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Hobby Lobby: Sorry, We’re New To This Theft Stuff

[ 117 ] July 6, 2017 |

Damn that snake pit of black market cultural property and terrorism financing came out of nowhere.

Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store run by conservative, Evangelical Christians has been caught smuggling nearly 5,500 ancient artifacts from the Middle East according to a civil complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

The report from the New York Times says that Hobby Lobby had at one time during their dealings hired an antiquities expert to advise them and they did in fact advise the company alert them to the fact that buying artifacts without knowing the source would be breaking the law. More than just breaking the law, the looting and selling of antiquities in Iraq has been definitively linked to funding terrorism. A 2015 article by the Financial Times describes the trade:

There is nothing new about looting in the world of archaeology. Nor is it novel for terrorists to fund their activities from the sale of cultural artefacts. What is new, however, is the massive and mechanised scale of digging that is going on in areas now controlled by Isis. Isis operates in what is arguably the richest archaeological arena in the world, an area that scholars often refer to as the cradle of civilisation. Ancient sites at Nimrud, Nineveh and Hatra have been destroyed and experts suspect that artefacts from such places have flooded the black market.

The New York Times piece does not specifically address the possibility that Hobby Lobby’s purchases went on to fund ISIL, a terrorist organization that the religious right in America particularly likes to remind people is engaged in the genocide of Iraqi Christians. Perhaps none of their money did end up in the hands of these Christian killers, only a thorough investigation would reveal that. But how very interesting that the report indicated Hobby Lobby wasn’t all that interested in soliciting those kinds of assurances.

What Hobby Lobby does say is they are super super new to to the acquisition of Biblical antiquities and should have done more to cover their tra– I mean…um…practice more oversight. Like maybe not intentionally mislabelling the artifacts as “tile samples”. Whoopsy?

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  • MaxUtil

    So they only broke two of the commandments (three if you assume their money went to killers?) Clearly just need to tighten up their procurement procedures.

    • DAS

      Perhaps they did some of their business on Saturday?

      • Okay, four out of ten commandments. Maybe five (that “bearing false witness” one).
        Alright, maybe six (having no gods before me, except maybe money).
        Look, they didn’t directly murder anyone, right? And nobody has ever heard any of them running down their parents in public. I’m sure God finds 20% a passing grade.

        • MaxUtil

          I suppose they were coveting their neighbor’s artifacts…

          • Their neighbors’ oxen, asses, and wives thank them for their inattention.

        • Hogan

          Sola fide, bitchez.

          • K-9

            Then why’d YaHooWH bother laying down the Big Ten (and the lesser 613)?

            • Hogan

              Because that’s just the kind of bastard he is.

  • rrhersh

    This is all very hilarious, but what was Hobby Lobby’s end game? I have never set foot in one, but my understanding is that it sells cheap artsy crap. Presumably they weren’t planning on adding an “ancient artifacts” product line. So what were they going to do with the loot? Is the owner a collector, or were they trying to get into wholesale dealing of stolen goods?

    • CS Clark

      The owners of Hobby Lobby planned to dig a big pit, throw all the ‘Biblical’ artifacts in there and swim in them, Scrooge McDuck-style.

    • Resistance Fighter Astraea

      According to Newsweek, it’s for a Bible Museum in DC and to indoctrinate a new generation of archaeologists with a poor education by luring them in with scholarships and access to artifacts. So they can prove the Bible is fact.

      • JSC2397

        Another factor to consider is that the Greens’ Bible Museum in Washington is a relatively recent project: and like most “amateur” collectors in a hurry to amass a large collection, probably went for acquiring quantity first: details like checking provenances or import legalities usually get back-burnered. Until they’re caught…

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Oh lord, what a shitshow. I would hope that any archaeologist worth anything would want to know the provenance of all these sensitive artifacts obtained from a war-torn area. I doubt they could really be used for a scholarly purpose with such murky origins.

        • Tyto

          In theory, yes. But witness how the Getty turned its questionable (and probably illegal) acquisition of the Kouros into an interpretive question of determining provenance and authenticity.

    • kaydenpat

      Perhaps re-sell that at a huge profit.

