The family of evangelical Christians that owns the Hobby Lobby chain of crafts supply stores is planning a sprawling, $800 million “Bible museum” in the nation’s capital, just blocks away from the National Mall.
The New York Times reported that the Green family — flush from their victory before the U.S. Supreme Court — want to leave their mark not only on the nation’s laws, but on the capital city itself.
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that the company is within its rights to deny women employees insurance coverage for health costs related to contraception. The Green family pled before the Court that providing such coverage to women would violate the family’s freedom to practice the Christian faith as protected under the First Amendment.
Thusly the Court, currently led by Christian conservative Justice John Roberts, struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — which mandated that employers provide women with birth control coverage as part of their employee health plans.
The Green family has chosen the former Washington Design Center as the site for the museum, which is set to open in 2017. The company paid $50 million in 2012 for the 400,000-square-foot, eight-story building, located a block away from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Green family scion Steve Green, the current president of Hobby Lobby, said that the purpose of the museum, which will include artifacts related to the Christian and Jewish faiths, is to “reintroduce this book to the nation.”
The Bible, Green said, is “a reliable historical document” that deserves a more prominent role in American life.
“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught,” he said in a 2013 speech. “There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”
The proposed museum project has not yet been approved by the city of Washington. The Design Center is considered a historical landmark and an exemplar of the Renaissance Revival style of architecture.
The project is the apotheosis of the family’s Museum of the Bible foundation, a “501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to invite people to engage with the Bible through four primary activities: traveling exhibits of biblical artifacts from The Green Collection, academic research conducted through the Green Scholars Initiative, a yet-to-be-named international museum opening in 2017 in Washington, D.C., and an elective Bible curriculum for high school students.”
That Museum of the Bible high school program has been adopted by one Oklahoma school district, but the family hopes to extend its reach to school districts across the country, in spite of civil libertarians’ objections. The Oklahoma ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation say that the in-school program raises constitutional questions regarding the legality of evangelical proselytizing and recruitment on government property.
On Wednesday, Steve Green announced that “unforeseen delays” have necessitated a postponement of this fall’s introduction of the in-school Bible study program in Mustang County, Oklahoma.
[Burwell v. Hobby Lobby protesters via Flickr Creative Commons]