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December 27th, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare

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

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state

soundoff (5,627 Responses)
  1. Dave

    As a business owner I fail to see why it is MY responsibility to pay for my employees morning after pill or their contraceptives. That's their business, not mine. I have always provided free healthcare for my employees. I never would have thought that it would be the responsibility for the plan to pay for their contraception. That should come from their own pocket.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • PMc

      Dave that's just the thing. This is a health service, just like Viagra, and just like vasectomies. Contraception is a normal part of a woman's healthcare - when she chooses to have a family is an important economic issue. No woman goes without contraception her whole life. This isn't about 17 year olds, this is about 30somethings, women with kids already, this is about husbands and boyfriends, too. If you really want to provide healthcare to your employees, it includes healthcare for families.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • arkmark

      good post just remember the health care YOU provided was not free to your company . You provide (paid for) it as abenefit and as such should have a say in what is and is not coveredjust like HL

      December 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      It's a healthcare thing, not a religious thing or a lifestyle thing. HEALTHCARE.

      You say you provide free healthcare to your employees? What a joke. If you don't mind providing free healthcare then you have no reason to complain about the details of someone's personal healthcare needs. They don't have to tell you what healthcare they are getting, since it is NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS!!

      Just pay for the healthcare and shut up. I doubt you even have a business with employees. If you do, I bet they are you and your family and friends, right? "Employees" HAH! You're just whining because you've been told by Limbaugh and Beck that this is a bad thing for you. Newsflash, Beck and Limbaugh are liars and always will be. You poor fool.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • DC1973

      If you were a business owner, you'd know that even though you may have held the money out of their paychecks and sent the premiums in, it's still your employees paying for it, because it's part of the compensation package you promised them.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Dave

      No it doesn't PMc. Your argument is completely flawed. And the law doesn't distinguish between female or male contraception. Again, your contraception is your own business, and should come from your own pocket. Not from the plan I provide. Can I also ask you to not have kids, in case it would put you at risk and thereby keep you out of work? I am not here to provide a "health service". I employ people. I have paid 100% of their healthcare for 15 years or more at this point. Their contraception isn't my responsibility and it is foolish to think that it is. Nay, it is the bane of socialism to think I am responsible for it.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • PMc

      Yes, Dave, there is a clear distinction between male and female contraception. The man's is covered, the woman's is not.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Dave

      Um DC1973, we don't HOLD anything from their paychecks. We pay 100% of their premiums ourselves. We absorb it as a cost of doing business and have done so for close to 16 years at this point. It costs us a pretty penny to do so. So don't lecture me on "if i ran a business". It is you that doesn't know what you're talking about.

      And if I am paying for it, I have a right to say what is included. And when I worked for other people I would NEVER have assumed they would pay for my personal contraception. That is simply ignorant and low class.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • PMc

      I expect Dave that you support also not covering vasectomies or viagra? And do you only cover your employees but not their families?

      December 27, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Dave

      PMc – we cover 100% of our employees healthcare and we subsidize the family coverage. We don't cover 100% of the family based care. It is simply too expensive for us to cover that fully. They pay about 40% of the family plan, we pick up the rest. We offer BC/BS. Vasectomies are considered cosmetic and are not fully covered. Viagra isn't part of the prescription plan either.

      December 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      Dave doesn't understand things like laws, regulations, or privacy rights including privacy of health records.
      Dave is an idiot and I pity his employees.

      December 28, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • leeann

      Dave, you're exactly right. I'm in the same position you're in. We own businesses, we try to do what is right for our employees by offering health care premiums. Like you, I have been paying their premiums for years. (This makes us unusual in the small business world.) Then, we have to listen to these idiots with an agenda and an anti-religious bias spout nonsense. How many people do they pay for? None, I'm sure. They just like to run their mouths.

      December 28, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  2. Marc

    I don't get it... we re supposed to have a seperation of church and state in our politics yet we find that our political world is constantly guided by flawed religious beliefs... now religious beliefs are creeping into the workplace, at what point would someone possibly be denied a job because a perspective employer finds out that a perspective employees religious beliefs don't follow the employers... sorry guys religion doesn;t belong in politics or the workplace in any way, shape or form. Mr. Green is attempting to force his personal views as his religion dictates on all of his employees... perhaps he should speak to them and see what their position is on the subject matter. Although they would most likely be less than truthful for fear of retribution by Mr Green and his right wing conservative narrow minded views.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Dave

      Your argument is flawed. Very flawed. This isn't about the right to work. This is about a companies right to decide the benefits it gives its employees. The government has zero business telling ME what I should provide in my health plan to my employees. And it has even less business requiring me to pay for their contraception. that's their own business, the individual, not mine.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      No, Dave, you do not have the right to tell others how to live. Get that through your skull, dense as it is.

