CBS, NBC Hype ‘Controversy’ and ‘Cloud of Suspicion’ Over Museum of the Bible

Fearing that America was one step closer to becoming a theocracy with the opening of the privately-funded Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., on Thursday and Friday, CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today hyped the supposed “controversy” swirling around the institution, even claiming that a “cloud of suspicion” hung over the building as it opened its doors.

“Coming up on CBS This Morning, I’ll tell you why this museum is generating some controversy. It’s just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol,” warned correspondent Chip Reid on Thursday. Introducing the segment minutes later, co-host Charlie Rose emphasized that the museum was largely funded by “the conservative Christian family-run company Hobby Lobby.”

 

 

Reid reinforced that concern in his report: “Some 51,000 donors contributed to the construction of the museum, but the largest and most controversial donor is Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain founded by the conservative Christian Green family.” Talking to Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, Reid worried: “The U.S. Capitol is over your shoulder. Some people have said the goal here is to knock down that wall between church and state. Anything to that?”

Green dismissed the notion: “Well, no, because I think there is a separate role for the church and the state and it’s not the state’s role to espouse a faith.” It’s not clear why anyone would think a privately-funded institution on private property would in any way impact the separation between church and state.

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Regardless, Reid wrapped up the story by continuing to parrot the left-wing talking point:

Some critics on the left say this museum will be full of evangelical propaganda. But some evangelicals say there’s not enough about Jesus in this museum. The people behind the museum say if they’re being criticized on the left and the right, they must be right in the middle, right where they want to be.

In a report that aired both on Thursday’s NBC Nightly News and Friday’s Today show, correspondent Anne Thompson followed Reid’s lead in sounding the alarm about the new museum: “This is the Museum of the Bible, a privately-funded monument to the good book and its impact on the world and American history. But it opens under a cloud of suspicion about its purpose and its treasures.”

Sounding nearly identical to her CBS colleague, Thompson fretted: “Just blocks from the U.S. Capitol and Smithsonian, and founded by prominent evangelical Steve Green of Hobby Lobby, some wonder if the museum wants to blur the line between church and state.” Like Reid, she grilled Green: “Why is it so close to the centers of American government and culture?”

He explained:

This is the heart of museums in our nation. Because we’re just down the street from the Capitol, and we don’t see it as a negative, we would think that it would be good for our government, those that are in charge of running this nation, to understand the founding principles that the nation was built upon.

Thompson followed up by declaring: “Some biblical scholars fear it will betray its promise not to evangelize.” A soundbite ran of Boston University School of Theology professor Jenny Knust ranting: “The message appears to be that Christians are at the center of American life and that the Christian bible has been and always will be at the very center of what it means to be American.”

Knust’s very liberal interpretation of scripture was not mentioned. On CNN’s Belief Blog, the academic claimed that the Bible did not really consider homosexuality to be a sin. In an interview with left-wing NPR host Terry Gross, Knust advised married couples not go to the Bible for guidance on their relationship.

Here are transcripts of the November 16 and 17 reports:

CBS This Morning
11/16/17
8:20 AM ET

CHARLIE ROSE: The Museum of the Bible opens Saturday in Washington, D.C. It cost $500 million, making it the largest privately-funded museum in the city. A big part of that money comes from the conservative Christian family-run company Hobby Lobby. Chip Reid is at the 430,000-square-foot museum, just blocks from the Capitol. Chip, good morning.

CHIP REID: As you can see, this is a museum of biblical proportions. It’s one of the biggest in this city of museums, even bigger than the massive Air & Space Museum. The people who built it say it’s the most complicated project they’ve ever done, and Washington politics made it even more so.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: In the Beginning; First Look Inside DC’s New $500 Million Museum of the Bible]

REID: You’re going have a lot of sore necks in this place. At 140 feet long and 40 feet high, this digital ceiling makes for a spectacular entrance. But first, visitors will pass through these 16-ton, 37-foot-tall bronze doors with text from the Book of Genesis. With eight levels of 22-foot high ceilings, the museum is the equivalent of a 17-story building.

[TO CARY SUMMERS] So this is the whole Bible from first page to the last.

CARY SUMMERS: First page to the last.

REID: Cary Summers is the museum’s president.

SUMMERS: We wanted something close to the Mall. We didn’t pick this building – unlike some have said – because we’re close to the Capitol.

REID: Some 51,000 donors contributed to the construction of the museum, but the largest and most controversial donor is Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain founded by the conservative Christian Green family.

[TO STEVE GREEN] This is not the Steve Green Museum of the Bible?

STEVE GREEN: It’s not.

REID: Steve Green is the president of Hobby Lobby, which has amassed over 40,000 ancient biblical artifacts, one of the latest private biblical collections in the world. About a thousand of them, from Dead Sea Scrolls to bibles over 1,000 years old, will be on display here.

