Did You Catch This?
We’re finishing the first week of July, the smoke has cleared from the 4th’s fireworks, Chris Christie is enjoying the New Jersey shore and El Presidente is about to meet his idol face-to-face (I hope he doesn’t ask for an autograph). That said, it’s been another interesting week in the U.S. of A. and the Blast wants to review a story that may have slipped under your radar.
You may remember back in 2014 the Hobby Lobby Corporation sued the Federal Government, claiming the company should not have to provide for contraceptive devices in its health care plan as that violated the values of the family who owned the company. Hobby Lobby is what is called a “private for-profit, closely-held corporation” (Wikipedia) with about 600 stores nationwide. Only one of its companies (Conestoga cabinet manufacturing) fell under the Health & Human Services legal umbrella that required providing workers with health care that included a provision which said workers could pay for contraception with their health care funds.
In an interesting piece of legal legerdemain, the Supreme Court upheld Hobby Lobby’s claim, 5-4, agreeing “the so called contraceptive mandate . . . forced them to either violate their faith or pay ruinous fines. They object specifically to four of the drugs and devices at issue because they say they have the potential to destroy an embryo.” (June 30, 2014, ABC News) The Court claimed that since Hobby Lobby was a “closely-held” (meaning family owned and controlled) corporation the values of the family-owner’s must be protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which had been passed, ironically, by a “liberal” Congress in 1993 to protect Native American “sacred grounds” claims --- newer RFRA’s have been passed by states in attempts to promote religious freedom over other rights, however). The point to be taken here, beyond the Roberts’s Court’s affinity for believing corporations are just like individual people (see Citizens United), is that the Hobby Lobby corporation is extremely serious about their religious beliefs.
Imagine my surprise when, on July 5th of this week, I saw a NY Times headline that said: Hobby Lobby to return 5500 Artifacts Smuggled Out of Iraq. According to the story (by Alan Feuer):
Prosecutors said in the complaint that Hobby Lobby, whose evangelical Christian owners have long maintained an interest in the biblical Middle East, began in 2009 to assemble a collection of cultural artifacts from the Fertile Crescent. The company went so far as to send its president and an antiquities consultant to the United Arab Emirates to inspect a large number of rare cuneiform tablets — traditional clay slabs with wedge-shaped writing that originated in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.
In 2010, as a deal for the tablets was being struck, an expert on cultural property law who had been hired by Hobby Lobby warned company executives that the artifacts might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq, and that failing to determine their heritage could break the law.
Despite these words of caution, the prosecutors said, Hobby Lobby bought more than 5,500 artifacts — the tablets and clay talismans and so-called cylinder seals — from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million in December 2010.
So, before Hobby Lobby went to the Supreme Court to protect their strongly held religious beliefs banning contraception, they were clearly willing to break the 8th Commandment which, according to the Life, Hope & Truth website, is “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. … You shall not cheat your neighbor nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning” (Leviticus 19:11, 13). Of course we know that Capitalist Christianity is a sect that only uses the Bible when it is convenient --- just look at the Republican Health Care plan crafted by so many “good Christians”. Apparently they missed a New Testament passage from the Apostle James (also on the (Life, Hope & Truth website) which states:
The apostle James strongly warned the wealthy people who oppressed their workers and the poor: “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:2-5).
Of course, the kind of hypocrisy exhibited by Hobby Lobby should not be shocking to us after watching Trump garner the support of evangelical leaders during last year’s campaign. Many of these “prosperity gospel preachers made famous through Christian TV programming” (chrisitantoday.com website) like Jerry Falwell, Jr., are on the record as opposing gay rights while also denouncing Islam as a religion --- a pretty far cry from the Gospel of Jesus as I read it. The selective reading of scripture, with its on-again/off-again use of literal reading (to condemn homosexuality, for example) and interpretive reading (where does Jesus encourage personal accumulation of wealth?) only highlights the hypocrisy of the supposed “religious” message these people send. That they can support a twice-divorced President who is on the record (literally) proudly proclaiming his lechery if not outright abuse of women should be shocking to us. But in our new world of DoubleSpeak and “fake news,” of course, we are not shocked --- only “sad.”