Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hobby Lobby Stole Gilgamesh

Well, sort of. The owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores are also the owners of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. As reported here on Augoeides, the museum got in trouble in 2017 and 2018 for displaying stolen artifacts. Now the museum is in trouble again, over a cuneiform tablet known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet that was stolen from Iraq.

U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking the return to Iraq of a roughly 3,500-year-old clay tablet purchased by the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain for display in the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible. The cuneiform tablet is described as "stolen Iraqi property" in a civil complaint filed Monday.

The complaint details part of the journey of this fragment of the oldest known creation tale — from a palace library in ancient Mesopotamia to its present location in a Department of Homeland Security warehouse in Queens, New York. It alleges that a major international auction house, unnamed in the complaint, obscured the provenance of the tablet, known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, when it sold the tablet to Hobby Lobby in 2014.

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations seized the tablet last year from the Museum of the Bible, which, it said, cooperated with the investigation. Hobby Lobby's owners are the founders of the Museum of the Bible. The prosecutors said the 5-by-6-inch tablet, which Hobby Lobby purchased for more than $1.6 million, is considered the property of the Iraqi government and should be returned.

How many times does somebody have to get in trouble over stolen goods before it becomes clear that they are a thief? I ask this because, as I pointed out in my previous articles, Hobby Lobby was able to obtain a "religious exemption" due to their "sincere religious beliefs" that allowed them to deny contraception coverage to their female employees.

But since "Thou Shalt Not Steal" is literally one of the core tenets of those supposed religious beliefs, it's pretty clear to me that those beliefs are insincere. It's also pretty clear their real beliefs are just that contraception is icky and theft is perfectly okay.

Somebody should really file a case over this, arguing that (A) Hobby Lobby alleges that they deserve a religious exemption due to sincere religious beliefs, (B) Hobby Lobby provably engages in activity contrary to those claimed beliefs, and therefore (C) they do not deserve a religious exemption on the grounds of insincerity.

Any Hobby Lobby employee denied contraceptive coverage should have standing. And if that went through, it would put a serious damper on corporations that want to claim religious exemptions on the grounds of being Christian. A company can get the exemption, but then if it can be proven that the company fails to abide by Christian principles, the exemption is lost.

Steal something? Theft. Your exemption is lost. Lie about pretty much anything, even to the media? False witness. Your exemption is lost. Hound someone in hopes of getting your hands on their property? Coveting. Your exemption is lost. And so on - just as a sample from the Ten Commandments.

Yeah, I'm aware that probably never will happen. But it's fun to think about, because really, if you're going to allow corporations to claim religious exemptions in the first place this is how it should work. Otherwise somebody can just say "my company is Christian" and they are taken at their word regardless of anything the company actually does.

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Jason said...

I wish we'd give large corporations the same standing as (mega) churches under the US Federal constitution and define a clear separation, with no bailouts for either.

Unfortunately, the one true church of the Federal Reserve will be (by proxy) owning both.

Better wear your raincoats, ladies and gents. We're climbing the pool ladder of market optimism.

Scott Stenwick said...

Agreed, no bailouts for both would be a good thing. Separation of church and state along with separation of business and state would help the economy work better for a lot more people.