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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. david defrank

    tangerine your mixed up.tadpoles are not babies. and my research is right on.and yes little tiny babies is right.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  2. Anthony

    I am sick of 'evangelicals' and other religious people trying to determine whether a woman should be forced to remain pregnant. If that person does not want to take the pill, she does not have to. But it should be available.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • david defrank

      we are sick of you baby killers anthony

      January 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  3. Tyler

    There's a very simple solution to this argument. The fact of the matter is, Hobby Lobby is exercising their rights in disagreeing with the law and taking it to court. That's anybody's right. They believe that contraception, especially contraception that can cause abortions (this is directly from the manufacturer of the pill), should not be considered "health care" and therefore violates their religious freedoms. The court may agree, as Domino's Farms Corp already has a temporary ruling in their favor regarding this very issue. So someone in the Supreme Court agrees with Hobby Lobby or at least feels they have a valid complaint. So stop your name calling and childish insults. I can't even count how many times I've heard people called "idiots" and "morons". Grow up.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      PLAN B DOES NOT CAUSE AN ABORTION.

      And Hobby Lobby will lose.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Plan B works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Plan B acts PRIMARILY by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work.

      Did you somehow miss the words "PRIMARILY" and "MAY"? How convenient.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  4. ThatCar

    David Green says they run their company on biblical principles....how does poisoning our children, supporting sweatshop labor and cheating their customers fit in? Thou shall not lie. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thatcar/6294161253/

    January 1, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • david defrank

      who is poisoning children not lobby.its people who choose to burn there baby to death with saline abortions and all other terminations

      January 1, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  5. N&W 1000

    I hope Hobby Lobby wins; Obama has NO respect for anyone he disagrees with; he is arrogant, pushy, and obnoxious.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • david defrank

      you forgot something obama is responsible for millions of babies lives.he has caused so much pain to those unborn it tears me apart to think one could be so cruel to a baby

      January 1, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  6. Whodeyautismmomma

    And how much are they wasting per day in attorney's fees?

    January 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  7. Tangerine apple blossom

    Perhaps they should do some fact checking first. The morning after pill, by scientific explanation, does not cause an abortion. Just because somebody believes something doesn't necessarily mean it's true...

    January 1, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • david defrank

      tang you are so wrong .the food and drugy administation labels it a abortfacient.it prevents a feralized egg from implantation.you must understand this is taking a little tiny babys life not a tadpole.

      January 1, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Tangerine apple blossom

      You are so wrong. Do more research. Tiny babies are not being killed. Besides, why do you try to make it out thst the life of a baby is different than that of a tadpole? why should any life be taken whether it a human or amphibisn?http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/health/research/morning-after-pills-dont-block-implantation-science-suggests.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&

      January 1, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  8. JuJu

    WAY TOO GO, Hobby Lobby, stay true to your faith!

    January 1, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  9. david defrank

    tom tom why choose a male name.your female.are you hiding something.you sound male agressive .i bet your kids if you have not aborted them cannot stand you.shamey on you .

    January 1, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Davey Dumbbell, go get a diploma.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  10. david

    Businesses are State, not Church. That's all that needs to be known to understand why Hobby Lobby deserves to pay these fines.

    January 1, 2013 at 7:26 am |
  11. larry5

    Obama is taking control and people will just have to learn to get in line. How else can he create his new America. This idea about morals that Obama does not accept being allowed to continue is part of the old America. Hard work, honesty, belief in God and your fellow man is not part of Obama's new America and because the people elected him they are not allowed to complain. Obama is going to lead us to his promised land.

    January 1, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Panties in a knot, are they?

      January 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  12. lulz

    Simple: quit treating your women like dirt and just pay for the birth control. Far less expensive than the fines. Also, i am 100% they voted for Bush (ya know, the crusader in chief) so their little pro-life position is weak. pro-life means pro-life, not just anti abortion.

    January 1, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • david defrank

      not so little when you consider life is sacred.prolife is not advocating child abuse you are.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • david defrank

      lulz its because you are dirt in your sick cruel thinking.you and your buddies are as pro death as they come.so its respect you want well i give you that as gods creation but you defiled your own body .abotion is murder.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  13. Bill Pag

    Just pointed this article out to the wife...They are now on the boycott list, along with all the other ACA dodgers!

