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Hobby Lobby billionaire caught smuggling priceless Iraqi artifacts


milkteeth

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Hobby Lobby gets caught with smuggled Iraqi antiquities

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Hobby Lobby, the private Oklahoma company that won a landmark Supreme Court case by pleading that its business was run according to rigorously moral Christian principles, has been caught importing millions of dollars worth of smuggled Iraqi antiquities.

That’s according to the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., which said Wednesday that it had extracted a settlement of $3 million from the company and forced it to forfeit thousands of artifacts.

Hobby Lobby said in a statement that it made the purchases of Bibles and other artifacts as an expression of “the company’s mission and passion for the Bible.” It said that it “did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process,” resulting in “some regrettable mistakes.”

 

So providing birth control to your employees goes against Christian ethics.....but taking priceless antiquities from a war torn nation and most likely funding groups like ISIS is totally fine! 

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6 minutes ago, milkteeth said:

Hobby Lobby gets caught with smuggled Iraqi antiquities

 

So providing birth control to your employees goes against Christian ethics.....but taking priceless antiquities from a war torn nation and most likely funding groups like ISIS is totally fine! 

Yeah reich wing Jeeeezus (no relation whatsoever to Jesus Christ) told them it was cool to take the artifacts. 

Their brand of reich wing faux Christianity is a very big reason why I don't shop there anymore.  And why I keep any company that goes out of its way to say what big time Christians they are at several arms lengths.

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1 hour ago, 47of74 said:

Yeah reich wing Jeeeezus (no relation whatsoever to Jesus Christ) told them it was cool to take the artifacts. 

Their brand of reich wing faux Christianity is a very big reason why I don't shop there anymore.  And why I keep any company that goes out of its way to say what big time Christians they are at several arms lengths.

Listen I don't remember God saying anything about not stealing. He just expressly forbid gay marriage and birth control. 

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 7.06.53 PM.png

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2 minutes ago, milkteeth said:

Listen I don't remember God saying anything about not stealing. He just expressly forbid gay marriage and birth control. 

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 7.06.53 PM.png

lol

Don't forget, also abortion and women being anything more than breeding machines.

 

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I was wondering what had happened in regards to the antiques case. I really wish someone would do a follow up story on how female worker's of Hobby Lobby have been impacted by the Supreme Court decision.

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Regrettable mistake, my ass. No one with half a brain believes you can "buy" artifacts from a foreign country, especially one in the midst of a war. Do they expect us believe they thought there was a cute little gift shop on a corner in Mosul where they just happen to have some extra artifacts for sale? Where did they think the money was going? Do they actually believe they can go to, say, the Museum of American History in DC and "buy" some of the things in the museum?

Karma just took a big bite out of Hobby Lobby.

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3 hours ago, GrumpyGran said:

Regrettable mistake, my ass. No one with half a brain believes you can "buy" artifacts from a foreign country, especially one in the midst of a war. Do they expect us believe they thought there was a cute little gift shop on a corner in Mosul where they just happen to have some extra artifacts for sale? Where did they think the money was going? Do they actually believe they can go to, say, the Museum of American History in DC and "buy" some of the things in the museum?

Karma just took a big bite out of Hobby Lobby.

As someone pointed out, when your lawyers successfully argued before the Supreme Court, you can't argue that you're "new at this" and didn't really understand the law.  The shipments were labeled as "tiles" and were shipped to different Hobby Lobby locations. Nope, nothing suspicious there, nothing at all.   Greed, lying, coveting, theft.  Looting antiquities from a war-torn country and smuggling them into the US in a way specifically structured to avoid customs.  Can you say Looter's Lobby? 

 

 

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"Hobby Lobby’s $3 million smuggling case casts a cloud over the Museum of the Bible"

Spoiler

A federal court settlement that requires Hobby Lobby Stores to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts  is casting a cloud over the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible associated with the store’s owners just as the museum prepares to open near the Mall.

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green also chairs the board of the Museum of the Bible, and the Green family is the museum’s major funder. In a civil complaint filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that the craft store chain that Green leads had smuggled more than 3,000 items into the United States including clay tablets and seals –precisely the sort of artifacts that would be slated for the museum’s collection, which contains many items donated by the Green family.

Though the items seized by the U.S. government were shipped to Hobby Lobby, not the museum, scholars say the federal case is a blot on the $500 million museum, which is set to open in November two blocks from Mall over the Federal Center Metro Station in Southwest Washington.

“They put scholars in a situation where it becomes very ethically difficult for someone to engage in those collections in any way, other than to criticize them,” said Donna Yates, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of antiquities trafficking and art crime. “Are they going to come to the museum, somebody who’s doing significant Biblical research or linguistic research, where they’re going to publish [about] material that’s very likely to be stolen?”