The collection itself has been the subject of controversy. This summer, Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of pieces from its collection and pay $3 million after it was discovered the items had been smuggled into the U.S. from the Middle East.

GREEN: Obviously mistakes happened and we were willing to pay the fine.

REID: Green insists that the museum does not approach the Bible from a particular viewpoint.

[TO GREEN] The U.S. Capitol is over your shoulder. Some people have said the goal here is to knock down that wall between church and state. Anything to that?

GREEN: Well, no, because I think there is a separate role for the church and the state and it’s not the state’s role to espouse a faith.

REID: You have said that Americans are as ignorant of the Bible now as they have ever been.

GREEN: I believe that they are. And I think primarily because we don’t teach it in our schools as we once did.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [MUSEUM VISITOR]: You get to learn history through seeing it, feeling it. And it’s just amazing.

REID: There is a higher calling here to cutting edge technology and special effects. Hop aboard the Fly-Board Theater and experience the sensation of flying through Washington, D.C., view the scripture passages inscribed on federal buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [MUSEUM VISITOR]: It’s awesome to see the influence that Christianity has had in this country.

REID: The museum invites you to walk through the history of the Bible. The olive trees in this village of Nazareth are modeled after the biblical garden of Gethsemane.

[TO SUMMERS] You believe the Bible is good for the world?

SUMMERS: Yeah, I do. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. And then, you make up your own mind.

REID: Some critics on the left say this museum will be full of evangelical propaganda. But some evangelicals say there’s not enough about Jesus in this museum. The people behind the museum say if they’re being criticized on the left and the right, they must be right in the middle, right where they want to be. Gayle?

GAYLE KING: Well, you learn you can’t please everybody. Chip, we thank you.


Today
11/17/17
7:45 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We’re back now, 7:45, with news about the nation’s newest mega-museum.

HODA KOTB: The Museum of the Bible opens today, just a few blocks from the National Mall, and it is not without controversy. NBC’s Anne Thompson is there. Good morning, Anne.

ANNE THOMPSON: Good morning, and welcome to Washington’s newest museum. This is the Museum of the Bible, a privately-funded monument to the good book and its impact on the world and American history. But it opens under a cloud of suspicion about its purpose and its treasures.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A Testament to Christianity; Inside Look at the Museum of the Bible]

This is an ancient story told in a modern way.

CARY SUMMERS: They can ask questions, “What is the most searched key word in the Bible?”

THOMPSON: From a high-tech biblical search engine to fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls dating back 2,000 years.

SUMMERS: This is how people really did live.

THOMPSON: Museum president Cary Summers is our guide through the eight floors testifying to the Bible’s influence in the world. From rock stars...

SUMMERS: This is one of Elvis’s bibles.

THOMPSON: ...to high fashion...

SUMMERS: They used the Bible as inspiration for design.

THOMPSON: ...to phrases we use every day.

SUMMERS: “A thorn in one’s side,” wow, do we use that a lot.  

THOMPSON: A lot.

It also traces the Bible’s role in American history.

SUMMERS: If you look at the inscription on it, it is from Leviticus 25:10.

THOMPSON: Just blocks from the U.S. Capitol and Smithsonian, and founded by prominent evangelical Steve Green of Hobby Lobby, some wonder if the museum wants to blur the line between church and state. Why is it so close to the centers of American government and culture?

STEVE GREEN: This is the heart of museums in our nation. Because we’re just down the street from the Capitol, and we don’t see it as a negative, we would think that it would be good for our government, those that are in charge of running this nation, to understand the founding principles that the nation was built upon.

THOMPSON: Some biblical scholars fear it will betray its promise not to evangelize.

JENNY KNUST [BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY]: The message appears to be that Christians are at the center of American life and that the Christian bible has been and always will be at the very center of what it means to be American.

THOMPSON: Do you want this museum to be the Christian version of the Smithsonian?

GREEN: It is not about a faith tradition, the denomination, or a church. It’s about a book.

THOMPSON: Equally controversial, after Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million this year for illegally importing ancient tablets from Iraq, there are questions about some of the origins of the museum’s artifacts. How do I know it’s real?

GREEN: Well, I think that there are sometimes that you may never completely know, but we are using some of the most recent technology and advancements to help us analyze items.

THOMPSON: A test of faith for visitors and the museum.

And that test begins in earnest tomorrow when the doors open to visitors and scholars of all type. Matt, Savannah, and Hoda?

MATT LAUER: I think that’s gonna be a popular place.

GUTHRIE: Yeah.

KOTB: Me, too.

LAUER: A lot of people will flock there. Anne.

KOTB: Thanks, Anne.


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