    And to the folks hacking it out over the religious aspects. Bottom line religious freedom is one thing but you cannot impose your beliefs on anyone else including your employees. It's called free will ! You above all should respect it!

    January 1, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • jab9417

      Bill, I agree no one should impose their religious or non-religious beliefs on anyone else. However, that's exactly what's happening when you or others chastise businesses or business owners for sticking to their religious beliefs. The first line of Hobby Lobby's Statement of Purpose is "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles." It's on all their paperwork when a person gets hired. It's plastered all over their stores. You can't honestly expect to go to work for a religious organization or a very openly Christian business like Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A and expect THEM to abandon their principals because your belief system clashes with theirs. These employees were not denied their free will, they CHOSE to work for an openly Christian business and in doing so they accepted to work under the companies philosophy. If they didnt want to work under the guidelines and philosophies of the company, they should of chosen more wisely. Under you line of thinking, if a vegan waitress went to work at a steakhouse, they would be in their right to demand not to have to server meat. That kind of thinking just doesn't make sense to me.

      January 1, 2013 at 3:36 am |
    • david defrank

      my religious beliefs are gods not your confused mind.go hobby lobby

      January 1, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      They don't have to "abandon their PRINCIPLES," (not "principals"). They have to obey the law or pay the price. If they don't want to operate by the law of the country, let them move overseas. Then they can operate sweatshops like the Chinese manufacturers they buy their crappy products from.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Under you line of thinking, if a vegan waitress went to work at a steakhouse, they would be in their right to demand not to have to server meat. That kind of thinking just doesn't make sense to me."

      Translated: "If a Christian company goes to work in the US, they would be in their right to demand not to have to obey any laws."

      You're right. It doesn't make any sense.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • david defrank

      its not free will its called yourwill. are you god.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  14. Missy Garoza

    I won't be shopping at Hobby Lobby anymore. THAT is my vote.

    January 1, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • david defrank

      good

      January 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  15. Jim

    I'm reading all these comments about greed. If this was simply about greed the company would drop coverage altogether and pay the $2,000 fine. They are fighting to provide their employees insurance coverage that doesn't affect their beliefs. As to corporations aren't people. They are owned by people, in this case one family who has the rights as a citizen. If the company loses they will likely just drop coverage for all their employees. So what's better a company that provides unskilled labor a starting salary that is 180% of minimum wage with benefits, or a company that stops providing healthcare or goes out of business due to the fines. When they go out of business all their employees can then go to jobs that pay minimum wage with no benefits.

    Learn the facts before you attack the company.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  16. Freddie the Fez

    Let's take Hobby Lobby's logic a step further, shall we? They sell all manner of cheap trinkets made in China, a country which supports abortion. In fact, China actively encourages abortion as part of their social planning. So will Hobby Lobby quit buying Chinese made junk, as it disagrees with their religious convictions? Or is the money they make from selling such junk so good that they can ignore that little inconvenience?

    December 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • david defrank

      freddie check your clothes your furniture your eltronics i bet you wil not give it away because its made in china right?

      January 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  17. Jonathan

    It's the law hobby lobby. Follow it or pay the fine. That's YOUR choice.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Absolutely. You'd think that simple logic would be enough, but no, believers want to claim special privilege and then turn it around and pretend it's all the fault of those who don't follow their cult beliefs just right.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • david defrank

      choice is a word you guys like.but when it comes to abortion you lose your choice because you chose to desroy a sacred life a human ababy.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  18. david defrank

    tom the quear manny man its not controception ski its a abotfaceinski

    December 31, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Argle Bargle

      You are retarded, aren't you?

      January 1, 2013 at 2:13 am |
  19. Skeptic

    I believe that orange juice causes abortions and so I will not pay for it. Oh, you say, scientists have proven that orange juice does NOT cause abortions? Doesn't matter, because I BELIEVE it does.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • ryanbouse

      Skeptic, please don't try using science. Your opinion on birth control has been widely disproved by the medical and scientific communities.

      ps – Orange juice CAN cause an abortion, if you happened to be allergic to it :)

      December 31, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What opinions Skeptic has expressed about contraceptives have the "medical and scientific communities widely disproved"?

      Well, ryan?

      January 1, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • ryanbouse

      Tom Tom, are you really that dense. I will repeat again.