The federal complaint described many layers of suspicion surrounding Hobby Lobby’s purchase of 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million in 2010: The company never met the dealer, and wired payments to seven different bank accounts. The items arrived in 10 packages at three different Hobby Lobby addresses, labeled only “ceramic tiles” and “clay tiles (sample).”

In a statement, Green said, “We have accepted responsibility and learned a great deal.” Hobby Lobby said that the company made “some regrettable mistakes” because officials didn’t understand the rules for properly bringing antiquities into the country.

The statement said that the craft store chain — widely associated with its 2014 Supreme Court victory ensuring that devout religious business owners like the Greens do not have to provide coverage for contraception for their employers — started collecting ancient artifacts in 2009. The pursuit of these items was “consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible,” Hobby Lobby said. The company said it planned to preserve the artifacts and offer them for scholars to study.

That project sounds much like the goal of the Museum of the Bible, where Green has promised to house more than 44,000 Biblical texts and artifacts to lure serious researchers and flashy interactive exhibits to attract tourists.

But for its part, the museum – a nonprofit organization which is not a subsidiary of the craft store company but is led by the same man – said in a statement on Thursday that the artifacts implicated in the federal case were never part of its collection.

“The Museum of the Bible was not a party to either the investigation or the settlement. None of the artifacts identified in the settlement are part of the Museum’s collection, nor have they ever been. The Museum adheres to the current Association of Art Museum Directors standards on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art, as well as guidelines set forth by the American Alliance of Museums,” the museum’s statement said.

It also said that the institution “aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world.”

Robert Cooley, the vice chairman of the museum’s board, said that the museum’s ethical standards are different from the standards of Green, the chairman.

“The curators and the director of the collection department have professional standards they go by. The museum does not accept collections without full documented provenance and credibility records,” he said. “Every item in the museum is documented.”

Numerous other board members and staff members declined to comment on Thursday, directing a reporter to the museum’s public relations representative.

Cooley, the president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is an archaeologist by training himself who has supervised excavations in the Middle East.

“We maintain our standards at the museum. And if any collection, be it the Green family or any other family that donates, does not meet the standards that we require, then we do not take that collection,” he said.

Candida Moss, the co-author of a forthcoming book on the Green family’s rapid acquisition of Biblical antiquities and attempts to promote the influence of Christianity on public life, said that the museum has tried to distance itself from its chairman and his craft stores since the media began reporting on his antiquities acquisitions two years ago.

“The Greens remain very much involved. Green is still head of the board,” she said. “The fact is, they’re not as separate as they claim. Many of the artifacts will be on loan from the Green collection. There are other items in their collection that scholars are asking questions about.”

Brent Clark, an Oklahoma lawyer also working on a manuscript about the Green family, agreed: “Steve Green is going to be in charge of that thing, come hell or high water.” But Clark doesn’t think the federal case will blunt tourist interest in the museum.

“Keep in mind the Greens are successful merchants to the middle class. They’ve always been marketing silk flowers and fake Christmas trees to the middle class, and it’s made them rich,” he said. “Their instincts tell them that thousands of people are going to get on buses in Cincinnati, Ohio, to go see it, and they’re probably right.”

It’s the university researchers who are most likely to be dissuaded from coming to the museum.

“Individual scholars will have to ask themselves to what extent are they willing to be complicit,” Moss said.

Yates, the art crime expert, said that many major journals of archaeology research refuse to publish articles based on artifacts whose provenance can’t be proven, and researchers won’t be willing to do work that they can’t publish.

Several scholars, including Yates, said the federal complaint filed Wednesday left them convinced that Hobby Lobby had willfully ignored their own lawyers and other experts, not just that the company had been unaware that they might be importing looted Iraqi goods.

“Basically everyone should be suspicious of any antiquity for sale without a provable history,” Yates said. “Dealers should be telling people that it’s kind of an obvious thing. When we’re talking about Iraq, it’s even more obvious. That this stuff is dodgy, it’s not news…. It’s a known thing in the market. If an object doesn’t have a history that proves that it is legal, you just assume that it is illegal, because it probably is.”

Joel Baden, Moss’s co-author, said that the Green family’s interest in buying thousands of ancient artifacts likely spurred bad actors in Iraq to steal the items in the first place.

“If Hobby Lobby is willing to buy them, people will be willing to loot for them because there’s a market for them,” he said.

The federal settlement requires Hobby Lobby to send thousands of items back to Iraq. But in many respects, the damage is already done.

