Did Hobby Lobby’s Pious Owners Smuggle Ancient Artifacts for Their Bible Museum?

The museum director is saying the issue is improper paperwork.

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Museumofthe Bible.org

Hobby Lobby, a company previously best known for winning a Supreme Court case that centered on religious freedom may have been a little too free in their standards for importing religious artifacts. The Green family, which owns the popular craft store chain headquartered in Oklahoma City, is under investigation on suspicion of importing looted artifacts, reports the Daily Beast.

The case centers on a 2011 shipment of more than 200 clay tablets that were bound for Oklahoma City from Israel and were to be part of the Museum of the Bible, which is planned to open in 2017 in Washington, DC, just blocks from the National Mall. The Greens sunk $50 million into buying the property and $30 million on a collection of about 40,000 historic religious texts.

Federal authorities have been investigating the Greens ever since, the museum’s director, Cary Summers, confirmed to the Daily Beast. In what may have been a telling slip, he said that the problem was that “There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork—incomplete paperwork that was attached to it.” The shipment is just “held up in customs,” Summers continued.

The tablets, inscribed in cuneiform, the script of ancient Assyria and Babylonia, the territory now known as Iraq, were classified on FedEx shipping labels as “hand-crafted clay tiles” and “tile samples,” a source tells the Daily Beast. The paperwork indicated a value of about $300, which would drastically underestimate their value, said the source.

A Hobby Lobby store.<br>Photo via Wikipedia.

A Hobby Lobby store.
Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green seems pretty unconcerned. “Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]? That’s possible,” he tells the Daily Beast.

Worst of all, ancient artifacts have proven a huge source of funds for ISIS, which, in addition to destroying ancient sites (occasionally killing people into the bargain), has reportedly made tremendous amounts of money by smuggling antiquities. Earlier this month, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova condemned ISIS’s “cultural cleansing” of Iraq. So it seems conceivable that some of the Green’s family money could have been channeled to support shadowy causes abroad.

In the 2014 Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the company won an exemption from an Affordable Care Act provision that requires companies to provide contraception, having argued that doing so would violate their religious liberties. Crafty protesters voiced their outrage over the company’s anti-contraception campaign in appropriately crafty ways.

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