Hobby Lobby Meets Indiana Jones

How stolen art fuels Middle Eastern terrorism.

By now, everyone has heard of Hobby Lobby and its founder, Dave Green. Green is a fake Christian who uses his business as a vehicle to bully women and generally make a public nuisance of himself.

Aside from lending credence to the notion that employers may dictate to their female employees what sort of health care they may access (a suit by Hobby Lobby against the Affordable Care Act was decided in the company’s favor by a business-compliant Supreme Court), Green resolved to go show-biz by opening the Museum of the Bible just off the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Far from being the usual combination of Disney World and a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum—just think of the ludicrous Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky—Green plans to give us the genuine old-timey experience from the Holy Land. Already, Hobby Lobby has amassed some 40,000 items of antiquities, artifacts, and bric-a-brac, all of them the real McCoy. At last, the Faithful would be able to visit the nation’s capital and see something to counter the pernicious atheist propaganda on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History.

There was just one problem. According to a complaint lodged by the U.S. Court of the Eastern District of New York, Hobby Lobby engaged in a years-long effort to smuggle Iraqi artifacts disguised as tile samples. Their provenance may be considered doubtful given that the company persistently caused the shipments to be misleadingly labeled for customs and sent to multiple addresses, tactics routinely used by dealers in stolen artifacts.

The government has seized the items under statutes prohibiting the import of Iraqi antiquities and fined the company $3 million. The founder’s son and current Hobby Lobby president, Steve Green, wimped out on the Christian injunction to boldly bear witness to God’s truth when he issued a lawyerly statement saying the company “should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled.” Indeed.

But does that wrap up the case? Ever since the disgraceful looting of Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in 2003 under Donald Rumsfeld’s nose (“stuff happens,” he shrugged), stolen antiquities have financed an orgy of regional violence: first, by Baathist insurgents, then by al Qaeda in Iraq, and finally and most horrifically, by ISIS, which may be profiting up to $200 million per year from looted artifacts. By dealing in thousands of such artifacts through shady Israeli and Emirati intermediaries, the Greens for more than a decade put money into the pockets of terrorists.

Given that the Christian Right, of which the Greens are prominent members, routinely seeks to strong-arm our politicians by claiming with great wailing and gnashing of teeth that Christians are under unrelenting persecution in America, and in view of the fact that the GOP seeks to pass a bill permitting churches to endorse political candidates while maintaining their 501(c)3 nonprofit status, should the rest of us be content with seeing Hobby Lobby (and not the individuals involved) get off the hook with a derisory fine under an obscure importation law?

Given the possibility that their decade-long trafficking in illicit Iraqi artifacts may have contributed to the ability of terrorists to finance their activities, shouldn’t we consider whether the Greens should be investigated under statutes prohibiting material aid to terrorism? After all, U.S. citizens have been prosecuted for donating to charitable organizations ostensibly delivering humanitarian relief in Palestine and Somalia, a more ambiguous circumstance than dealing in antiquities looted from a war zone. And that also raises the question of whether Hobby Lobby became a front for an ongoing conspiracy to traffic in illicit goods. If so, it could be subject to forfeiture under federal RICO laws. Or, at the very least, shouldn’t those of us who are put off by the antics of monstrous hypocrites like the Greens be publicly calling for such an investigation?

Were the shoe on the other foot, and, say, Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye the Science Guy engaged in criminal shenanigans with a terrorism angle, we would have no difficulty guessing the response of the great Right Wing Noise Machine.

Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren is a former career congressional staff member who served on the House and Senate budget committees. His latest book is The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.