“The absolute most important thing for an archaeologist is context. And that’s exactly what these antiquities have lost,” Yates said. “We may not be able to tell if this one came from a whole library, or this was kept in a temple, or they were individual records. We’ve lost absolutely all of that information. All we have are the little tattered remains of what’s written on the tablets.”

“It’s a huge loss,” she continued, “and all of us could benefit from this information, learning about ourselves and our past.”

I don't know about others, but I wouldn't call the Museum of the Bible "much-anticipated".

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8 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

"Hobby Lobby’s $3 million smuggling case casts a cloud over the Museum of the Bible"

  Reveal hidden contents

A federal court settlement that requires Hobby Lobby Stores to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts  is casting a cloud over the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible associated with the store’s owners just as the museum prepares to open near the Mall.

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green also chairs the board of the Museum of the Bible, and the Green family is the museum’s major funder. In a civil complaint filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that the craft store chain that Green leads had smuggled more than 3,000 items into the United States including clay tablets and seals –precisely the sort of artifacts that would be slated for the museum’s collection, which contains many items donated by the Green family.

Though the items seized by the U.S. government were shipped to Hobby Lobby, not the museum, scholars say the federal case is a blot on the $500 million museum, which is set to open in November two blocks from Mall over the Federal Center Metro Station in Southwest Washington.

“They put scholars in a situation where it becomes very ethically difficult for someone to engage in those collections in any way, other than to criticize them,” said Donna Yates, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of antiquities trafficking and art crime. “Are they going to come to the museum, somebody who’s doing significant Biblical research or linguistic research, where they’re going to publish [about] material that’s very likely to be stolen?”

The federal complaint described many layers of suspicion surrounding Hobby Lobby’s purchase of 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million in 2010: The company never met the dealer, and wired payments to seven different bank accounts. The items arrived in 10 packages at three different Hobby Lobby addresses, labeled only “ceramic tiles” and “clay tiles (sample).”

In a statement, Green said, “We have accepted responsibility and learned a great deal.” Hobby Lobby said that the company made “some regrettable mistakes” because officials didn’t understand the rules for properly bringing antiquities into the country.

The statement said that the craft store chain — widely associated with its 2014 Supreme Court victory ensuring that devout religious business owners like the Greens do not have to provide coverage for contraception for their employers — started collecting ancient artifacts in 2009. The pursuit of these items was “consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible,” Hobby Lobby said. The company said it planned to preserve the artifacts and offer them for scholars to study.

That project sounds much like the goal of the Museum of the Bible, where Green has promised to house more than 44,000 Biblical texts and artifacts to lure serious researchers and flashy interactive exhibits to attract tourists.

But for its part, the museum – a nonprofit organization which is not a subsidiary of the craft store company but is led by the same man – said in a statement on Thursday that the artifacts implicated in the federal case were never part of its collection.

“The Museum of the Bible was not a party to either the investigation or the settlement. None of the artifacts identified in the settlement are part of the Museum’s collection, nor have they ever been. The Museum adheres to the current Association of Art Museum Directors standards on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art, as well as guidelines set forth by the American Alliance of Museums,” the museum’s statement said.

It also said that the institution “aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world.”

Robert Cooley, the vice chairman of the museum’s board, said that the museum’s ethical standards are different from the standards of Green, the chairman.

“The curators and the director of the collection department have professional standards they go by. The museum does not accept collections without full documented provenance and credibility records,” he said. “Every item in the museum is documented.”

Numerous other board members and staff members declined to comment on Thursday, directing a reporter to the museum’s public relations representative.

Cooley, the president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is an archaeologist by training himself who has supervised excavations in the Middle East.

“We maintain our standards at the museum. And if any collection, be it the Green family or any other family that donates, does not meet the standards that we require, then we do not take that collection,” he said.

Candida Moss, the co-author of a forthcoming book on the Green family’s rapid acquisition of Biblical antiquities and attempts to promote the influence of Christianity on public life, said that the museum has tried to distance itself from its chairman and his craft stores since the media began reporting on his antiquities acquisitions two years ago.

“The Greens remain very much involved. Green is still head of the board,” she said. “The fact is, they’re not as separate as they claim. Many of the artifacts will be on loan from the Green collection. There are other items in their collection that scholars are asking questions about.”

Brent Clark, an Oklahoma lawyer also working on a manuscript about the Green family, agreed: “Steve Green is going to be in charge of that thing, come hell or high water.” But Clark doesn’t think the federal case will blunt tourist interest in the museum.

“Keep in mind the Greens are successful merchants to the middle class. They’ve always been marketing silk flowers and fake Christmas trees to the middle class, and it’s made them rich,” he said. “Their instincts tell them that thousands of people are going to get on buses in Cincinnati, Ohio, to go see it, and they’re probably right.”

