What would Jesus do? Probably not steal holy relics from the cradle of civilization.
Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store also known for challenging the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds, no longer has the artifacts its evangelical owners smuggled from Iraq. They’re finally going home.
The 3,800 artifacts, initially and falsely labeled as “tile samples” worth only $300, are finally heading back to their rightful owners, according to a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 3,800 ancient artifacts, including cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and clay bullae, to the Republic of Iraq. The artifacts were smuggled into the United States in violation of federal law and shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer.
After a review of the items and their documentation, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents, in conjunction with Assistant U.S. Attorneys at United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) conducted interviews of a number of Hobby Lobby employees between January and June of 2016 which led to the discovery of a deliberate intent by employees of the company to avoid using a customs broker for the artifacts related to this transaction.
That last statement makes it seem like far more than some honest mistake on the part of Hobby Lobby. Not only did the owners ignore red flag after red flag, but they also intentionally avoided using a customs broker. It’s very suspicious.
Considering how Hobby Lobby is known for pointing to the Bible when it comes to stripping employees of comprehensive health insurance, it’s strange how hazy the owners are on the whole “Thou shalt not steal” Commandment.
I also don’t think Hobby Lobby has really taken full responsibility for their illegal actions. The company said last year that they “should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” but they still haven’t admitted liability. (I suppose as long as they apologize to Jesus, that’s all that really matters.)
The company went as far as to claim that it was merely trying to acquire ancient Bibles, something that fits in with its business practices, when it “accidentally” stole those relics, which would have fit in very well at the owners’ Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
In 2009, Hobby Lobby began acquiring a variety of historical Bibles and other artifacts. Developing a collection of historically and religiously important books and artifacts about the Bible is consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible. The goals were to preserve these items for future generations, to provide broad access to scholars and students alike to study them, and to share the collection with the world in public institutions and museums.
The Company was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes.
“Regrettable mistakes,” indeed. They paid a relatively tiny $3 million fine, relinquished control of the goods they stole, and opened up their museum anyway. This is just inconvenient for them. They got off easy.
(Image via Shutterstock)