or around Independence Day. The ad features quotations from our Founding Fathers and others discussing our country’s “Christian heritage”… and, as you might expect, it takes all sorts of liberties in the process:
A few years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel and Chuck Roslof did what Hobby Lobby refuses to do: They told the truth about what all those people actually meant and, in some cases, said.
The quotations cited in the ad are intended to perpetuate the myth that we’re a “Christian Nation” in a way that suggests much more than our demographics, but anyone willing to do the research would realize the evidence they offer doesn’t support their theory at all.
Thankfully, FFRF did that research. They created a beautiful website that picked apart all of the quotations used in the Hobby Lobby ad. They explained how distorted or irrelevant the statements were, what the actual quotations said (in context), and offered links so you can check it all out for yourself.
For example, Hobby Lobby quoted the French observer Achille Murat this way:
There is no country in which the people are so religious as in the United States… The great number of religious societies existing in the United States is truly surprising: there are some of them for everything; for instance, societies to distribute the Bible; to distribute tracts; to encourage religious journals; to convert, civilize, educate… to take care of their widows and orphans; to preach, extend, purify, preserve, reform the faith; to build chapels, endow congregations, support seminaries… to establish Sunday schools… to prevent drunkenness, etc.
Achille Murat: French observer of America in 1832
That sounds pretty praiseworthy… until you realize, as FFRF did, that Murat was an atheist who was criticizing the high level of religiosity in the U.S.
FFRF gives us the full version — as much as they can, anyway — in context. The red font is the stuff Hobby Lobby chose to leave out.
“From the pure doctrines of Unitarianism to the gross absurdities of Methodism, all shades may be found here, and every opinion has its partisans, who live in perfect harmony together. Among this variety of religions, everybody may indulge his inclination, change it whenever he pleases, or remain neuter, and follow none. Yet with all this liberty, there is no country in which the people are so religious as in the United States; to the eyes of a foreigner they even appear to be too much so; but that is only apparent as I shall explain to you.
[The ellipsis Hobby Lobby inserted here represents more than 4,250 words—19 pages of text.]
The great number of religious societies existing in the United States is truly surprising: there are some of them for everything; for instance, societies to distribute the Bible; to distribute tracts; to encourage religious journals; to convert, civilize, educate the savages; to marry the preachers, to take care of their widows and orphans; to preach, extend, purify, preserve, reform the faith; to build chapels, endow congregations, support seminaries, catechise and convert sailors, negroes, and loose women; to establish Sunday schools where young ladies teach reading and the catechism to little rogues, male and female; to prevent drunkenness, etc. This last society in particular is very singular, and very much extended. The members engage never to drink any distilled liquor, nor to permit its use in their families; but nothing hinders them from drinking wine. In that they mistake the Creator for a bad chemist.”
French observer of America in 1832
So… they left a few things out. Like the blatant racism. They just cherry picked the parts they liked.
That’s not the only egregious example.
Today’s ad also features a line that appears to have been said by George Washington:
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His beneﬁts, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
— George Washington
But that wasn’t something Washington just said out of the blue. Hobby Lobby also altered the grammar to be more evangelical-friendly. Here’s the in-context version of the statement, as noted by FFRF:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
— George Washington: Commander-in-Chief in the American Revolution; Signer of the Constitution; First President of the United States
Notice the important differences. Washington capitalized “Nations” as well as “Almighty God.” Washington did not capitalize “His” because he was not referring to the Christian god, or any specific god. The proclamation is clearly not Christian.
Washington issued this proclamation at the behest of Congress on October 3, 1789, two years before the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from making laws respecting religion, was part of our Constitution…
And that’s just the beginning.
FFRF labels the other statements as deliberately altered, out-of-context, misleading, cut short, of questionable historical accuracy, irrelevant, and — in just one case — accurate (but context still matters).
It’s just as comprehensive a rebuttal as anyone could deliver.
And Hobby Lobby still ignores it. I guess they’re too busy laughing at their employees who can’t get birth control to make the proper corrections and come up with an ad that conveys both accurate words and intentions instead of the revisionist history they’re using now.
(Large portions of this article were posted earlier)