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Hobby Lobby Owners Under Investigation For Alleged Illegal Import Of Artifacts

The Green family, owner of the Oklahoma-based crafts store, is under investigation for allegedly importing religious artifacts illegally. The Greens have a large collection of artifacts that they plan to display in their Museum of the Bible, due to open in November 2017. Danny Johnston/AP hide caption

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Danny Johnston/AP

The Green family, owner of the Oklahoma-based crafts store, is under investigation for allegedly importing religious artifacts illegally. The Greens have a large collection of artifacts that they plan to display in their Museum of the Bible, due to open in November 2017.

Danny Johnston/AP

The family that owns Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based Christian company that became a household name after winning a landmark Supreme Court case last year, is under investigation for illegally importing religious artifacts.

Brian Hardzinski reports for NPR's Newscast unit:

"The Green family, which owns the craft store giant, plans to exhibit its large collection of religious artifacts in the Museum of the Bible. The facility is scheduled to open two years from now in Washington, D.C. The museum's president, Cary Summers, tells The Daily Beast federal officials have seized several cuneiform tablets and are investigating the paperwork associated with the importation of the clay tablets from Israel. The museum has issued a statement saying Hobby Lobby is cooperating fully with the federal investigation."

According to The Daily Beast, which first reported the story about the investigation, people who are trying to import artifacts that "lack proper provenance," meaning they should not have left their country of origin, often lie to get their shipment past customs. The Daily Beast writes:

"One source familiar with the Hobby Lobby investigation told us that this is precisely what happened in this case: The tablets were described on their FedEx shipping label as samples of 'hand-crafted clay tiles.' This description may have been technically accurate, but the monetary value assigned to them—around $300, we're told—vastly underestimates their true worth, and, just as important, obscures their identification as the cultural heritage of Iraq."

The Green family and Hobby Lobby took the national stage last year when they successfully argued that they should be exempt from providing their employees with insurance coverage of contraceptives because of their religious beliefs. The Supreme Court ruled that for-profit businesses could assert a religious objection to the Obama administration's health care regulations.