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PCJF Sues Hobby Lobby-affiliated Museum of the Bible for Race Discrimination, Visitor Profiling

Civil Rights lawsuit filed against the Museum of the Bible after egregious racial profiling, illegal detention and interrogation, and false reporting to the FBI

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has filed a civil rights lawsuit charging the Museum of the Bible, Inc., funded and chaired by Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green, with racially profiling a visitor, illegally seizing, detaining, imprisoning and interrogating him, and then, after releasing him, days or weeks later filing a baseless and false report with the FBI that the visitor was a potential terrorist. The Museum and its staff targeted the plaintiff, a Coptic Christian who was peacefully visiting the Museum and waiting for a friend to arrive before meeting up with a church group, because he has a brown complexion and a beard.

The plaintiff, Romany Melek Hetta, received asylum in the United States having fled threats and persecution in Egypt due to his Christian faith. “Mr. Hetta’s visit to the Bible Museum turned into a Kafkaesque ordeal of humiliation, detention, interrogation and ultimately an FBI counter-terrorism investigation caused by the Museum’s false reporting and racist actions,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, lawyer for Mr. Hetta and executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Mr. Hetta now lives in fear for his safety and asylum status in the United States. He has decided to come forward publicly with his account to stand up for the rights that drew him to the United States and to shine a light on the outrageous conduct of the Museum.

“Equality and the law demand that all persons visiting places of public accommodation are entitled to equal terms and conditions as other invitees. Subjecting a visitor to this abuse and deprivation of rights, simply because that visitor is a person of color is a violation that cannot be tolerated. Without remedy, the Museum poses a danger to other visitors who might be similarly targeted,” stated Verheyden-Hilliard.

“The Museum’s conduct in this case begs the question: would the Museum of the Bible have racially profiled Jesus?” Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard added.

The litigation charges the Museum with violations of federal civil rights laws, the Constitution, and with violations of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, as well as other laws. The lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.