By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN)– Craft store giant Hobby Lobby is bracing for a $1.3 million a day fine beginning January 1 for noncompliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.
The company opposes providing some contraceptives to employees through its company health care plan on religious grounds, saying some contraceptive products, like the morning after pill, equate to abortion.
After failing to receive temporary relief from the fines from the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby announced late Thursday through its attorneys that it "will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."
In September, Hobby Lobby and affiliate Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, sued the federal government for violating their owners' religious freedom and ability to freely exercise their religion.
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"All they're asking for is a narrow exemption from the law that says they don't have to provide drugs they believe cause abortions," Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan, a general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNN affiliate KFOR in November. "Our basic point is the government can't put a corporation in the position of choosing between its faith and following the law."
The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion inducing drugs. As of August 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employer-provided health care plans to provide "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation and a narrow exemption was added for nonprofit religious employers whose employees "primarily share its religious tenets" and who "primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets."
In the face of that opposition, the Department of Health and Human Services tweaked its original rule in February to require health insurers, not employers, to cover the cost of contraception coverage, reasoning that would prevent religious groups from having to finance such coverage. Critics have argued that exemption for nonprofits is far too narrow and a host of nonprofit religious groups have sued the administration over the regulations.
The Internal Revenue Service regulations now say that a group health care plan that "fails to comply" with the Affordable Care Act is subject to an "excise tax" of "$100 per day per individual for each day the plan does not comply with the requirement." It remains unclear how the IRS would implement and collect the excise tax.
The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, based Hobby Lobby chain has more than 500 stores that employ 13,000 employees across 42 states, and takes in $2.6 billion in sales. The company's attorneys say January begins a new health care plan year for Hobby Lobby and that excise tax from the IRS would amount to $1.3 million a day.
Hobby Lobby is owned by CEO and founder David Green and members of his family. "The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles," a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, adding that one outgrowth of that is the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest. Each year the company also takes out full-page ads in numerous newspapers proclaiming its faith at Christmastime and on Independence Day.
The store is not formally connected to any denomination, but the Green family supports numerous Christian ministries and is behind the Green Collection, one of the largest private collections of biblical antiquities in the world. The family plans to permanently house the collection in Washington at a museum set to open in 2016.
On Friday, attorneys for Hobby Lobby petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene and provide temporary relief from the the fines until the case was decided by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
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Wednesday evening, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals from the 10th Circuit Court, said the company failed to meet "the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief," and that it could continue to pursue its challenge in lower courts and return to the higher court, if necessary, after a final judgment.
"Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the 10th Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time," Duncan said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the high court's move.
White House officials have long said they believe they have struck an appropriate compromise between religious exemptions and women's health. The White House has not commented specifically on the Hobby Lobby case.
"It's just so sad that Hobby Lobby is facing this choice. What company, even a successful family owned business like Hobby Lobby, how can they afford the government $1.3 million in fines every day? It's just really absurd that government is not giving on this," said Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association. Religious liberty groups like hers are watching the Hobby Lobby case closely.
"I am optimistic that these cases will eventually snake their way back up to the Supreme Court and given a full hearing on the merits of the case, I am confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of religious liberty," Ferguson said. "But in the meantime there is serious damage being done to businesses like Hobby Lobby and nonprofit charitable organizations."
The Hobby Lobby case is just one of many before the courts over the religious exemption aspects of the law. The case represents by far the biggest for-profit group challenging the health care mandate.
After this piece of the law went into effect in August, religious nonprofits were given "safe harbor" of one year from implementing the law. "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said in January when the administration announced the move.
Dolan's New York Archdiocese won a victory this month in its legal battle against the administration and the mandate. In May it sued the government in federal court in Brooklyn over the mandate, saying it "unconstitutionally attempts to define the nature of the church's religious ministry and would force religious employers to violate their consciences."