      Plan B, along with almost every major contraceptive pill on the market, MIGHT (TOM TOM CAN YOU READ THAT WORD?) ALLOW FERTILIZATION OF THE EGG AND PREVENT SAID FERTILIZED EGG FROM IMPLANTING ONTO THE UTERINE WALL. This matches the definition of an abortion causing drug. Skeptic and yourself seem to think that just because you don't like it, it must not be true. I, and I am sure others, have already shown you that this is the case, directly from the FDA. You continue to choose to be ignorant and throw insults at people instead of facts. This only goes to show that you have NO facts and are PROBABLY so adamantly opposed to saving human lives because you need to justify the abortion(s) that you have pressured or even forced a woman(women) into.

      January 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Jen

      Tom Tom is a woman. Not too bright are you? (or did you really think her name was Tom Tom the piper's son)?

      January 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jen

      And how could that be an abortion? An abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. A woman is not pregnant until implantation.

      Again, not too bright.

      January 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • ryanbouse

      Jen, thanks for pointing that out seeing as I did think that He(I now know she) was a man named Tom. The only thing that chages is that she killed her own children, not pressured someone else to kill theirs. Over 15 years in this fight has taught me that the ONLY people who are as vicious, vile and adamant about the pro-abortion cause, are those who have had ones themselves (or been party to them in mens case).

      January 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Jen

      Tom Tom has stated many times that she has never had an abortion, and given how honest she is, I'm sure she is telling the truth. As a woman, I know the only people that are vicious, vile and adamant about the pro life cause are people that call the pro choice cause pro abortion (that and they are usually men). You can believe all you want that terminating a newly fertilized egg is killing a child. That is your right. It doesn't make it fact. I don't believe it is, yet I don't state it as fact (though given I have given birth three times my opinion is a lot more relevant).

      January 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ryan, how many times do the facts have to be pointed out to you. THE DRUG DOES NOT CAUSE AN ABORTION. You are an ass who thinks you can tell something about me from a post on an anonymous site. That alone qualifies you as the idiot of the year. I have already pointed out to you how the drug works, and yet you stupidly and stubbornly continue to be an ignorant dolt who can't or won't read. The drug manufacturer does NOT say the the drug causes abortion; it does not say that it prevents implantation. In fact there is more than one drug used as Plan B, and two of them do NOT operate at all in the manner you insist on saying they do. The third one, ELLA, according the literature "MAY" prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Not "DOES". Not "WILL". MAY. What part of this is so confusing to you?

      You don't get it. You are not the arbiter of the matter. You, in fact, have no say in ANY matter where contraception OR abortion are concerned. Unless you grow a uterus, you never will.

      You are one of those supreme ass holes who cannot get it through your cement skull that "pro-choice" means that the woman who is pregnant is the one who has a choice. She can continue a pregnancy or end it, and it has nothing to do with you OR me. I never had nor sought an abortion, you moron. I have never even discussed abortion with anyone who was pregnant. EVER.

      Get your fvcking head out of your ass and figure out that you ARE WRONG.

      January 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Just one more request, ryan. Please ALWAYS wear a rubber. Nobody needs your contribution to the gene pool.

      January 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/health/research/morning-after-pills-dont-block-implantation-science-suggests.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      Read something besides lifenews and world nut daily.

      January 1, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When Is a Woman Pregnant?
      To be sure, not every act of intercourse results in a pregnancy. First, ovulation (i.e., the monthly release of a woman's egg) must occur. Then, the egg must be fertilized. Fertilization describes the process by which a single sperm gradually penetrates the layers of an egg to form a new cell ("zygote"). This usually occurs in the fallopian tubes and can take up to 24 hours. There is only a short window during which an egg can be fertilized. If fertilization does not occur during that time, the egg dissolves and then hormonal changes trigger menstruation; however, if fertilization does occur, the zygote divides and differentiates into a "preembryo" while being carried down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Implantation of the preembryo in the uterine lining begins about five days after fertilization. Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. A pregnancy is considered to be established only after implantation is complete.
      Source: American College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists.

      Did you catch that, Ryan? ONLY AFTER IMPLANTATION IS COMPLETE.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
  20. david defrank

    tommy tom lay off mr.deacon you coocobirdy

    December 31, 2012 at 9:30 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.