It’s the university researchers who are most likely to be dissuaded from coming to the museum.

“Individual scholars will have to ask themselves to what extent are they willing to be complicit,” Moss said.

Yates, the art crime expert, said that many major journals of archaeology research refuse to publish articles based on artifacts whose provenance can’t be proven, and researchers won’t be willing to do work that they can’t publish.

Several scholars, including Yates, said the federal complaint filed Wednesday left them convinced that Hobby Lobby had willfully ignored their own lawyers and other experts, not just that the company had been unaware that they might be importing looted Iraqi goods.

“Basically everyone should be suspicious of any antiquity for sale without a provable history,” Yates said. “Dealers should be telling people that it’s kind of an obvious thing. When we’re talking about Iraq, it’s even more obvious. That this stuff is dodgy, it’s not news…. It’s a known thing in the market. If an object doesn’t have a history that proves that it is legal, you just assume that it is illegal, because it probably is.”

Joel Baden, Moss’s co-author, said that the Green family’s interest in buying thousands of ancient artifacts likely spurred bad actors in Iraq to steal the items in the first place.

“If Hobby Lobby is willing to buy them, people will be willing to loot for them because there’s a market for them,” he said.

The federal settlement requires Hobby Lobby to send thousands of items back to Iraq. But in many respects, the damage is already done.

“The absolute most important thing for an archaeologist is context. And that’s exactly what these antiquities have lost,” Yates said. “We may not be able to tell if this one came from a whole library, or this was kept in a temple, or they were individual records. We’ve lost absolutely all of that information. All we have are the little tattered remains of what’s written on the tablets.”

“It’s a huge loss,” she continued, “and all of us could benefit from this information, learning about ourselves and our past.”

I don't know about others, but I wouldn't call the Museum of the Bible "much-anticipated".

Alright. I have to ask the question.  What is the point of a bible museum?  I can see religious antiquities in a regular museum which also has, you know, other stuff that I can see and thus justifies the price I have to pay for admission.

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@Childless -- But those other museums would include other, non-Christian artifacts. And, horror of horrors, there might even be some ebil Muslim artifacts.

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But, but, but...another opportunity for brainwashing! And did you see the size of that place? What are they putting in there? Trump's ego?

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On 7-7-2017 at 3:41 PM, GreyhoundFan said:

@Childless -- But those other museums would include other, non-Christian artifacts. And, horror of horrors, there might even be some ebil Muslim artifacts.

Or pictures of nekkid wimmins... and then no way to righteously fulfill their desires! 

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On 7/7/2017 at 2:51 AM, Childless said:

What is the point of a bible museum?

In the case of Hobby Lobby & the Greens, the "museum" provides a tax shelter for spending bundles of money on various antiquities, some of which may have been purchased in order to hide them away since their existence does not support the Talibangelical beliefs of the Greens.

Quote

But rather than make its holdings available to any scholar who might want to use the collection for legitimate research, as is the usual procedure, the Green Scholars Initiative carefully selects individual scholars to work on its material, seemingly without regard for traditional scholarly standards. Highly qualified scholars seeking publication rights to precious, never-before-seen papyri have been denied permission unless they agreed to join the Green Scholars Initiative, while scholars who had never before touched an ancient manuscript have been recruited to participate. In 2013, the then-director of the initiative, Jerry Pattengale, stated that “no religious requirement for involvement” was in place. But it’s worth noting that almost all the institutions with which the initiative’s scholars are affiliated are explicitly Christian, and most are evangelical.

These artifacts may not be the only ones acquired by the Greens that have questionable provenances. The Greens and Hobby Lobby are lying through their rotting teeth -- they know full well theyʻre trafficking but think itʻs OK because Jesus.

Fucking scumbags, all of them.

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30 minutes ago, hoipolloi said:

In the case of Hobby Lobby & the Greens, the "museum" provides a tax shelter for spending bundles of money on various antiquities, some of which may have been purchased in order to hide them away since their existence does not support the Talibangelical beliefs of the Greens.

The scary thing is that I can easily see them destroying priceless artifacts simply because they don't support their crazy, fundie beliefs. 

The Greens are just all around bad people. 

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It infuriates me that these false "Christians" will use these stolen pieces of history to showcase a manipulated view of the religious world. And that it will exist in Washington DC among the real museums that highlight real history. Another bold attempt to legitimize their crooked view of morality and faith.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Iraq is now working on getting the 5000+ artifacts returned that were trafficked by Hobby Lobby:

Quote

Iraq is working to recover the thousands of ancient artifacts illegally imported into the United States by Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby. “Iraqi and US officials are in constant contact, and the smuggled artifacts are in safe hands now with the US Homeland Security and the US judiciary, which will issue a final verdict on the case," Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the Iraqi parliament's Committee of Culture and Information, told Al-Monitor. "Meanwhile, the Iraqi Embassy is communicating with the US State Department to retrieve the artifacts." [Emphasis added]

Heh. The asshats had their ill-gotten goods confiscated.