The government moved to have the case dismissed. On December 4, Judge Brian M. Cogan denied the government's motion to dismiss the case, saying the government's promise of changes to how it will implement the law were not enough to merit dismissal. "There is no, 'Trust us, changes are coming' clause in the Constitution," Cogan wrote in in his decision to let the case proceed.
UPDATE: Hobby Lobby's $1.3 million Obamacare loophole
Companies should not be forced to pay for abortions...sorry but seems like a fair ethical disagreement to me.
that's cr@p. companies are forced to provide medical insurance coverage - the patient makes up her mind what she wants to do with her own body. to say companies should be able to decide what medical care an employee receives is ridiculous. how would you feel if you were a janitor at the company, didn't share their religious values and found out your son needed a blood transfusion - but the company is jehovah's witness? can't get a blood transfusion by their religious standards. still seem fair?
That would be right but the morning after pill isn't abortion and they don't cover regular "abortions" so it's all bible thumpin' nonsense from a company putting it's nose where it don't belong.
If the morning after pill isn't an abortion pill then why take it? To prevent getting pregnant? If so, then yes it is an abortion pill. If you weren't going to get pregnant then you don't need a morning after pill.
Wendy – Are birth control pills akin to abortion? What about just having a period? Is that an abortion?
@Dino, I think you need a biology course before you can post. A period is an abortion? OMG you are an idiot. Do I really have to tell you what an abortion is? Abortion is the aborting of a child that has been conceived. Therefore, the egg has been fertilized. A period is the release of an egg that was not fertilized. A woman's period is not an abortion because the egg was never fertilized.
Contraception is not "abortion". And birth control pills have important medical applications outside of contraception. Hormone regulation, regulation of pre-cancerous cells, etc.
DINO -> Yes, some religions view birth control pills tantamount to "abortion." It prevents life by blocking natural conception.
But are you seriously questioning whether "having your period" is the same as having an abortion?? If you haven't had health class yet, then you are too young to be posting here.
@Wendy and Oh Ye Of Little Faith: You obviously missed the point. He was taking your position to its illogical conclusion, albeit not completely right. You could argue, for example, a failure of any particular fertilized ovum to result in a successful pregnancy is "God's will." Of course, God exercises that will a lot: Many fertilized ova (most?) don't result in successful pregnancy.
Mark – you are being as IGNORANT about the law as David Green is !!!
There is NO provision in "Obamacare" to force companies to provide insurance coverage that covers abortion – OR – "drugs" that induce abortion !!!
You and HE should read the law !!!
David Green is so fullof caca on this it's unbelievable he's still ranting and raving about this after the election. He makes a FALSE CHARGE against "Obamacare". Nothing of what he alleges IS IN THAT LAW!!!!!
Ok, so how often do these women need the morning after pill? so often it is becoming a financial strain? how expensive could it possibly be? couldnt a little self control and preventative measures (condoms, bc pills) cover the need?
Wendy, you're the one who needs a biology class. Fertilized eggs are flushed out of the body all the time when a woman has her period.
I didn't know anyone was still unaware of that.
For the record, I have not posted anything on this blog in two days and it looks like I need to change my name.
Corporations do not have faith. Faith is an individual's right to exercise as he or she sees fit and the employees can opt not to use the benefit.
THANK YOU! I'm so tired of companies being treated like they are indivuals with the same rights as we do.
If they want to be people then if they are found to be involved in crimes the corporation itself should be put in jail. They should then be used to generate things for the state. Much like individual criminals and prison work programs.
A man found to poison the water of his neighbors would be arrested and put in jail – regardless of how much fine he is forced to pay. Corporations should be treated the same... if "they are people" too.
Okay, hobby Lobby now joins my list of boycotts...chick-filet and Walmart!
Don't forget Papa John's and walmart.
Well, you have to admire that even with such a steep fine...they are standing by their principles. Don't know a lot of ppl or companies that would sacrifice profits for ideals.
No, I don't have to admire it, and I won't; It's stupid, and I don't admire stupidity.
