OKLAHOMA CITY – Hobby Lobby Stores will forfeit thousands of improperly acquired ancient biblical artifacts and pay a $3 million fine in a civil settlement the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced July 5.
The settlement closed a federal investigation of the store’s 2010 purchase and subsequent importation of more than 5,500 artifacts from dealers who did not disclose the items’ Iraqi origin. Hobby Lobby paid $1.6 million for the artifacts, including Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform tablets, bricks, and clay bullae used in ancient writings and seals.
Hobby Lobby faces no criminal liability, but in a corporate statement president Steve Green admitted to “regrettable mistakes” and “imprudently” relying on certain dealers and shippers.
Hobby Lobby’s inexperience in acquiring such artifacts was a contributing factor in the ordeal, he said.
“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Green said in a July 5 statement at newsroom.hobbylobby.com.
“The company was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes. The company imprudently relied on dealers and shippers who, in hindsight, did not understand the correct way to document and ship these items.”
Hobby Lobby must also institute new policies and procedures to ensure such mistakes do not reoccur, the DOJ said.
None of the forfeited artifacts were included in the massive Green Collection at the Museum of the Bible scheduled to open in November in Washington, D.C., the museum told Baptist Press July 6.