 

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  • 2 months later...

The WaPo published this article today: "Sneak peek: D.C.’s huge new Museum of the Bible includes lots of tech — but not a lot of Jesus"

Spoiler

The Museum of the Bible, a massive new institution opening next month just south of the Mall, is just as notable for what it includes — vivid walk-through re-creations of the ancient world, one of the world’s largest private collections of Torahs, a motion ride that sprays water at you, a garden of biblical plants — as for what it leaves out.

The $500 million museum, chaired and largely funded by the conservative Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, doesn’t actually say a word about the Bible’s views on sexuality or contraception. The museum doesn’t encourage visitors to take the Bible literally, or to believe that the Bible has only one correct form. And on floor after gleaming floor of exhibitions, there is very little Jesus.

This isn’t the evangelism that the billionaire Green family first promised a decade ago when they set out to build a museum dedicated to Scripture. At the time, the museum’s mission statement promised to “bring to life the living word of God . . . to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the Bible, the book at the institution’s center.

The approach today, while still viewed with skepticism by some scholars, appears to be more modest: “The museum has fence posts — limits. It doesn’t overtly say the Bible is good — that the Bible is true,” said Steve Green, the Hobby Lobby chief executive and the chair of the museum. “That’s not its role. Its role is to present facts and let people make their own decisions.”

Much has changed in the years since the Greens began building the museum. Their company became a byword not just for craft supplies, but also for a battle in the Supreme Court against all forms of mandatory contraception coverage for employees. The family’s lightning-fast acquisition of troves of historic artifacts wound up in federal court, landing them a $3 million fine for trafficking in thousands of smuggled goods. And Washington changed, too — from a capital where white evangelical Christians felt they were under attack, to one where the man they voted for in overwhelming numbers, Donald Trump, is shaking up the halls of power just blocks from the new museum.

In this new moment in America, the museum that is set to open Nov. 17 has a simpler message for the nation, a pitch that seems to have more to do with capturing the attention of a distracted populace than with saving souls. All the museum asks about the Bible: Just try reading it.

The museum, which will be among the largest in a city chock-full of museums, presents broad, sometimes abstract concepts about the Bible, communicated through cutting-edge technology and immersive experiences.

Children’s arcade games about “courage.” A sensory room with images of animals, minor-key music and creaking boat sounds meant to evoke the “chaos” onboard Noah’s Ark (a marked contrast from the Ark Encounter recently opened in Kentucky, which presents a life-size literal vision of Genesis). And many, many examples of the Bible’s effect on things as diverse as calendar systems, fashion and language — most presented without overt judgment on whether that influence was good or bad.

The point, staff members say, is simply to engage an America that is losing its connection with the Bible.

“Our goal isn’t to give answers but to arouse curiosity,” said Seth Pollinger, a biblical scholar who is the director of the 430,000-square-foot museum’s content.

The nonprofit museum’s projects also include a high school Bible curriculum that organizers hope will be used in schools around the world and a research arm that invites scholars to study Green’s massive collection of artifacts. Admission to the museum will be free.

Mark Noll, one of the country’s most prominent experts on American Christian history, served as an adviser. He compared the Museum of the Bible to the Newseum, another huge private museum.

“Obviously the museum is there to make people think better or think kindly about the effects of Scripture in U.S. history,” he said. “But I did think they were trying to be as nonpartisan as they could.”

Some remain skeptical that the museum’s viewpoint will be neutral. Steven Friesen, an officer at the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest association of biblical scholars, said there is debate in the academic community about whether to do research involving the Greens’ collection. He would advise fellow scholars to steer clear.

Friesen hasn’t seen the museum, but he believes from reading the website that its materials subtly promote a singular version of Scripture; indeed, the museum mostly omits discussion about how the Bible was compiled, and which religious traditions believe which disputed books belong in the Bible. Museum staffers say the place for discussing issues such as sexuality and abortion, which aren’t mentioned in the exhibits, might be at events hosted at the museum; Friesen thinks those events are meant to draw in influential people to hear the Greens’ opinions on the culture wars.

“My guess is that they’ve worked very hard at covering what they would like to do, trying to hide the agenda that is behind the museum,” he said, defining that agenda as the promotion of their deep faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

The Bible has shaped cultures from Africa to Asia, Muslim to Mormon. But the 20-member leadership of the museum is almost entirely white, male and evangelical.