    • CP

      Same as ISIS: a combination of ideological control and profit. They keep as much archaeology as they can locked away in order to deny it to people who might otherwise study without the right, ahem, mentality, lest they get any crazy ideas that aren’t properly in line with the God-botherers. And because these people are as corrupt as can be, they will probably also resell a good amount of that to private collectors, and/or collect it themselves.

    • This is all very hilarious, but what was Hobby Lobby’s end game?

      You don’t need an end game in the End Times, if Jesus is your quarterback! (Offer does not apply to Tim Tebow.)

  • Resistance Fighter Astraea

    The important thing is that they know ISIS won’t be using any of that money for birth control.

  • LeeEsq

    Knowing ISIS post behavior, isn’t there a good chance that ISIS would have destroyed the artifacts if they didn’t illegally sell them? They aren’t known for their respect for the past or anything they consider non-Muslim.

    • ISIL knows they need money to fund their desired Caliphate. So they destroy big pieces up the price of small, easily movable pieces.

    • CP

      That’s frankly the only silver lining to jihadist hypocrisy: everything they sell is something that isn’t destroyed and that could at least eventually make its way into the right hands.

      • wjts

        I’m not disagreeing, exactly, but without context/provenance information, even the right hands can’t do a whole lot with them.

        • CP

          Yeah, definitely true. It’s why I said “the only silver lining” and not “the only good thing.” They can’t do a whole lot with them, but it’s still more than they could do if they were destroyed.

          • wjts

            Yeah, fair enough.

  • rm

    As a Christian, I thought the Antichrist would be some menacing tyrant, not a craft store.

    Just kidding. It’s a total misreading to think there will be a guy called “the Antichrist”; instead “antichrist” is an adjective that refers to people like the Greens. Full of self-righteousness and extremely evil.

    Yeah, they want archeological decorations for a museum in D.C. that will claim the Bible is the basis of our Christian nation. When they establish Gilead, the other museums will be torn down.

    • Hogan

      “antichrist” is an adjective that refers to people like the Greens. Full of self-righteousness and extremely evil.

      Hey, I don’t like Jill Stein either, but this seems over the top.

      What?

      • reattmore

        The Green Party in the US exists largely to throw close elections to the right.

        • Just a Rube

          Hobby Lobby is owned by David Green and his family.

    • bassopotamus

      I thought the antichrist was Johnny Rotten

      • Hogan

        Antichrist in the UK

      • tsam100

        He gives a wrong time, stops a traffic line–SATAN HIMSELF.

      • fearandloathing

        If there are multiples Jesuses (Jesi?), there can be multiple anti-Christs. And they will all meet on the field of Megiddo one day for a Super Soaker battle royale that ends the world.

    • CP

      It’s probably a testament to my having read too much Narnia as a kid, but I always kind of pictured the Antichrist as a person who would pretend to be Christ, or Christ-guided, in order to advance a more selfish and nefarious agenda.

      Needless to say, the religious right has supplied many, many people who remind me uncannily of Shift.

      • mds

        Imagine if he had been a talking orangutan.

        • Ook?

          • Pat

            Shout out for the Discworld reference!

            • LurkinLongmont

              It’s 666 all the way down!

        • CP

          If Pat Robertson sang “oo bee doo, I wanna be like you” as part of his Sunday sermon routine, I’d actually watch.

        • rm_rm_rm

          It’s weird that we have a talking orangutan, but he is incredibly unconvincing in pretending to be a Christian believer. Yet, the conservative christianists voted for him.

          • fearandloathing

            I think this is all part of there “we’re in a war” mentality that’s so typical of conservatives in general. In a war, extreme measures are justified. As well as making alliances that you would ordinarily shun. Of course, they even have a hard time justifying this to themselves or possibly don’t really believe their followers could swallow it, because you seldom hear them make this argument explicitly. At most, you will get little hints of it. Most of them insist on trying to pretend that Trump is some sort of sincere Christian.
            I think we’ve got to ask ourselves though, if that’s your mentality do you really believe that God’s in charge and the City of God v. City of Man and all that? Sounds to me like you are exclusively focused on things down here on Earth. It’s a rather rare thing to find a sincere fundamentalist who believes they can lose by not being pragmatic and flexible enough and making a deal with the devil is necessary for victory. Sincere fundamentalists tend to be convinced that the only way they can lose to the forces of darkness is if they lose their way.

