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Arts and Crafts And Crafty Artifacts
Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain that made headlines in 2014 for taking their religious-based refusal to pay contraception coverage for their female workers all the way to the Supreme Court, has agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally smuggling thousands of ancient clay artifacts into the United States from Iraq.
The company, which has been collecting bible-based artifacts for its Museum of the Bible, purchased over 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million in December 2010 from an unidentified dealer. They have also agreed to forfeit thousands of falsely labeled artifacts that were and shipped to them through the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The purchase was shady from the outset. As the Washington Post reports, Hobby Lobby received conflicting information regarding where the artifacts had been stored and never actually met with the dealer. In their haste to acquire the ancient artifacts, Hobby Lobby wired money to seven separate bank accounts.
In a statement regarding the case, U.S. attorney Bridget M. Rohde stressed that: “American collectors and importers must ensure compliance with laws and regulations that require truthful declarations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so that Customs officers are able to scrutinize cultural property crossing our borders and prevent the inappropriate entry of such property.”
Hobby Lobby began acquiring a variety of historical Bibles and other artifacts in 2009, with an eye towards building a collection of historically and religiously important books and artifacts about the Bible which would at the same time be consistent with the company’s evangelical mission.
In a statement from the company, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said, “We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” adding, “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.”
Prosecutors maintain that Hobby Lobby had been warned that artifacts acquired from Iraq were likely to have been looted from archaeological sites.