So you rather admire it when people cave in on their beliefs? Ok..says a lot about certain people.
Yet they seem quite happy to profit off of stuff made in China, a country that has for years had a policy of forced abortions....
Are they buying from the nation of China or a company in China?
a COMPANY or CORPORATION is NOT a PERSON, and is not Subject to the same LAWS or Privileges or Rights as an Individual taxpayer. Hobby Lobby is Not a church, it's not a tax-free or Non-Profit organization either. I know another Corporation that is closed on sunday and run by a fervently religious CEO; Chick-fil-A....Are they citing "religious biased' for excluding it?
The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise...
When a corporation has to register for Selective Service and can be subjected to the draft, then I might be willing to concede the point. Until then, corporations absolutely are not "people" and the SCOTUS needs to revisit this nonsense.
So are you saying that women are not people? Since they do not have to register for selective service.
One major problem here and I do not agree with Hobby Lobby but can support their position. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations are protected under the 1st Amendment for campaign contributions (ie free speech) and are the same as individuals under the law. If protected as such and considered equal under the law, then corporations are also protected as individuals for religious freedom under the 1st Amendment. You can't split hairs. Corporations are either protected under the 1st Amendment or not, you can not pick and choose. The Supreme Court made a mistake the first time around and good and expensive lawyers can make this case based on the prior ruling.
But this case is not under the same issue as Free Speech for Campaign Contributions. Hobby Lobby is citing that they have as much right, based on their Owners Religious Beliefs, as a Church, or a tax exempt, non-profit organization. They do not. Freedom of Religion is not quantified equally with Freedom of Speech. They are two separate ideas entirely, and though I do shop at their store, it would make me feel worse knowing that their employees are not afforded the same freedom as I am by an Employer.
The SCOTUS justices who made that ruling clearly forgot their medication that day because that was one of the nuttiest rulings by that body in its history.
What a pile of nonsense. Denying someone care mandated by law is NOT speech.
I hope Hobby Lobby bankrupts themselves being stupid.
It is highly unlikely that will happen. Chances are they will get more business from all the press they get.
Let's face it....if a person is buying from them already, the vast majority will not suddenly stop buying from them because of this. But there are those that will buy from them now because of seeing them in the news.
$1.3 a day in new revenue will be hard to come buy. If they keep it going long enough it will happen.
I hope they do as well so we can add another 13,000 to the unemployment line and blame it on obamacare. There has already been thousands layed off because of obamacare and there will be more coming.
By what companies? You talking about companies like Papa John's who would rather have screwed his employees all over the nation rather than raise pizza prices by 5 cents in order to keep his current profit margin and cover all his employees, but he gets his 6-7 figure salary and that's completely necessary to keep the company running.
@Wendy: You can blame "Obamacare" all you want, but the reality is that most such job losses are or will be the result of greedy right-wingers who are tryig to blame their greed on the despised Obama.
And what are these layoffs that have occurred anyway? These provisions haven't even gone into effect.
@Wendy, I don't understand why republicans and especially religious ones, are so darn mean? I don't think Jesus was mean, spiteful or hateful ...where did it all go so wrong?
@hawaiiguest- I bet that they won't have to pay a dime of that fine. Either by caving in to the law or getting it back later through a change in the law.
I don't think much of your store anyway, but I'll make sure I never go back in there after seeing this.
Typical Liberal intolerance of beliefs that are different than theirs.
Actually Jason it's standing by principles and choosing where to spend our dollars, just like Hobby Lobby has the right to stand by its principles so to do we have the right to stand by yours and the only one showing intolerance here is YOU.
So how is it not intolerance Jason when a corporation's owners want to foist their personal beliefs on all of their employees?
Yeah, because conservatives are happy to do business with establishments when they disagree, but liberals are not.
I suppose if you lived in a conservative area, as I do, you would realize this runs both directions. I'm not sure that it shouldn't, either.
So, Snark, are you saying that conservatives value money more than principles?
