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An architectural rendering of a proposed Bible museum to be built near the National Mall by Hobby Lobby’s owners.

Handout via New York Times,

Hobby Lobby's owners plan to build Bible museum in Washington D.C.

  • Article by: Alan Rappeport
  • New York Times
  • July 16, 2014 - 7:53 PM

– The evangelical Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, the chain of craft stores, made history two weeks ago when the Supreme Court overturned the Obama administration’s mandate that family-owned companies must provide contraceptive coverage to workers.

Now the family is looking to build a permanent presence on the Washington landscape, by establishing a sprawling museum dedicated to the Bible — just two blocks south of the National Mall.

The development of a Bible museum has long been a dream of the Oklahoma-based Green family, which has built Hobby Lobby into a $3 billion company in which its Christian beliefs infuse every aspect of the business, from the music played in its stores to being closed on Sundays.

But on the heels of the company’s legal victory, the project is raising concern in some quarters that the Greens’ museum could blur the line between educating and evangelizing. Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and the founder’s son, has referred to the Bible as “a reliable historical document,” and, as part of the project, he is developing a curriculum to “reintroduce this book to this nation.”

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught,” Green said in a speech last year. “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.”

Such sentiments have stirred fears about the museum among groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes separation between church and state. “I think they are a great threat,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, a co-president of the group, which is based in Madison, Wis. “My instincts would tell me that they are choosing Washington, D.C., because they intend to influence Congress.”

Scheduled to open in 2017, the yet-to-be-named museum would welcome people of all faiths and include rare Torahs as well as historic Bibles.

Starting the Bible museum in the nation’s capital was no accident. After surveying cities, including Dallas and New York, for more than a year, the Museum of the Bible, the Green family’s nonprofit organization that is overseeing the project, chose Washington for its tourists, robust museum culture and national profile.

The museum, which will occupy half a block in southwest Washington, will sit in the shadow of some of the capital’s most prominent institutions, including the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It will replace the Washington Design Center, a structure that was originally built as a refrigerating warehouse in the 1920s.

© 2014 Star Tribune