FFRF Takes on Hobby Lobby

On the 4th of July, Hobby Lobby took out ads in newspapers around the country with the usual laundry list of “quotes” from various founding fathers to prove that America was a Christian nation. The Freedom From Religion Foundation now has an interactive reply to that, looking at each quote and what it actually means in context.

Of particular interest to me is this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville:

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.

But it turns out that this is almost certainly a mistranslation from French to English. Indeed, Tocqueville himself criticized that translation of his book. It is likely that Tocqueville meant pretty much the exact opposite, that Americans confuse Christianity and liberty:

tocqueville quote

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  • Ellie

    In this particular context, I don’t give a rat’s behind what de Tocqueville said. Hobby Lobby wants the same privileges as a church. They are not a church. I have already written more than one letter letting the company know that until they admit they are not a house of worship, they will not get my business.

    OTOH, if they are declared free from the restrictions of a corporation, I will look forward to the day when some one is injured in one of the stores and can sue each and every person involved in this “church” individually, as well as suing the corporation since the owners are so eager to give up the protections of a corporation as well as the responsibilities and restrictions.

  • illdoittomorrow

    A few random thoughts:

    1) Hey look, a bunch of Founding Prophets Fathers ™ quote mining! Suddenly I want to run out and buy an RC model or a train set!

    a) Fucking language! How does it work?

    i) Oh wait, de Tocqueville’s original language is surrendermonkeyspeak. Never mind (a).

    2) Hobby Lobby’s business is catering to people who, by definition, will read the instructions, and FFRF’s response assumes the same. Religiosity and Founding Father worship kind of assumes you won’t read much of anything.

    – Then again, in every hobby shop I’ve been in, it’s been middle aged white guys (like me! Yikes!) who make up the bulk of the customers, and we’re never selective readers at all, oh no…

  • Al Dente

    Alexis de Tocqueville was aa American Founding Father? He was French, he wasn’t born until 1805 and the first volume of Democracy in America was published in 1835.

  • illdoittomorrow

    I like to think that, if I’d had my morning caffeine, Al Dente’s post at #3 would be my random thought 3….

  • colnago80

    On JT’s Pathos blog, he put up a post on this subject and was trolled by a putz calling himself Mike Delgado. Talk about a Gish gallop!


  • dharleyman

    Well, personally, I agree with the title of the movie. After all my son is not dead, because I never had a son. To be considered dead you have to have at least existed at some point.

  • dharleyman

    Whoops, I commented on the wrong post. Nevermind!

  • Pen

    In 20th to 21st century French ‘confondent’ very definitely means ‘confuse’, in a negative sense, ie mistakenly. I suppose some allowance should be made for possible drift in meaning. It’s just possible the word once meant ‘consider identical’.

  • francesc

    One would say that “almost impossible to make them conceive one withouth the other” implicitly states intentionality, as if Tocqueville has been trying to explain those dumb americans the difference between freedom and religion (so… did this book help to stablish the stereotype about french arrogance in the US?)

    I like also the spontaneous generation of the word “intimately” in Hobby Lobby’s translation, wich coincidentally has good connotations.

  • Yeah, I’m with Pen completely, and this is what I do for a living. “Combine” is quite simply wrong, not a translator’s choice, and any translator worth hiring could never have failed to note the context of the sentence in making this translation simply wrong. The connotation is clearly “are unable to distinguish between”, and it is not complimentary.

  • You know what would be, like, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cool? A totally KKKristian Mall. A shopping center that only caters to KKKristians and only has KKKristianist businesses like Chick-Fuk-Aholes, Hobby Lobby and the rest of the doucheKKKlowns that use JESUS to sell their crap. That way I would know FOR SURE which malls to avoid. Bonus points, they’d be closed on Sundays.