      You hate letting your employees have rights? You sound like a real pr1ck of a boss. I'd love to see you go out of business.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Dave

      I am NOT telling anyone how to LIVE Rational Humanist. I am telling them that it isn't my business to pay for their contraception. Get that thought YOUR thick skull. Their private life is THEIR business, and they should pay for it. Not me or any other employer. By what RIGHT do you think your employer should pay for your contraception? What RIGHT do you have to take money from the company for your own personal c r a p?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @ Dave

      Because we don't live in a country where a person's employer decides what is and isn't health insurance. As a business owner, I can't decide to provide insurance that doesn't cover gastrointestinal care because I think everyone should live on the "Daniel diet" of fruits and grains and thus shouldn't need it. You don't get to make up your own rules just because you don't like them. That's not the way the law works. You are required to provide health insurance, but you don't get to define what is and is not health insurance.

      December 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Dave

      No Moby, that isn't the way that it works. One thing is a legitimate healthcare issue. The other is your own personal choice. I provide free healthcare. And have always done so. Contraception isn't healthcare. And the morning after pill sure as heck isn't. That's your own personal matter, and something you should pay for yourself.

      December 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      My own personal crap, as you put it, is my business and no business of yours, get it?

      Hey, I happen to think Obama went about this in a very stupid way, so don't blame me if you can't figure out how to follow a damn law that shouldn't even be requiring employers to do anything. I'm with you that far..
      ..
      ..but under the law we have equal rights. You don't mind paying for Vi.agra, but you don't want to pay for contraception?
      Fine, pay the penalty for refusing to follow the law.

      As to your religious beliefs, you don't have a damn thing to say about what a person does in their private life, including their health-care decisions.
      You don't understand that people can already get these things as a private healthcare decision that doesn't show up on anything received by the business. Kind of like "don't ask, don't tell", except it is not and never will be your business regardless of whether you pay for it or not.

      Just tell yourself that no one is getting the healthcare stuff you don't like. What's the difference? None. You'd never know anyway. Your religion is pathetic if it makes you obsess over whether your employees are having se.x or not. Get a grip.

      December 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Julie Tomlinson

    This is an outrage! Where is the Freedom in this country going? Hobby Lobby stand strong and I will be buying from Hobby Lobby more often. I guess our President has forgotten that if Hobby Lobby closes due to having to pay fines that it is the American worker that will suffer and then we will have more unemployed with no insurance, no 401k, but you have to be American to understand that.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      If they can't understand that their religion does not trump the rights of their workers and does not trump any government law, then they are welcome to go out of business and GOOD RIDDANCE!!

      December 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • G_Edwards

      @Rational Humanist//"If they can't understand that their religion does not trump the rights of their workers and does not trump any government law...."
      =========================

      What part of
      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

      Do you not understand????

      .

      December 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      @G-Edwards.

      The Constltution is the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND you dimwit. What part of "Supreme Law" don't you understand?
      Your religion has ZERO legal standing. ZERO.
      You are free to worship as you like, unless and until you violate the Constltutional rights of anyone else. Get it?
      Religion does not get a free ticket to murder or break any other laws. GET IT?????

      You think you can murder in the name of your religion and get away with it, don't you? Well, you'll spend plenty of time in a government prison where you can think things over. k?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  4. patrick

    good, fine them. I could care a less about their religious retardation issue... FINE THEM! We need the money.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • arkmark

      fine them and the company folds. 12k jobs gone all because the gov says they MUST fund COntraception including abortion inducing drugs. A box of contraception costs abou 10 for a 12 pack

      December 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Sallie

      Right, fine them, and then the economy will lose 13,000 jobs! Then America will have to pay unemployment and benefits and lose the taxes these employees were paying! All because they were forcing a moral company to contribute to an abortion pill against their will. Isn't the government's primary job to protect life? Unbelievable, the ignorance.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  5. nikolai

    So a Musilm American CEO can make women employees wear head covers because it's his religious belief?

    December 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Jonline

      Yes by hobby lobby's request. An Amish employer could alo require an employee to sto using electricity

      December 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Sallie

      Sure, but no one would work there.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Dave

      No. This is about what is included in their HEALTH insurance. Not what they do in the workplace. If we're going to pay for their contraception can we start asking how they plan to use it?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • G_Edwards

      False comparison.

      A better one would be the government telling the employer that all women employees must be bare headed.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  6. Christians are the most self centered, arrogant a-ss ho-les in the word

    The think it's their god given right and perfectly wonderful for them to create draconian laws that will massively impact and disrupt the lives of millions of people (laws against: abortion, birth control, stem cell research, gays...), but, scream bloody murder when following a law may cause their conscience some inconvenience.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Christians are the most self centered, arrogant a-ss ho-les in the word

      Please excuse me, I should have said hemo-rrhoids instead of a-ss ho-les

      December 27, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  7. Will in FL

    Why should ANY employer be forced to pay for birth control for his or her employees ?
    That expense is IMHO a presonal expense to be paid for by the person who has decided to have a little fun.
    With our Pres we are moving ever closer to socialistic state.
    God love the USA !!

    December 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • DC1973

      Do you live in some magical world where employers do pay for their employees' health insurance?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • JohnS

      Yet Hobby Lobby (and others) does not object to paying for Viagra for men... even if unmarried. So much for adhering to Biblical principles!