  • kaydenpat

    In between ensuring that the women who work for your company don’t have access to contraception via your insurance plan, I guess you still have time to steal other country’s antiquities. Good to know. Christianists are great at multitasking.

  • I don’t really have anything relevant to say here (apart from a variant of what everyone else already said), but I want to thank you for your posts. I haven’t commented on most of them much, but I almost always learn something from them.

  • Looks to me like “new to this” is the go-to phrase of the Trump era. It covers all kinds of misdeeds, and once uttered, should provoke immediate forgiveness for any and all transgressions.
    Obstructing justice or intimidating witnesses? Hey, he’s new to this presidenting thing.
    Illegally importing ancient artifacts? Hey, we’re new to this “comply with the law” thing.

    • Bizarro Mike

      Let’s remember that Hobby Lobby is a closely held corporation, so the charges will have to be spread among the board and the officers, right?

      • More likely, some poor kid down in the mail room will take it in the chops for this. After all, the kid should have known better than to sign for crates of stolen artifacts. He’ll never learn responsibility or respect for the law if the good Christian owners of Hobby Lobby are not allowed to pin their misdeeds on him.

        • DAS

          “Jesus died for all of our sins. Id taking the blame for someone else’s sins was good enough for Jesus, taking the blame for my crime is good enough for you”

          • fearandloathing

            I was going to say that Jesus was without sin, but poor schmuck down in the mailroom is innocent of this particular crime at least so that ought to be close enough for hypocrite work.

        • twbb

          Nah, you don’t make a name for yourself by going after the little guys.

          • DAS

            Your Madisonian/Hamiltonian faith in ambition being made to challenge ambition is quaint.

            • twbb

              It’s based on my observation of the American criminal justice system on the federal level.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          I would love to know who, exactly, decided to write “Tile Samples” or whatever it was on the shipping crates.

      • MaxUtil

        In a closely held corp, religious beliefs are held close, legal liability is mysteriously held at arm’s length.

      • Drew

        “Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else . . . noticed?”

      • jdasf111

        What charges? They had to forfeit stuff.

    • Abigail Nussbaum

      Meanwhile, black children playing in the park get no margin of safety before a cop guns them down “in fear for his life”. And the solution to this, of course, is to train children on how to be properly subservient around trained, armed officers of the law.

      The older I get, the more obvious it becomes that the right’s bugbear about “personal responsibility” is really just a blind for how some people get infinite second chances, while other people can lose everything for stepping just a little bit out of line, or even doing nothing at all.

      • CP

        I can’t remember if it was you or somebody else who pointed out that the modern police mentality (both on camera and IRL) is that the world is divided between good people and criminals, and that the categorization has very little to do with who’s actually committing crimes.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        re “or even doing nothing at all”

        http://thefreethoughtproject.com/drug-whisperer-doesnt-need-drug-test-give-dui-just-knows/

        It has become little more than a naked abused of power anymore.

      • fearandloathing

        Personal responsibility is usually trotted out when it comes to spending government money on common good. So, one might be reasonably suspicious that it’s no more than a cover for “Waah!! Me want to keep me money!! Waah!!”

    • Yep, although “Sorry, I’m new to this armed robbery thing” would probably not sit well with a judge if you got caught robbing a 7/11.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        “It’s my first day!”

      • Linnaeus

        “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.”

    • CP

      Best comment I’ve read yet, on the topic of whether Hobby Lobby will face any real consequences for this:

      “We have top men working on it right now.”
      “Who?”
      “Top. Men.”

    • gratuitous

      And, once Steve Green opened up those boxes labeled “tile samples,” and saw that the contents were not tile samples, he sealed them right back up and returned to sender, right?

      Oh wait, he didn’t do that at all, did he? He had just plunked down $800 million for that new vanity project, and doggone if these artifacts didn’t fit right in with his vision! Obviously, it was God’s will or someone else’s fault, and really, who among us hasn’t fallen into such a serendipitous situation?

