In Hobby Lobby We Don’t Trust: Why Their Independence Day Ad is Full of Distortions and Lies

Since 2008, the Christian-owned chain Hobby Lobby has run full-page ads in newspapers across the country on 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:

Now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel and Chuck Roslof have done what Hobby Lobby refuses to do: Tell the truth about what all those people actually meant and, in some cases, said.

The quotes are meant to give the false impression that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that our nation “trusts in God.” But, just like Hobby Lobby’s god, the quotes aren’t very trustworthy. They are wildly inaccurate in some cases.

They have created a beautiful website that picks apart all of the quotations used in the Hobby Lobby ad — they explain how distorted or irrelevant the statements are, what the actual quotations were (in context), and offer links so you can check it all out for yourself.

For example, Hobby Lobby quoted the French observer Achille Murat in 2009 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

Wow. 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 (emphasis theirs):

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.”

Achille Murat
French observer of America in 1832

So… they left a few things out. Like the blatant racism.

But that was 2009! And Murat is no longer in Hobby Lobby’s ads. So they wised up, right?

Of course not.

This past July, their ad featured 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: Commander-in-Chief in the American Revolution; Signer of the Constitution; First President of the United States

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:

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 those are 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 smackdown as anyone could deliver.

And I’ll bet Hobby Lobby will ignore it altogether. They’re probably too busy making sure their employees can’t use their insurance to get any birth control to come out with an ad that conveys both accurate words and intentions instead of what they’re using now: Debunk-able revisionist history.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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