In 2011, a shipment of somewhere between 200 to 300 small clay tablets on their way to Oklahoma City from Israel was seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis. The tablets were inscribed in cuneiform—the script of ancient Assyria and Babylonia, present-day Iraq—and were thousands of years old. Their destination was the compound of the Hobby Lobby corporation, which became famous last year for winning a landmark Supreme Court case on religious freedom and government mandates. A senior law enforcement source with extensive knowledge of antiquities smuggling confirmed that these ancient artifacts had been purchased and were being imported by the deeply-religious owners of the crafting giant, the Green family of Oklahoma City. For the last four years, law enforcement sources tell The Daily Beast, the Greens have been under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq.
These tablets, like the other 40,000 or so ancient artifacts owned by the Green family, were destined for the Museum of the Bible, the giant new museum funded by the Greens, slated to open in Washington, D.C., in 2017. Both the seizure of the cuneiform tablets and the subsequent federal investigation were confirmed to us by Cary Summers, the president of the Museum of the Bible.
From its founding in 1970, the Greens’ Hobby Lobby chain has been more than simply a suite of craft stores. The Greens have used it as a model of a business run on Christian values. Stores are closed on Sundays in order to give employees time to attend church. The company employs four chaplains, and offered a free health clinic to staff at its headquarters long before free health care came into political vogue. The Greens have also used the Hobby Lobby platform to spread their Christian message far and wide: The company annually places full-page ads celebrating—in their words— “the real meaning of Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day” in newspapers across the country.
But the Greens went from evangelical players to bona fide Christian celebrities in June of 2014 when they won a Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It granted them exemption from the Obamacare mandate to provide certain forms of contraception to their employees; forcing the company to do so, the Supreme Court ruled, would have violated the Greens’ deeply-held Christian beliefs.
If the investigation ends with a decision to prosecute, on either criminal or civil charges, the Greens may be forced to forfeit the tablets to the government. There may also be a fine involved. The Green family, who successfully forced the federal government to legally recognize their personal moral standards, now find themselves on the other side of the docket, under suspicion of having attempted to contravene U.S. laws.
The abhorrent practice of looting antiquities aside (and all the Raiders of the Lost Ark jokes too) should the FBI actually go after the Green family, the Republican party will go absolutely bonkers over this. The outrage may in fact melt through the floor and destroy the inner core of the Earth. Drudge will have "Obama's jackbooted thugs persecute Christians over Obamacare" headlines daily through the November 2016 election. I actually expect the GOP Congress to convene hearings in order to interfere with an ongoing FBI case.
So yeah, close your eyes on this one, or you might end up like the bad guys in Raiders.