Hobby Lobby is returning $1.6 million in artifacts that may have been looted from historical sites in Iraq.
The family-owned corporation, which has been trying to collect and preserve biblical artifacts from the Middle East, received packages holding ancient cuneiform tablets that were marked as tile samples, according to federal prosecutors.
More than 5,500 artifacts were purchased for $1.6 million in December 2010, the New York Times reported. Hobby Lobby has agreed to forfeit the artifacts along with $3 million to resolve the civil suit.
On Thursday’s “Pat & Stu,” Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere dissected the unusual story.
Stu explained why the process was illegal; the artifacts were obtained through less than legal means by Hobby Lobby’s dealer and were smuggled into the country marked as tile samples. The Justice Department will ultimately determine what happens to the artifacts. Artifacts’ owners have 60 days to submit claims, after which the Iraqi government can submit a claim to try to retrieve them.
Hobby Lobby was “new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process,” president Steve Green said in a statement, saying that “regrettable mistakes” were made while obtaining the artifacts.
Hobby Lobby was the arts and crafts supply chain that famously brought a religious freedom case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that businesses did not have to purchase contraception for employees if the Obamacare provision conflicted with their closely held religious beliefs.