Thousands of biblical texts and artifacts are on display at the Museum of the Bible, scheduled for its public debut on Friday. But its conservative Christian founder is dogged by questions about how the museum got some of its ancient artifacts. Jillian Kitchener reports.
The Holy Bible is on display along with high-tech exhibits in a 430,000-square-foot building in Washington, DC. THIS is the Museum of the Bible, which opens to the public on November 17. It's got stained glass windows, biblical art, fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls… and an exhibit showcasing the Bible's influence in the modern world. The museum was founded by Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green. Green and Hobby lobby have in the past staked out political positions popular with conservative evangelicals. But Green says the museum is not JUST for Christians: (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVE GREEN, CEO OF HOBBY LOBBY AND MUSEUM BOARD CHAIR, SAYING: "Even if you're an atheist, we want you to feel comfortable coming in here realizing that we're not pushing our agenda, our faith." Still, the Bible museum comes with controversy. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of illegally smuggled ancient Middle Eastern treasures. INCLUDING some 5,500 artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby that originated from Iraq, shipped into the U.S. under false labels. The Justice Department says the arts and crafts company paid $3 million to settle the civil charges. Hobby Lobby said they made mistakes in relying on dealers and shippers who quote, "did not understand the correct way to document and ship" them. Green says he wants to be transparent about the items currently on display. (SOUNDBITE) (English) STEVE GREEN, CEO OF HOBBY LOBBY AND MUSEUM BOARD CHAIR, SAYING: "We are engaging leading scholars ourselves, and they are doing research. If there is something that's not what it claims to be, we want to know about it, and we'll share if we find that out." Some scholars believe forgeries could still be here - among the vast collection just a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.