Grant Wacker, an expert on Christian history, said that he declined an invitation to join the leadership team because he was asked to sign a statement of faith. Wacker said he considers himself an evangelical Christian but that the statement went too far for him.

“It stressed, shall we say, factual accuracy [of the Bible] more than I could endorse,” he said.

Instead, he agreed to be one of the many scholars from diverse religious traditions to weigh in on drafts of some of the museum displays. The leadership team sought input repeatedly during the three-year construction process from experts from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and secular backgrounds.

Pollinger said that originally, the museum planned to discuss historical evidence that demonstrates proof of the stories in the Bible. Eventually, the team decided to drop that idea; instead, the historical section documents the Bible’s spread across the world, and it even shows the Bible’s roots in other ancient cultures, opening the door to the suggestion that biblical stories predate Judaism and Christianity.

When the leaders sought input from African American scholars, they revised their panel on the importance of the biblical Exodus story, spirituals and black churches in fortifying the African American community during and after slavery. With the input of Jewish scholars, they added lines to the script of a film to be shown at the museum so it includes not just Protestant biblical interpretation, but also more context about the development of the rabbinical Talmud.

The team dodged a host of modern-day controversial topics by ending its tapestry that illustrates U.S. history in 1963 with the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (rich in Bible verses).

Housed in a former design center at Fourth and D streets SW, the museum is built to awe from the first moment visitors pass through two 40-foot, 2.5-ton bronze doors showing the text of Genesis 1 — backward, in Latin.. The feeling inside is just as soaring, with much of the interior made of imported Jerusalem stone.

The museum could quickly become a popular draw for evangelical families — about one-quarter of the U.S. population — for whom the Bible is daily reading in many homes. In a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 45 percent of Americans said they seldom or never read Scripture, but 63 percent of evangelicals said they read it at least once a week.

Some conservative evangelicals might be frustrated with parts of the museum, both in what is and isn’t there. This museum doesn’t try to prove the historical veracity of the Bible, or argue that Earth is about 6,000 years old, as the Creation Museum in Kentucky does. It devotes a display to the Virgin Mary, a biblical figure who evangelicals say has been elevated too highly by Catholics. “Some people are going to walk up and say, ‘That’s not the Bible,’ ” Pollinger said about the historic paintings in the museum that depict Mary as a saint.

Jesus is also curiously not central to the museum’s presentation of the biblical story. Visitors walk through a multiroom saga of the Old Testament, and they can visit a re-creation of a 1st-century village in Galilee where actors will tell them what the villagers think of this controversial preacher Jesus. They can watch a movie about John the Baptist. But the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is almost absent.

The museum opens at a moment of fierce conflicts about religion — from Trump’s comments about athletes kneeling during the national anthem, to the battle between conservative religious rights and LGBT rights, to a host of other sensitive issues. Pollinger said many advisers to the museum were motivated by a desire to soothe the supercharged climate around religion in American public life.

“Rather than fragment into greater hostility, this is a time to find out how we can work for the good,” Pollinger said. “This is a time to . . . find out how we can learn from difference.”

The question for the museum and its small army of diverse advisers will be how well the stated goal of being nonsectarian can be balanced with the history of the museum’s leadership.

Mark DeMoss, a museum board member and prominent evangelical public relations executive, said people just need to get in the door and see for themselves.

“I know no one person or two or three people are responsible for the story of how the Bible is being told in this museum. It’s the product of dozens and dozens of people from a wide range of backgrounds,” he said. “The fact that it is as broad and ecumenical and nonsectarian as it is, I think there will be criticism from the religious left and the religious right — which would mean to me that we probably got it just about right.”

I've seen a crapload (emphasis on the crap) of commercials for the MotB, since I live in the Washington DC area. Every time I see one, I change the channel. I can't imagine it's fair or balanced.

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I'm a little surprised that the article about the museum doesn't mention the artifact smuggling scandal. As a historian I'd like to see that whole museum thoroughly investigated to ensure that they don't have any other smuggled artifacts on display. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/07/06/hobby-lobbys-3-million-smuggling-case-casts-a-cloud-over-the-museum-of-the-bible/?utm_term=.d510b76f789e

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9 hours ago, Bethella said:

I'm a little surprised that the article about the museum doesn't mention the artifact smuggling scandal. As a historian I'd like to see that whole museum thoroughly investigated to ensure that they don't have any other smuggled artifacts on display. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/07/06/hobby-lobbys-3-million-smuggling-case-casts-a-cloud-over-the-museum-of-the-bible/?utm_term=.d510b76f789e

Frankly, that should be front and center for every article about the museum. 