      December 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Dave

      Many employers pay 100% of their employees healthcare. I am one of them. But I have never paid for contraception or morning after pills. That's something they purchase on their own and should come from their own pocket.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • DC1973

      Did you promise your employees health coverage from the beginning? As part of their compensation package?

      Then, no. it's not you paying for it. It's them. And if your story were true, you'd know that.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  8. PMc

    Hobby Lobby, and others, are claiming specifically non-coverage of the 'abortion pill.' And I understand that distinction. And I understand that your belief is that a zygote is a person. I however, do not believe that. Many other people do not believe that. It is a belief only. It's really hard for the people running Hobby Lobby to understand this because they have a certainty and they don't discern between other people's beliefs and their beliefs. Over and over again they don't understand that the government is enforcing religious liberty, not denying it.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  9. marstomr14

    $1.3 Million per day for not providing "contraceptives" seems a bit steep. There must be a whole lot of baby making going on at the Hobby Lobby.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  10. Chad

    "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,"

    How in the world is that not a reasonable request??

    December 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • DC1973

      Because they don't provide anything. They don't provide the insurance and they don't pay for it. They're asking to be allowed to not do something they don't do in the first place.

      What they can't do, and what they're trying to do, is refuse their employees access to the insurance coverage that they – the employees – pay for. They can't do that.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • RayJacksonMs

      Get real. That is just the opening attack by a bunch of greedy republicans who want to force their cult on others and not provide any health care at all for their employees. It will start with one pill, then by the time they are done with the lawsuits no form of birth control will be allowed if they get their way.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Jonline

      Do hey provide halal food? Can a Muslim employer require a woman to cover her head?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • heartbroken25

      Would you consider it a reasonable request if the owner of Hobby lobby were a Jehovah's witness, religiously didn't believe in blood transfusions, and wanted that coverage removed from an employees plan as well?

      An employer who provides health insurance can not pick and choose what that insurance provides medically for his employees. If he is against birth control, he does not have to purchase it, use it, or provide it. But he can not request another company (the insurance company) bow down to HIS religious beliefs. The insurance company covers BC. That is their right. His religious beliefs should not impede that.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  11. Noc

    You shouldn't impose your own religious beliefs on others.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • arkmark

      This is a private company the gov is betting that HL will capitulat to save the company and not lay off workers ( the what is more moral, Standing on you principals or firing 12K full time employees) this is not about contraception it is about government control of EVERYTHING

      December 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • abdulthbucher

      That arguement cuts both ways Mr. Noc

      December 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  12. nottellinyou

    Guess I'll be thinking twice about shopping at a company where the owners try to push their beliefs on their employees though their benefits plan. They can do what ever they like and I can shop where ever I like! That was easy!

    December 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • marstomr14

      That's the great thing about this country. I wish more people would exercise that right. Vote with your wallets year round instead of just once in November.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  13. Dan

    Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”

    December 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  14. lol??

    "Isa 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

    December 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  15. Colin

    So many Christians, so few lions.....

    December 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • lol??

      "Jhn 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you."

      December 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  16. Daniel

    And here comes the push for a "religious for-profit" classification.

    Dollaz for Jesus, y'all.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  17. ShingoEX

    Law supersedes "faith"

    December 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  18. lionlylamb

    I love the unborn, those yet of life to be lived. It is for life undreamt that the unborn do call out from the abyss! Hearing their calling out for Life to be lived is what I ever do hear! Love a child yet to be born! To those who can so afford, adopt a child or even children who are found lost in a world that seems to not truly care! Find food for the poor so they can live but another day in hope for their families poorest sakes! If one does abort a child then seek out a poor child to give to your loving passions towards! Love let us all and of love let us do and by love let us give Life to the still yet living who ever remain as the poorest and the lost from hopes pantries!

    Let Us Love,
    Lettuce Love.

    Oh the choices one has!

    G.O.D.
    God's Oldest Dreamer

    December 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • ShingoEX

      Yeah...and let unfit parents continue to raise or abandon unwanted children.

      December 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • sean burns

      huh?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      ShingoEX,

      The breadth between unfit and the abandoned is lengthy and elusively wide. I give thanks to liberties given me yet I can see the steadfastly bitterness of Life's insolvencies in many countries born and most desperate families who dare to live out for wants of just another bowl's food. Still even there; a couple's pleasures goes on giving the birthed to even more children in sorrow-filled needs. The fields of the people's simple pleasures are in languishing of more children to be born among those who cannot even afford another life to be wielded them and yet societies are given into life's simple pleasures becoming momentary bliss with a pill to afford them the displeasure of rumored birth controls far from the maddening crowds of other nations' woes. Where is the justices of Life in a world gone awry?

      December 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  19. Dino

    Corporations are people with religious beliefs. What's wrong with you people? Don't you know that?

    December 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  20. drinker75

    Companies shouldn't have religious beliefs. It's a personal choice, not a business decision.

    December 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • lol??

      from wiki:"...............The basis for allowing corporations to assert protection under the U.S. Consti tution is that they are organizations of people, and that people should not be deprived of their consti tutional rights when they act collectively.[5] In this view, treating corporations as "persons" is a convenient legal fiction......."

      December 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
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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.