A cuneiform tablet is among the thousands of artifacts seized from Hobby Lobby by federal authorities. Photo: U.S. Attorney's Office

Hobby Lobby agrees to $3M fine for importing thousands of artifacts

Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of artifacts from Iraq.

According to federal authorities, the arts and crafts retailer purchased more than 5,500 clay artifacts from dealers in the Middle East but did not confirm whether the items had been properly acquired. Packages containing the artifacts were shipped to Hobby Lobby stores in the United States and were falsely marked as "samples" to obscure their origin. They were also falsely labeled as coming from other counties when in fact they contained artifacts taken from Iraq.

“American collectors and importers must ensure compliance with laws and regulations that require truthful declarations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so that Customs officers are able to scrutinize cultural property crossing our borders and prevent the inappropriate entry of such property,” Bridget M. Rohde, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a press release. “If they do not, and shippers use false declarations to try to clandestinely enter property into the United States, this Office and our law enforcement partners will discover the deceit and seize the property.”

Hobby Lobby is a privately-owned chain of retail stores whose founder, David Green, is financing the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The artifacts were reportedly destined for the facility, which is due to open later this year.

Green is a critic of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, and refused to comply with provisions that required Hobby Lobby to ensure its employees had access to contraceptive care. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., allowed his corporation to avoid the mandate due to religious objections.

Read More on the Story:
What Hobby Lobby's president plans to do with 40,000 biblical artifacts (CNN 7/6)
Hobby Lobby fined $3 million for artifacts smuggled from Iraq (The Washington Post 7/5)
Hobby Lobby Agrees to Forfeit 5,500 Artifacts Smuggled Out of Iraq (The New York Times 7/5)

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