Feds investigate Bible artifacts that may have been stolen from Iraq and acquired by Hobby Lobby owners.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, who plan to open the Museum of the Bible in 2017, are under investigation for receiving stolen artifacts.

Some 200-300 clay tablets, with writing in the cuneiform script of Assyria and Babylonia, were seized by U.S. Customs in 2011 after they were marked “handcrafted clay tiles” on their Fedex shipping labels and valued at $300. While the description of the items may be accurate, there is just one problem – they are thousands of years old, perhaps priceless and legally belong to Iraq as part of its national and cultural heritage.

Over 15,000 artifacts were stolen from the Baghdad-based National Museum of Iraq following an invasion led by the United States in 2003, and 1,046 of them are understood to have been returned by the U.S., whose Customs officials discovered them in their country. However, only one person has been prosecuted, and his sentence was six months of house arrest.

The Green family of Oklahoma City identifies itself as a Christian employer – the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores has four chaplains on its payroll, and gives Sunday off to their employees so that they can attend church. They are unashamed of using words like 'Christmas' and 'Easter' in their full-page newspaper ads, while many prefer to refer to the periods as the 'holidays.' Established in 1970, the Hobby Lobby offered free healthcare to its staff even before it came to be accepted as a standard practice by other employers nationwide, and in 2014 took the U.S. federal government to court over Obamacare, which mandated contraceptives. They cited the right to freedom of religion, saying it was against their personal and moral beliefs, and won.

Cary Summers, who serves as president of the Museum of the Bible, says the seizure and subsequent hold-up was owing to incomplete paperwork, but a source familiar with the probe says rarely do such delays take five years and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has interviewed several people in this regard, the length of the tapes running into hundreds of hours as it tries to solidify its case against the Greens.

Collectively, the Greens are estimated to be worth $4.5 billion. While a fine could not make much difference to their financial base, them being found guilty could hurt their public image even more.

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