Congress shamefully shills for new bible museum

1biblemuseumA congressional resolution gushing about the newly opened Museum of the Bible is full of problems. The resolution is nonbinding but still an affront to truth, good taste and the separation of religion from government.

Rep. Robert Pittenger's resolution (H. Con. Res. 94) exemplifies the dishonesty and the cheap promotion that is Hobby Lobby's modus operandi. This is no coincidence, since Hobby Lobby stores are owned by the Greens, the family that bankrolled the $500 million bible museum boondoggle. 

It is totally inappropriate for members of Congress to invite "all people to engage with the bible." The very title of the resolution bends the truth by labeling the museum "nonsectarian," a claim repeated five times in the resolution. Unbiased visitors have written that the museum "looks a lot like a Protestant evangelical's take on the bible" and religion reporters have variously described the museum's limp attempt at nonsectarianism as "an evangelical version of inclusivity" and a "strange version of inclusivity." The Washington Post noted: "Many biblical scholars have expressed skepticism about the museum's ability to offer a wide-ranging image of the bible." Indeed, members of the museum's leadership were asked to sign a statement of faith before joining. The statement actually went too far for some self-identified evangelical Christians. 

FFRF expected this biased portrayal. A few years ago, FFRF took on and defeated the Green family's public school bible class, which was designed by the Museum of the Bible. (FFRF's Director of Strategic Response, Andrew L. Seidel, recaps that victory and the problems with the class in his article, "Don't expect objectivity from the new Museum of the Bible.") 

There is some improvement in this resolution as compared to previous such proclamations. The first supporting "whereas" in the bill says that the bible "has played a prominent role in the culture of the United States and has been a significant influence throughout the history of our Nation." This is actually different than past statements on such occasions, which have been more explicit and have argued, mistakenly, that our government, laws, and/or Constitution are founded on the bible. Instead, this resolution focuses on cultural and historical influence. It's an interesting change. 

Other than that bright spot, the resolution reads like an ad for a private, overtly religious business. It touts the architecture, number of exhibit floors, square-footage and location of the museum. And the resolution still relies on some dubious history, including joint resolutions from 1956 and 1982, which adopted "In God We Trust" as the national motto and proclaimed a year of the bible, respectively. Both actions are johnny-come-lately unconstitutional violations, and FFRF has worked to challenge them in court.

With this resolution, Congress is taking out a cheap advertisement of the kind Hobby Lobby uses to hawk its lousy trinkets. And like some of Hobby Lobby's ads, this resolution is replete with misinformation. "We, the People" deserve better from Congress.

Photo via Wikipedia by Fuzheado under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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