It should be noted in the story that 'the morning after pill' does not induce or terminate an abortion. The pill prevent fertilization from taking place if it hasn't already happened. This is a common misconception by the general public and should be noted in the story itself.
Correction to my statement above, the pill does not INDUCE AND ABORTIO, nor does it TERMINATE A PREGNANCY. If the woman is already pregnant, the pill will not work.
*abortion (I hate misspelling words!)
You forgot one thing. Yes the morning after pills due prevent and delay ovulation and interfere with egg fertiliztion, stopping the process and preventing the pregnancy. But, there is also a possiblity that the drug alters the uterus lining and prevents a fertalized egg from implanting (at which point the body terminates the egg). THAT is the key contention with these pills. Not that they are RU-486 the abortion pill. But that they might stop a fertalized egg (life to those of faith) from implanting (thus death and termination of a soul). Now I know this is still being study and evidence is not conclusive as to if this happens or not. But that possibility is enough for them to oppose the morning after pills.
Ken, they are well within their rights to oppose the use of RU-486 or any other method of birth control they like but only for themselves; NOT for their employees who may or may not agree with their position. They do not get to make those moral decisions for their employees. They don't get to discriminate against women who disagree with them.
@ken...Actually this is incorrect. Originally researchers were not sure whether the morning after pill interfered with pregnancy by preventing a fertilized embryo from joining to the uterine wall, but this theory (foisted upon the public by crackpot pro-lifers) has been debunked by science. Research has shown, conclusively, that the morning after pill works by preventing ovulation, so no fertilized embryo is present.
Religion is personal. There are no 'religious employers'. They don't need an exemption. They need to stop pushing their beliefs onto others.
Yet there is no harm in pushing others' beliefs on them. Did you major in screwy logic?
Tom, I doubt you only ever work for employers who are the same as you – same race, same religion, same beliefs, etc.
A government [shoving down the throats] of the people, [refusing to hear the complaints] by the people, and [would do more of the same if it was not] for the people.
Did you protest the wars of choice that this country has engaged in? Some of the people didn't want them in 2003 and many have since come to agree with that position.
Wait... I thought you all wanted to protect children? Hmmm,.. so if they are Pro Life, does that make you Pro Death?
This place is a hobby store not a church. Granted, it's backed by religious whack-O's, but is not a church.
It's a pretty crappy hoppy store at that...
Once again the religious making tons of money not following the rules, this has to stop.
How is paying a $1.3 million fine making money?!?!?
And isn't paying the fine exactly following the rules???
It's not January 1, 2013 yet, they haven't paid a penny and they don't want to follow the rules that everyone else has to follow because of their religious beliefs.
I say too bad for their religious beliefs on this one, either play by the rules or pay-up at 1.3 million a day. You'll see how fast they will follow the rules on providing proper care.
I'm constantly amazed at how so-called liberals are so eager to coerce everyone to do what they want them to do.
I hope and pray that Hobby Lobby does not back down. It's about time that someone stood up for their beliefs and held firm. God Bless.
May they crash and burn...
Amen, David :)
You are so persecuted. I mean, you all don't have a place to go to say, do and act the way you want to with bigoted and hateful views as you earn untold millions for Jesus while avoiding taxes?
My favorite response from the tolerant and civil lefties.
I think Hobby Lobby probably pays taxes. This is akin to having say your local Lutheran church's bake sale ladies pay a portion of a lease on a building used for a new strip club.
Right or wrong, this organization likely sees ALL forms of contraception as immoral. Sure, its not right to force that belief on anyone, however it is also not right to force them to participate in something that is clearly in contrast to their morals.
Perhaps there needs to be a tiered system where organizations such as this pay an opt out fee, something that is meaningful but much more reasonable than 1.3 million a day.
Look around your house. Do you have things "Made in China"? If so, you're supporting forced abortions, so don't be a self righteous hypocrite. Stand up for your beliefs, but only if it's convenient?