      The really bad news in all of this is how nicely it sets up the argument that wealthy folks with more money than they know what to do with really don’t need another tax cut. In fact, maybe they should kick in a little more for the support of the nation and the society that’s made them so fabulously wealthy that they can burn through money like this.

  • UnsaltedSinner

    It seems a bit of a stretch to consider Iraqi artifacts as “Biblical”. Not that I expect the owners of Hobby Lobby to know that.

    • Murietta

      A lot of people believe that the Garden of Eden was in modern-day Iraq. I’m sure these people justify their behavior by believing that they are rescuing early traces of God’s plan from the clutches of evil non-Christians.

    • Hogan

      Babylonian exile? Book of Daniel?

      • UnsaltedSinner

        But by that logic, Egyptian artifacts would also be Biblical.

        • Hogan

          There’s non-Biblical evidence for the Babylonian exile; for the bondage in Egypt, not so much.

          • Pat

            Most reports I’ve seen indicate that the Egyptians used beer to power teenagers to do a lot of the grunt work. They also organized them in teams and used competition to get them to work harder. There is evidence for Hebrews working on the pyramids, but they were skilled labor.

            • bender

              Generally agree, but the pyramids were already old when Rameses II came to power. The KJV-derived versions of Exodus says that Israelite slaves worked building “store cities”.

          • N__B

            bondage in Egypt

            What Marc and Cleo got up to was their business.

            • “Kiss my asp!”

            • Hogan

              “Remember, the safe word is ‘ibis facing left/king on throne.'”

          • UnsaltedSinner

            But is there any reason to think the Iraqi artifacts Hobby Lobby acquired were made by Jews in exile?

            • Hogan

              I take “Biblical” to mean “referenced in the Bible,” not just “Jewish only.” Otherwise they’d be called Jewish or Hebrew artifacts.

            • rm_rm_rm

              There is a mildly offensive joke about lawyers and paperwork here, but I don’t think we should go there.

    • njorl

      People who want to believe need only the barest of “proof”. Just lay out the artifacts in a nice display and claim they support the Great Flood or the Garden of Eden.

      • fearandloathing

        It’s recently occurred to me that a true die hard fideist might even look on Biblical archeology as somewhat suspect. If you believe the Bible is the word of God and should be believed, why are you running around looking for 5,000 year old artifacts to shore up your belief? Isn’t this something of a tacit admission, that sound archaelogical practice in accordance with scientific principles is our best guide to historical knowledge, not just “Read the Bible. It’s the Word of God.” Is the faith of the folks over at Hobby Lobby waning?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Western Iraq? Egypt? Close enough to Holy Land for government work. Have you heard the Mormom twist on things?!

  • tsam100

    It’s worth pointing out that the Catholic Church was very interested in relics and the like, making them very susceptible to being scammed over the years. Now I’m not saying someone should sell trinkets to a couple of evangelical morons and link them to the fairy tales in their favorite book, but, wait-yes I am. Soak them for every penny you can get off em.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Next up on the Vatican shopping list:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-40428976

    • fearandloathing

      I’m not well versed in Catholic theology but my understanding is that at one time that sort of thing sort of had a place within it were it fit (even if it was filled mostly by scam artists. When I say mostly filled by scam artists, I’m leaving open the possibility that someone could genuinely believe they have the finger of St. Whoever and sell it to another person, and they would both be wrong, but it not be willful deception on the part of the seller). Supposedly Protestantist theology (as far as I understand in it, not a minister or an expert in theology) in any of it’s variants doesn’t have a place for sacred objects, veneration of them etc. It seems like Protestant fundamentalists however are mostly interested in this stuff because they desire the authority of science to try and back up their claims. There’s a weird relationship between modern evangelicals and science sort of like a dysfunctional obsessive spurned former lover. One minute Evangelicalism is bad mouthing Science as rotten, evil, all a big hoax, then someone mentions that they heard from a friend of a friend that Science might have said something nice about them (probably overheard wrong) and Evangelicalism starts jumping up and down “Really? Science really loves me? Maybe she wants to get back together? Where is she living now? I hope she hasn’t changed a bit. She was perfect just the way she was.”

