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Gilgamesh cuneiform tablet

FBI Investigates Hobby Lobby Family for Importing Syrian and Iraqi Artifacts

Hobby Lobby—the arts and crafts retail chain whose Christian owners previously made headlines for refusing to give its employees access to healthcare that covered contraception costs—is now the focus of an FBI investigation, report Candida Moss and Joel Baden in the Daily Beast. The conservative Christian family behind the business had had tried to import 200 to 300 small clay tablets in 2011. But US Customs agents confiscated the artifacts in Memphis, and the Daily Beast has discovered that the Green family is now under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq. The shipment was meant to augment the Green’s growing collection of antiquities that form the collection of the Museum of the Bible, which is funded by the Greens and scheduled to open in Washington, DC, in 2017.

The president of the Museum of the Bible, Cary Summers, played down the potential illegality of the situation. “There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork—incomplete paperwork that was attached to it.”

But Tess Davis, the executive director of the Antiquities Coalition, had a different take, reports Vanity Fair. Said Davis: “Anyone who purchases an antiquity without being 100 percent sure it is a legitimate piece is risking funding organized criminals, armed insurgents, and even terrorist networks, whether they be al-Qaeda or ISIS.”

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