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I wonder if Trump get some of the crap in his golden tower at Hobby Lobby! No, wait, the stuff Hobby Lobby stole was authentic, the paintings in Dumpy's tower are apparently fakes.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Color me unsurprised: "D.C.’s new Bible museum says it wants to avoid politics. But its opening gala is at the Trump hotel."

Spoiler

The leadership of the Museum of the Bible has been working hard in the run-up to this weekend’s opening to emphasize the inclusive, academic, apolitical nature of the museum, which organizers say will be the world’s largest dedicated to the Bible and sits just off the Mall.

And so its opening black-tie gala Thursday night is presenting a challenge: The $50,000-a-table fundraising event is at the Trump hotel.

Officials at the nonprofit museum say the decision was for pragmatic, scheduling reasons but some museum employees and academic consultants refused to enter the hotel affiliated with the controversial president.

“I would rather not do things that optically look like we’re aligning with politics. I would prefer we not make those choices, but they’ve done it,” said one, noting that the political and religious views of the staff and advisers vary widely.

Museum officials said by the time they started looking for space, about a year ago, the Trump hotel was the only ballroom available in Washington that could accommodate such a big group. The Thursday dinner gala will have about 750 people in attendance.

“We looked at several places to accommodate our numbers and that was the only place available for our date,” Steven Bickley, vice president of the museum, said last week during a tour at the museum. “We were looking for a venue, not a statement.”

According to Destination D.C., the city’s marketing organization, of the top 10 hotel ballrooms in the city, Trump is the eighth in terms of size. Danielle Davis, a spokeswoman for the group, said she couldn’t confirm the availability schedule for other ballrooms but said in some cases ballrooms are booked years in advance.

Linda Koldenhoven, director of women’s initiatives at the museum and co-chair of the Grand Opening Committee, said officials also wanted an elegant kind of look. “We wanted it to be beautiful, and [the Trump hotel space] is beautiful, and available. It was the only thing available.”

The least expensive seat for Thursday’s gala is $2,500 for a single seat or $25,000 for a table of 10, according to the ticket. Other perks are offered for donors of $50,000, $100,000 or $250,000, such as tickets to see the Broadway musical “Amazing Grace” in the museum’s new theater, tickets to the Friday dedication, a VIP reception and photo opportunity. Those donated funds will go to the museum, and museum officials declined to say how much they were paying to rent the space. Hotel profits at such events, however, come also from the hotel room rentals, and those attending the gala — if they booked at least two weeks ago — could get rooms for rates ranging from around $524 to $5,699 per night.

The museum also has a brand new ballroom that seats 420 for dinner. Organizers are hosting a second black-tie gala Friday night there that will have a similar entertainment line up as Thursday, including appearances by gospel stars CeCe Winans and Wintley Phipps.

For some involved with the museum, the decision to host at the Trump hotel highlights the question of how the museum will engage with the increasingly politicized debate about the Bible and religion in American public life.

“There’s a tendency and pressure to get involved politically and that’s not our agenda — we don’t want [the museum] to become a political football,” Steve Green, president of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby and chairman of the museum board, said during a recent interview at the museum when asked about its leadership’s stance on political appearances — from the hotel gala to potential lectures and exhibits or public statements the museum might have. “I think that is where it would be easy for people to come and want us to give those kinds of answers but that’s not our role. The theological weeds or the political weeds — we don’t have time.”

A museum spokeswoman said as of Tuesday that neither Trump nor Vice President Michael Pence would attend the galas or the private, official dedication Friday of the museum, a dramatic structure with cutting-edge technology, amusement park-type rides and thousands of biblical artifacts. Pence had been invited to do the official ribbon-cutting “because he is a personal friend of a number of board members,” but wasn’t able, said Susan Davis, head of the communications firm handling the opening.

Leadership of both the House and Senate from both parties were invited, and all declined, Davis said. All members of the administration were invited, and as of Wednesday she expected Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and possibly Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

A list of participants in the Friday dedication includes remarks from Washington’s mayor, Democrat Muriel E. Bowser. Also offering remarks are Washington Catholic Archbishop Donald Wuerl, a cardinal; Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, a Conservative movement rabbi in Maryland and president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America; Adm. Margaret Kibben, chief of the U.S. Navy chaplains; U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black; Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer; Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, and museum officials. Winans will perform.

Koldenhoven, who works with Susan Davis as well, said connections are warm between the current White House and the museum.

“They’re very happy to have us here,” she said during the interview. Being friends with some in the Cabinet, she hears them mention that “it’s nice to have something here getting people back to the basics, the Ten Commandments, having people engage in God’s word.”