  • MariedeGournay

    Everything about this story just makes me sick.

  • diogenes

    With these guys, it’s always about the Sex and the Money.

    Back in the day, out of 52 Sunday morning sermons per year, you could expect 45 of them to be instructions about S and M…

    • CP

      With these guys, it’s always about the Sex and the Money.

      I think the single least surprising event from the night Bin Laden died was when the sailors who’d done the raid revealed that he had stacks and stacks of porn in his hideout.

      • diogenes

        A near one-to-one correspondence between the harder they preach against it, the more they are into it.

      • fearandloathing

        Speaking of Bin Laden, as far as I know the SEAL team members involved haven’t tried to cash in on the Bin Laden raid. There’s been a book published but I wouldn’t describe that as cashing in, in the pejorative sense I mean it. There’s the issue of classified info of course. But you could easily work around that simply by making everything you say or do complete BS. This is the last taboo in our society that hasn’t been crossed when it comes to exploiting fame or notoriety for every crude entertainment or branding purposes to make money. Imagine the zillions that could be made taking a Wild West style show to the heartland, except depicting the Bin Laden raid etc. Very crude stereotypical stuff like wrestling. I sometimes wish these folks would do that just so someone could criticize them for lack of class and dignity and they could just say “Come on, look at that buffoon you people put in the White House, and you want to criticize me for milking the most famous military raid in history for every single buck I can get? Get real. This is the America we have become.”

        Of course, I dunno, it could be that it’s anything as quaint as military honor isn’t what’s holding folks back. There may be ethics rule that prohibit former service members from exploiting their prior service in any way that might reflect badly on the image of the military. As we are constantly reminded, ethics laws (or at least a particular subset of them) don’t apply to the President.

  • CP

    So, to summarize: Muslim fundamentalists, who claim that it’s important to destroy heretical artifacts, have in fact been proliferating them. Christian fundamentalists, who claim that it’s important to fight Radical Islam (or whatever the buzzword is this week), have in fact been financing it.

    Isn’t it nice to know that, no matter who we are, no matter what we believe, and no matter how deep our differences, our high priests will always maintain enough common ground to get together and share a sacrifice to the one god we all serve: money.

    • diogenes

      Yep – we renamed Mammon “Free Markets”

      Meet the new god, same as the old god…

    • fearandloathing

      In neither Heaven nor Hell is there commerce for there is no need for exchange. Until then, I’ll give you $5,000 for that vase.

      Just occurred to me, these jihadis aren’t too savvy about modern business. If they were they would have 1) issued customer loyalty cards for purposes of data mining and encouraging return business 2) offered to finance the deal at 0% interest for 60 months (but if you miss a payment 29.99% APR all the way back to date of original purchase, then throw in a few landmines to make sure they miss a payment 3) offer various insurance/extended warranties on the product for extra, all of which turn out to have so many loopholes to be worthless. Then again, these people don’t have to answer to shareholders so they can afford to be lackadaisical when it comes to maximizing shareholder value.

  • N__B

    Did any of the Greens have their faces melt while looking at the artifacts?

    AFAF.

  • NeonTrotsky

    How christian of them.

  • Breadbaker

    I’m reminded of the episode of The Black Adder where Baldrick (who is nowhere near as dumb as in later series) goes into the artifact business when Edmund becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.

    • You brought up British TV so you are now my favorite commenter.

    • fearandloathing

      Merchant: “I have here the left ring finger of St. Bartholomew for sale at the very reasonable price of 5,000 pounds.”
      Customer: “Bah!! I’ve seen three merchants here today offering the left ring finger of St. Bartholomew.”
      Merchant: “Yes! But mine is in mint condition!! You would hardly believe that it’s 1,700 years old!!”

  • AlanInSF

    Remember, these are people fanatically obsessed with doing the right thing and following biblical injunctions in their most extreme interpretation. We cannot question their sincerity.

  • Facebones

    Their religious faith is so strong it compels them to both steal relics and deny sluts birth control. Truly the path of the righteous

    • Pat

      You forgot denying medical care to the poor! On the Mount, Jesus specifically said that healing the sick was not on the agenda!

