Hobby Lobby Reiterates its Bigotry: For Political Leadership, Only Christians Need Apply
Today is Independence Day in the United States, and while many people treat Independence Day as a historical commemoration of the Revolutionary War, it is not. Independence Day marks the signing of a piece of paper on July 4, 1776 and invites us to consider the ideas animating that paper. Some of those ideas are good ones, some elicit giggles (“manly firmness”), and some are enough to make a person wince (“merciless Indian Savages”). We should not accept the words of the Declaration of Independence simply because they were uttered by men who are now venerated. After all, at the time those who signed this document were reviled in some quarters as traitors. A person can read a great deal of what they already believe into the words of the Declaration of Independence, but also recognize in the document a fair amount that they may themselves not believe. The Declaration of Independence is a good object for meditation on Independence Day, focusing thoughts not just for consideration and acceptance but for discernment and judgment.
On breakfast tables across the nation this morning, Americans are unfolding their newspapers to find a full-page advertisement paid for by the company that runs Hobby Lobby, Hemispheres, and Mardel stores. This ad promotes the notions that the United States is a Christian nation and that the powers of the United States government should be used to promote Christianity. I won’t spend any time trying to refute the advertisement’s argument, simply because it doesn’t have any argument. Instead, readers are simply bombarded by a list of quotes by famous people who lived in the 1700s and 1800s. The implicit idea of this “appeal to authority” is that if famous dead Americans agree with Hobby Lobby, then you should too. You recall what your mother thought of this sort of justification; her line had something to do with jumping and cliffs, didn’t it?
Since there’s no actual argument to dispute here, I’ll just note the most centrally-placed quote on the page. John Jay, a Supreme Court justice from long, long ago, is quoted as saying the following:
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
This is not the text of a Supreme Court ruling; it’s not a Supreme Court dissent, either, or the transcript of testimony or a speech or a pamphlet or a letter to the editor of a newspaper. These words of John Jay’s come from a private letter sent to John Murray in October of 1816. Jay’s words promote religious bigotry — the refusal to accept members of religions other than one’s own. The idea stands opposed to Article VI of the United States Constitution (no mere private letter but the supreme law of the land), which declares that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
If you shop at Hobby Lobby or Hemispheres or Mardel, you help to disseminate such calls for religious bigotry. If you find the idea of Christian-only standards for political leadership to be odious, perhaps you should declare your own Independence and consider shopping elsewhere.