Do their employees not have a right to their own beliefs which may include a belief that life does not start at conception as well as have the right to not have their employers' personal beliefs dictate what health decisions they can make. Jeez Shelley what if suddenly your employer decided to believe, based on his religion, that a woman's place was at home popping out kids and so decided to let you go because continuing to employ you strictly contradicts his personal religious beliefs.
Sorry Hobby Lobby. The first amendment protects your religious freedom, not your imposition of religion on your employees.
I hope this fine either corrects or breaks them.
Absolutely,positively, 100% correct! It's none of their damn business also. Christian fundamentalists – Stay the hell out of life!
Great point. Too bad no one will get it.
I didn't realized employees of said business were forced to work there... maybe that letter of forced labor camps from China actually originated from Hobby Lobby or Chik-fil-a?!
So it's a one-way street?
You got that right EPAB. Religious whacko's are the meddling morons.
Mike: frequently the only reason people work in places like Hobby Lobby is because its either the only employment available or its the only thing they're qualified for. It's not like those people have a lot of options, so, denying those employees their right to make choices for their own bodies and lives is just a double kick in the face. Get off your high and privileged horse and try thinking about exactly who and what you are commenting on.
Angie S....they could use some of that time making unwanted pregnancies by working a second job instead.
Scott...you can't read, can you...what part of "this is the only job available to these people" didn't you understand? You could save a lot of wasted time and message board space by looking up from cleaning your gun, occasionally, and actually reading and comprehending what you purport to be responding to beforehand.
Mike, Scott. Where do think the employer can draw the line – can they say we don't approve of hunting or sports so an injury incurred would not be covered, what about obesity. Can a company even have a religion?
You are not even worth debating. Enjoy your New World Order.
the logic of employees not being forced to work there is the same logic a republican had about why he didn't support the lilly ? act. He said the women aren't forced to work at a company that wouldn't pay them the same as a man for the same job.
How pathetic you are to hope the company breaks leaving people without jobs. The owner is mega rich and closing his doors would not sink him, it's the people beneath him that would pay. How would you like to be without a job? What a self absorbed world we live in.
Just curious how they would ever even know if their money went to the morning after pill. Aren't the employees medical records private?
Excellent point. They really don't care about the morning after pill, they just want to fight Obama.
Um, yes they want to fight Obama BECAUSE THEY DON'T AGREE WITH HIM ABOUT THE MORNING AFTER PILL!!!
I guess the question is if using contraceptives the day after a condom breaks to prevent pregnancy is an abortion or not. If it isn't, then it doesn't really matter what Hobby Lobby believes or doesn't believe. Many Christian Science believers say you shouldn't get medical attention when you're sick and if God wants you to die, you'll die. I don't want religion in my medicine cabinet.
No, the question is whether or not a large corporation, hospital or employer has the right to be a woman's conscience and make her choices and decisions for her. Companies like Hobby Lobby and the Catholic-run hospitals and such that are screaming about their religious rights are forgetting the fact that providing employment to people doesn't equate to some moral mandate to play God and give or deny those employees their right to a legal drug or procedure. It's not up to the employer, it's up to the WOMAN. Not their bodies, ours!
Obamacare should pay for my bullets too.
Sure, Scott...we'll pay for your bullets...after we create the Federal Gun Registry making information on your gun ownership publicly available, we match and register the ballistic signature of your weapon to your ownership and make you personally responsible for any and every criminal offense committed with your gun unless you legally transfer the license and registration to another legal and registered owner who has passed months worth of criminal and psychological background checks as well as a training and classification licensing program run by the Federal Government and provided by trained and licensed law enforcement officials...but I digress from the topic at hand...
Oh good idea. I will go along with that. As soon as we have a registry of everyone that has an abortion or takes morning after pills. Your body your choice? Fine.
My body my choice.
Here is what I dont get about either side...they make an argument for something, but then are completely unable to apply it to other scenarios.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.