  • Joe Paulson

    To be fair, they did resist the greater evil of providing health insurance to their employees that might (along with other parts of their compensation for working) go to IUDs.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      So it’s possible that the money they saved not providing IUDs may have gone to funding IEDs?

  • TheBrett

    Christ, what a loss for our understanding of ancient history. Even when the artifacts do end up in good hands again, they’ve been ripped out of whatever area they came from – you have no context in which to place many of them.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Aw, give them a break. Who among us hasn’t done this? Why, Amazon offers “send to multiple addresses with false labeling” as one of their shipping options.

  • Owlbear1

    Forfeiture of the artifacts and a $3 million dollar fine.

    Another victim of “DEEP STATE“.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      WAR ON CHRISTIANITY! WAAH!!!

  • Daglock

    I’m waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided a corporation (Hobby Lobby) can be a “Christian” person, to decide that Jeebus died to forgive Hobby Lobby’s sins. Justice Gorsuch?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I’m not fully up on all of the details of the case, but the way I keep hearing about it, it’s discussed as if the the corporation had taken up the hobby of artifact collection. So first we’re forced to humor these jerks and pretend that their coporation has a soul and deeply held religious convictions that it just cannot defy, and now we’re supposed to accept that the corporation itself has a hobby?

      BTW, if the corporation has a soul that we secular types can’t be allowed to send to hell via our mandates, is there a seperate heaven for corporations? Does a dead corporation meet all of its unsuccessful spinfoffs when it gets up there?

  • GeorgeNYC

    Why are these people not in jail. Despite the “we’re such rookies” nonsense they clearly knew what they were doing was wrong? These must be criminal offenses. It is not like they forgot to declare all the booze they bought on their trip to the Bahamas. We are talking thousands of objects which involved lots of transactions.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      See also, the 90% of the episodes of “Locked Up Abroad” that feature the tales of hapless dopes carrying a bag for a new friend, or engaging in their first amateur mule job.

  • mirele

    Someone mentioned that Green has only been amassing this collection for a fairly short time (the filing indicated since 2009). I believe we’re going to find out that a lot of the stuff Green bought is not looted, but outright forgeries sold to people who were too interested in buying stuff that supported their world view. I went to the Museum of the Bible website and looked at some of the things they listed as standouts of their collection. Here are a few items that just pinged my radar:

    * An undocumented copy of Wycliffe’s New Testament in Middle English
    * An undocumented large fragment of the Tyndale New Testament, apparently published while William Tyndale awaited execution

    Also, there’s this:

    * The second-largest private collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, the earliest-surviving texts of the Bible, all of which are currently undergoing research and will be published for the first time through the Museum of the Bible Scholars Initiative

    (Found here: https://www.museumofthebible.org/museum-of-the-bible-collection)

    All of these scream FORGERY to me. “Undocumented” and “just now being published” do not make me feel good.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I was thinking the same thing, but from the other end of the pipeline: I don’t think ISIS feels they’re sinning if they scam infidels for money. I really can’t imagine them carefully picking through archaeological digs. The better use of manpower is to just set up a workshop and start cranking out forgeries. All of the original geologic materials are still right there in the region.

      (And remember proper Creatoinist fundies this carbon dating is a big, secularist fake science scam, so they probably wouldn’t even think of checking anything they buy that way.)

      So, in conclusion, the artifacts are crap, and the cash in ISIS’s hands is real.

  • Tehanu

    So these billionaire God-botherers couldn’t be bothered to hire good lawyers when they were acquiring the stuff, or to listen to the lawyers they had … but now I bet they have really expensive lawyers helping them weasel out. Funny how that works.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I blame the Christian rock music.

  • fearandloathing

    All of this from the people who are extremely worried that some of their dollars might pay for insurance that might help people do naughty stuff (in their view). I think we see now how incredibly sensitive their consciences are to the mere possibility that they might be indirectly funding anything they disapprove of.

  • fearandloathing

    If not for the pesky fact that show business is a business and nobody watched the first one, we would now have the plot outline for Don Verdean II. “We’re going to build our own Holy Land here in the good ole USA–where it should be, not over there.”