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Hobby Lobby owners said to be cooperating with probe of importation of religious artifacts from Iraq

Customers shop at a Hobby Lobby store in Denver in 2013. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
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The owners of the arts-and-crafts mega-chain Hobby Lobby, which will open a major Bible museum in Washington in 2017, are cooperating with a federal investigation “related to certain biblical artifacts,” the company says.

The release of the company statement on Wednesday follows a report this week by the Daily Beast that investigators are looking into whether the owners improperly imported antiquities from Iraq.

The Daily Beast, citing an unnamed senior law enforcement source, reported that the Green family has been under federal investigation since 2011, when 200 to 300 small clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform — and ancient kind of writing — were intercepted by U.S. Customs agents en route from Israel to the Hobby Lobby headquarters in Oklahoma City.

The tablets, authorities told the news site, were intended for the museum, which is under construction at 300 D St. SW, two blocks from the Mall.

[Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington]

Hobby Lobby confirmed the investigation but refused to speak further.

“Hobby Lobby is cooperating with the investigation related to certain biblical artifacts,” the company’s statement said. “The Museum of the Bible is a separate not-for-profit entity made possible, in part, by the generous charitable contributions of the Green family.”

Steven Bickley, a spokesman for the museum, declined to comment.

The Green family has not spoken out personally about the investigation.

A spokesperson with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Washington Post that the agency routinely investigates such cases but cannot confirm or deny any investigation into the Greens, not to mention any details about the probe.

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Over the years, Hobby Lobby has grown from a single arts-and-crafts shop to a national enterprise, one rooted strongly, and publicly, in the Green family’s Christian faith. Since 1972, the chain has grown to more than 500 stores across the country.

It moved into the spotlight last year when it went up against the White House in a controversial Supreme Court case over whether employers were required to provide no-cost insurance coverage for all types of birth control to employees — even types that the family has a religious objection to — and won.

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