Steve Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby, is currently the subject of a four-years-long federal investigation "for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq," according to an explosive new report in The Daily Beast.
The feds began investigating Green in 2011 after Customs officers seized several hundred some clay tablets that were thousands of years old. They had been shipped from Israel to Hobby Lobby HQ in Oklahoma City. The Green family is funding a Bible museum in Washington, D.C. and had slated these tablets to be part of an exhibit. According to a recent profile in Talking Points Memo, the museum "will be a living, breathing testament to how American evangelicalism can… claim it is under siege from secularists, the LGBT rights movement, or feminism" and is "meant to protect American Christianity from persecution."
In the last few years, the family has amassed over 40,000 Middle Eastern artifacts for this museum, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2017.
Green told The Daily Beast that the tablets were simply caught up in delays because of some missing paperwork, the product of an overworked and understaffed Customs department. However, an attorney "familiar" with how U.S. Customs operates and investigates, told the website that that type of investigations Customs does is usually centered on properly filled out paperwork that contains false information.
There are two types of customs declarations: informal entry and formal entry. Informal entry is generally for shipments that have a collective monetary value of under $2,500; formal entry is for anything above that. In cases where people are trying to bring something into the country that they shouldn’t, one of the common ways to do so is to undervalue whatever the item is, often by misidentifying it, so that it goes through the expedited informal entry process rather than the more closely scrutinized formal entry.
According to investigators on the Hobby Lobby case, the ancient tablets were identified as "hand-crafted clay tiles" and valued them at around $300 while hiding the fact they were from Iraq.
Green denied any wrongdoing and told The Daily Beast, "Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]? That’s possible." However, in 2010, he and his wife met with a law-professor from DePaul in 2010 in order to get a crash course on cultural heritage laws. A year later, they imported the disputed tablets.
You probably better know Green from Hobby Lobby's Supreme Court case in 2014, in which the company successfully argued that providing birth control to employees under the Affordable Care Act would violate the families long-held Christian beliefs. A year later, going to court is starting to look like a hobby.
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