The evangelical Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores, made history two weeks ago when the Supreme Court overturned the Obama administration's mandate that family-owned companies must provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. Now, the family is looking to build a permanent presence on the Washington landscape, by establishing a sprawling museum dedicated to the Bible -- just two blocks south of the National Mall.
First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of our nation's capital, where the prospect for a new museum is raising eyebrows.
Currently, the National Mall and its surrounding area offer a wide variety of history museums, science museums, and art museums. Is it time for a Bible museum? Hobby Lobby's corporate owners apparently believe it is.
It's a reminder of the Oklahoma-based Green family's broad ambitions. What started as a national arts-and-crafts chain has now ventured into legal and educational efforts, which includes school curricula and now a possible D.C. museum.
Some of the details of the museum plan are murky, but Hobby Lobby president Steve Green reflected last year on the ostensible goal, telling an audience last year, "This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don't know it, our future is going to be very scary."
The reported target date for opening the Bible museum is 2017. As the New York Times' report added, the Green family's Museum of the Bible nonprofit organization bought a 400,000-square-foot space for the facility in 2012 for $50 million.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* An interesting dispute in Salem, Mass.: "The mayor of a Massachusetts city has fired back at conservative protests of her move to void a contract with a Christian college that opposes U.S. efforts to protect gay rights, vowing to donate $5 to a local gay-rights group for each complaint call she receives. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll last week terminated a contract that allowed Gordon College to operate Salem's town hall, after the school joined other religious organizations in appealing to the White House to exempt it from federal rules forbidding employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual discrimination." Glenn Beck has been encouraging the right to complain (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up).
* A different kind of invocation: "At a recent meeting of the Osceola County, Fla., board of commissioners, many attendees bowed their heads in silence as they listened to an invocation delivered by an atheist. 'Habit, I guess,' says David Williamson of Central Florida Freethought Community, who, in lieu of calling on the almighty, invoked the spirit of goodwill during his roughly one-minute speech." Williamson was the first nonbeliever invited to perform the county ritual.
* President Obama this week hosted an annual Iftar Dinner this week at the White House.
* TV preacher Pat Robertson this week weighed in on "a proposed Democratic measure in the Senate to rein in unnecessary regulation of abortion clinics." Robertson warned that Democrats are "talking about a full abortion for anybody." I'll confess, the phrase "full abortion" is new to me.