Green in several recent interviews about the museum has praised the Trump administration, including this week while talking with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“We are seeing that the current administration with President Trump is a friend of religious freedom and has taken steps to strengthen and confirm that we are a nation that values the freedoms our founders gave us,” he said after being asked about Trump.

Some Americans have praised the administration for promising to do more for Christians persecuted in the Middle East and pushing to protect the ability of religious opponents of LGBT equality to discriminate based on their spiritual convictions as part of what they argue are their Constitutional rights. Others have lamented the administration’s push for immigration restrictions aimed at Muslims and its hesitation to condemn Nazi marchers, among other things.

While the opening of any major museum in Washington is closely watched, many large museums are Smithsonian-run and thus administered by the government. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, participated in last year’s opening ceremony of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History of Culture, as did former president George W. Bush; Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., chancellor of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents; and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a prominent civil rights figure and a Democrat from Georgia. Davis’s firm was involved in the opening of the Holocaust museum in 1993, and she said she recalls controversy and even protests about the appropriateness of commemorating an event on the Mall that didn’t happen in the United States.

“This feels to me a little tamer than other things we’ve been involved with,” she said.

The Bible museum’s leadership has said it doesn’t want to get involved in politics — Vice President Steven Bickley on a media tour last week said: “We’re Switzerland.”  However, the museum chose D.C. in part for its proximity to government and conversations about religion in public life. One of its marquis exhibits is called “Washington Revelations,” in which visitors stand on a moving ride that simulates flying over the city to see biblical quotes on monuments and other government buildings.

The museum also has as a core aim to prove — and spur discussion around — the Bible’s relevance to American public and political life, and the news hooks these days are constant: Roy Moore and his argument that his view of the Bible should be the basis of U.S. law, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt citing the Bible in his decision to upend the rules around who is allowed to sit on EPA advisory groups, Trump adviser-pastor Robert Jeffress saying the Bible gives Trump the authority to eliminate the North Korean president — those all have come up in just the last few months.

It remains to be seen how the museum will publicly engage with political issues once it’s open — whether it will hold public events or exhibits on Bible-related issues in public life, and what its approach will be. Or if it will try focus more on earlier eras and the ancient past.

Carlos Campo, a board member and president of Ashland University, said holding events and lectures and discussions related to the news and having leadership speak on current political events would be “secondary” to the museum’s mission.

Even if you take the case of Roy Moore, “you see some people who are faithful teachers and experts have taken fairly divergent views, so it’s reflective of the idea: Let the Bible speak for itself and don’t interpret.” An event on something like Moore “wouldn’t interest us, although the idea of American views of the Bible” does, he said.

Gordon Campbell, a Renaissance Studies scholar who is one of the world’s experts on the King James Bible, has been advising the museum for several years on its exhibits. While he plans to attend Thursday’s gala at the Trump hotel, he is watching carefully to see how the museum’s leadership balances itself politically.

“The Green family stand for a series of political and religious positions that are on one side of the cultural divide. They’re absolutely entitled to those views but it would be unhelpful if the museum were to be associated with those views,” he said this week.

Museum leadership has also worked hard to show it wants to be seen as nonsectarian, more of an open place to explore the Bible than to be evangelized — sort of a counter to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which argues that the Earth is just a few thousand years old. Cary Summers, the Bible Museum’s president, was a consultant on the Kentucky museum as well.

The museum board is made up almost exclusively of conservative evangelicals (mostly white males), and the museum projects an implicit and religious reverence for the Bible. However officials have reached out to and hired a diverse group of scholars and consultants and shifted the museum’s focus to a more academic, ecumenical — if still pious — approach to the Bible.

According to financial documents and reporting by The Washington Post, the primary donors to the museum are the Green family and the National Christian Foundation.

The Greens are best-known for their craft store chain, which sued the Obama administration successfully in the Supreme Court, saying the Affordable Care Act violated their religious freedom rights because it required providing employees with types of birth control that they see as murder. The Greens are heroes to many religious conservatives as a result. The foundation is a donor-advised fund with a mission to “advance God’s Kingdom” that distributes millions to many groups engaged in court fights against same-sex marriage, abortion rights and other social policies, the Post reported.

One of the museum’s donors, speaking on the condition that they not be named so as not to upset museum leadership, said the decision not to hold the Thursday gala at the brand new museum — and instead at the Trump hotel — didn’t make sense entirely. “It seemed to me you’d want to show off the museum,” the person said. “I almost don’t want to know why we’re there.”

From the article: "“We are seeing that the current administration with President Trump is a friend of religious freedom and has taken steps to strengthen and confirm that we are a nation that values the freedoms our founders gave us,” he said after being asked about Trump." Um, yeah, so the TT is only a friend of religious freedom if you are a white evangelical Christian.

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