Looted artifacts for the Bible Museum?
The deeply-devout Green family, founders of the American Hobby Lobby corporation, is under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural artifacts from Iraq.
According to an exclusive Daily Beast report, a shipment of somewhere between 200 to 300 small clay tablets on their way to Oklahoma City from Israel was seized by US Customs agents in Memphis.
These tablets, like the other 40,000 or so ancient artifacts owned by the evangelical Greens, were destined for the Museum of the Bible, the giant new museum funded by the family. It is scheduled to open in Washington, DC, in 2017.
Both the seizure of the cuneiform tablets and the subsequent federal investigation were confirmed by Cary Summers, the President of the Museum of the Bible.
From its founding in 1970, the Greens’ Hobby Lobby chain has been more than simply a suite of craft stores. David and Barbara Green, pictured above, and other family members have used it as a model of a business run on Christian values. Stores are closed on Sundays in order to give employees time to attend church. The company employs four chaplains, and offered a free health clinic to staff at its headquarters long before free health care came into political vogue.
In 2010, David Green said:
I would like to know that we have brought as many people to know Christ as we possibly can. We hope to continue to just grow our company. As long as there’s someone on this earth that doesn’t know Jesus Christ, we have a job to do.
The Greens have also used the Hobby Lobby platform to spread their Christian message far and wide: The company annually places full-page ads celebrating – in their words – “the real meaning of Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day” in newspapers across the country.
But the Greens went from evangelical players to bona fide Christian celebrities in June of 2014 when they won a Supreme Court case, Burwell v Hobby Lobby. It granted them exemption from the Obamacare mandate to provide certain forms of contraception to their employees; forcing the company to do so, the Supreme Court ruled, would have violated the Greens’ deeply-held Christian beliefs.
If the investigation ends with a decision to prosecute, on either criminal or civil charges, the Greens may be forced to forfeit the tablets to the government. There may also be a fine involved. The Green family, who successfully forced the federal government to legally recognise their personal moral standards, now find themselves under suspicion of having attempted to contravene US laws.
Steve Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby, admitted that among his family’s extensive collection they might have some illegally-acquired antiquities, though he denied having ever knowingly done anything wrong.
Candida Moss, of the Daily Beast, wrote:
The Greens are worth $4.5 billion or so. If they are indeed prosecuted, no fine could make a significant dent in their financial well-being. But for a company and a family that have built their reputation on a particular set of Christian values, this investigation may hurt more than any financial penalty could.