Posts Tagged “department of justice”

Cuneiform tablet BM62788Until now the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores was known mainly for two things: A Supreme Court decision that says corporations have religious beliefs, and for never being open on Sundays, because God, or something. But now, they’re known for something else: Having operated an antiquities-smuggling ring.

Yes, that’s right. You see, Hobby Lobby — being a devout Christian corporation — wanted to prove the Bible is God’s literal truth, and show that, in the form of a colossal “Museum of the Bible” in Washington, DC (Archive.Is cached article).

In an effort to stock this massive edifice with material, Hobby Lobby has been vacuuming up every Middle Eastern artifact — especially cuneiform tablets — it can find. The trouble is, a lot of this vacuuming wasn’t done legally, because artifacts like that aren’t legally available to private buyers. As CNN reports, this devout Christian corporation has admitted its criminality, all done in Jesus’ name, of course (cached):

It wasn’t Hobby Lobby’s scrapbook supplies, their seasonal decorations or their generous selection of fabrics that got the attention of the Department of Justice. It was the ancient clay artifacts from modern-day Iraq.

The DOJ said the company smuggled the artifacts into the United States, and the arts and crafts chain on Wednesday agreed to a settlement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

According to court documents, Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of Iraqi artifacts and pay a $3 million fine to resolve the civil action the Justice Department brought against the company.

This devout Christian corporation, of course, sugar-coated what it had done:

“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in [a] statement. “Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today’s settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved.”

A consultant had warned Hobby Lobby away from one particular deal to acquire a large stash of artifacts back in 2010, but they ignored that advice and went ahead with it. For Jesus, of course.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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As I blogged about already, the US Department of Justice had, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, become an engine of theocracy. Gonzales’s successor, Michael Mukasey, has finally weighed in on this scandal and decided to take no action on it:

Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey said Tuesday that the Justice Department had no plans to bring criminal charges in connection with hiring abuses that took place under his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mukasey said the findings in two recent reports by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine — that a group of influential Gonzales aides considered politics and ideology in hiring career employees and summer interns — were “disturbing.”

The aides violated civil service laws and department regulations, Mukasey said, but they did not commit crimes that could send them to jail.

“Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute,” Mukasey said in a speech to the American Bar Assn. in New York. “But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.”

The decision not to prosecute means that some of the best-known figures in the scandal — such as Monica M. Goodling, a lawyer and public affairs officer who became a powerful gatekeeper in the department under Gonzales — will likely emerge relatively unscathed.

Mukasey’s statement — that not all violations of the law should be prosecuted — is an interesting one. I wonder how might it work out, if an ordinary citizen were to put it into practice, in some ordinary situation? One could contest, say, a speeding ticket in court, by saying, “Your Honor, according to the US Attorney General, not all violations of the law are crimes, so don’t convict me of speeding.” How well might that work?

Answer: It wouldn’t!

Mukasey is essentially giving the theocrats who lurked in the Department of Justice a “pass,” permission to violate long-standing hiring procedures and the Constitution itself. After all, anything is acceptable if done in the name of theocracy!

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