The controversial Museum of the Bible, a project spearheaded by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, is scheduled open in Washington, D.C. in 2017, and is seen as a threat by an atheist group that claims the intent of the museum is not to educate tourists, but to "influence Congress."
News of the museum's pending construction came not long after Hobby Lobby won a religious freedom case before the United States Supreme Court. The court ruled in June that Hobby Lobby could be exempted from providing four birth control methods that can lead to the early termination of a pregnancy.
Since the announcement of the project, the Museum of the Bible has generated negative responses from secular groups, including the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
"I think they (the Green family) are a great threat," Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, told The New York Times, when she was asked to comment on the Green family's plans for a 430,000-square-foot-Bible museum. "My instincts would tell me that they are choosing Washington, D.C. because they intend to influence Congress."
Cary Summers, chief operating officer of Museum of the Bible, told The Christian Post that the planned location, the Washington Design Center in Southwest Washington, was selected in large part because the nation's capital is "the museum capital of the world. Because the city is known as a destination for world-class museums, studies conducted by the museum team found that Museum of the Bible would be best attended in D.C. as opposed to other cities," such as New York City or Dallas.
The building — originally constructed in the 1920s as a refrigeration warehouse — "will be restored, adapted and enhanced," to accommodate an "eight-story world-class museum" that will include "high-tech exhibits, immersive settings and interactive experiences," Summers explained.
The museum is not the only effort the Green family has undertaken to advance knowledge of the Bible.
The Green Scholars Initiative has developed an elective Bible course for public schools, which at least one Oklahoma school district is expected to implement. The curricular efforts have also been criticized by multiple church-state watchdog groups that believe the course will lead to unconstitutional proselytizing by public school officials.
According to the museum fact sheet, once completed the Museum of the Bible will include eight floors and a basement that will house more than 500 biblical texts and artifacts; one rooftop biblical garden; permanent exhibits on the history, impact and narrative of the Bible; libraries and museum galleries; and will be open to 60 seminaries and universities worldwide whose students will be conducting research on the Green family's collection.
Architectural plans for the Museum of the Bible are being led by Smith Group JJR, "the architectural firm that designed the International Spy Museum, the White House Visitor Center, Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the African-American History and Culture," Summers added.
The Museum of the Bible's traveling exhibits have been featured throughout the world since 2011. According to the museum's website, "As of 2014, traveling exhibits have visited five U.S. cities and four other countries."