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
I'd rather pay for birth control than children. Birth control is much cheaper. Keep in mind, if the parents can't take care of the kids the burden will fall on the taxpayer.
There are religions that strongly oppose all medical science. Should we allow company managers to dictate health care to their employees? There is a reason there aren't specific exceptions for specific religions. It is not the place of company managers to push their religious beliefs onto the medical well-being of their employees.
Right, if the owner of a company is a member of a religion that doesn't believe in using medicine at all do they have the right then to provide only an insurance policy that covers prayer?
This is the same as saying that if the owner of a company is a racist, which is his right to be, then he has a right to run the company in a racist manner.
This is a phony issue made up by "Crooked Christian Conservatives" This will prevent abortions. Isn't the religious right against abortions? You people need to grow up a little and deal with reality.
You really ought to look into the physiology of the pill and the morning after pill, and then comment.
This isn't about physiology. Bottom line, the couple doesn't want children. Unless YOU are willing to put some money into raising that child, you need to mind your business.
Another business destroyed chalk another one up to Obama, send out pink slips with contact your congress man or woman to thank Obama for your termination this business no longer exists thanks to Obama as your jobs no longer exist.
This business would have no problem if they followed the law.
FIre all employees with a letter stating thank you President Obama for your termination this business is no longer in existance have a nice Christmas.
Corporate profits are at an all time high
@native..................What are you talking about? What is your point?
It's not all about maximizing profits either. Sometimes it's about what and where you want your business to go. In the end it's your company – not run by the government or their minions. I agree – if you don't like it then you don't need to work or shop there.
I'm not saying I agree with it but as a fellow business owner – I respect their rights (as I do with individuals) to manage their own business.
Yes, and if my business wants to hire 12 year old girls to work 14-16 hours a day with only bathroom breaks and locked doors (so no union people get in), well, that's my business. You don't have to by my product.
Wait a minute.. isn't my company named the Triangle Shirt Waist company?
I believe that you might have missed part of the discussion – it includes what is within the limits of the law.
So if you want to discriminate against people you have a right to if that's your personal belief.
Sorry, you didn't use the reply button though so I was left in the dark. Fill us in here!
Most of the comments I have read object to the fact that some people have closely held values. This is an alien concept to most people in America today who believe Whatever. Whenever. with no values at all. I pity them.
The majority dosnt want obama care, yet they re-elected him. Plain stupid. Any senior citizens who voted for Obama just signed their own death warrant because it limits the amount of care you will get per year.
Oh come on... a little dramatic, no?
@david................Sill bitter huh?
The majority don't want Obamacare? Do you watch Fox News or something? Last poll on repealing Obamacare showed only 33% of Americans want it repealed. 33%, by my math that mean about 66% – a majority- want to keep Obamacare.
So, basically these employers are forcing their relgious views on their employees by denying something that is against the owners religion. Religion has no place in business. It's my choice as to whether I want to use birth control, not my employers.
Not quite the oppisiste here is true the employer always stated what their views were apply for employement elsewhere if yours are not the same and now the US Gov under Obama will destroy another business setting the employees free to find other work in among the unemployed lines
covering the morning after pill is taxpayer funded abortion, which the Obama administration said they wouldnt do.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Democrats’ sweeping healthcare reform law does not fund abortions, and that no president’s administration has since the Hyde Amendment passed more than 30 years ago.
It's also your right to find another place of employment that better suits your needs i.e.: the abortion pill. Just the same as you want a higher paying job-move on-not your place to FORCE an employer to pay for your abortion.
Your statement is not correct – they aren't forcing their views on you. They are simply saying that if you expect the company to pay for your benefits then they will only cover certain costs. If your individual conviction is so strong – then you can purchase your own health insurance and there will be no exclusions in the benefits provided. That's completely your choice however.
Then pay for it yourself.
I thought there was a separation of church and state. Religion has to follow the laws like everyone else.
This isn't about contraceptives. This is about going to any means necessary to tarnish the Obama administration.
If I may say, though, you can get contraceptives (meaning BAGS full of condoms) for free at the health dept.
This isn't a good battle-ground.
Obummer and his healthcare bill he shoved down the throats of Americans needs to be tarnished-worst president this country has ever elected.
@work...................You're still bitter too huh?
Obama care in this instance is a clear infringment on religious freedom. It is not about birth control or abortion. It is about the right of the government of the United States to make ANY law which impacts an individual's ( and a corporation is an dividual under the law) religious beliefs. This and other affronts by government will lead to further loss of jobs f(i.e., 30 hr. weeks) and investment in countries outside the welfare state.
So a company owned by a Jehovah's Witness then should be allowed to provide you an insurance that does not allow blood transfusions? What if the company is owned by a person who is in one of the religions that doesn't believe in ANY medical procedures, are they to be allowed to provide a policy that only provides for prayer?
You are just another "FEAR" peddler.
If you are against any form of birth control, then offer some money to feed and clothe the kids. I never hear those against birth control offering any money. Why is that?
Cant stand it when businesses use religion as a way to skirt the law,
You don't have to stand it, Charley-just go somewhere else and work! Easy solution, right?
This is the beginning of the end for many companies. It's hard to be a proud American these days.
And what are you "proud" about, Glenn? Money? Being a religious idiot? What exactly are you proud about?
You mean like the predictions that if Obama were re-elected the economy of the US would collapse into a state worse then the Great Depression. That if Obama were re-elected he would immediately turn the US into the USSR and begin acting like Stalin?
Ya the "conservatives" predictions don't hold much water anymore. Not that they did for anyone who actually took time to understand what is going on.
Oh and lets not forget the guy from florida who sent an e-mail to his employees basically saying if Obama is re-elected he is going to have to start laying off people. Turns out after the election he gave his employees a raise and even hired more people.
Exactly, Rational Humanist, Exactly!!! You cut right to the heart of the matter. Well said.
The democrats are killing this country.
Sadly another dishonest company using religion to NOT provide its employees a full insurance coverage as afforded EVERY EMPLOYEE. If this business want to run as a non-profit religious organization,... They can take the steps to do so. If they insist upon forcing their religious beliefs upon all of their employees,.. That is a whole big bad nasty story – again – on the evils of the right wing religious folks. It is weird that,.. If management doesn't want to use contraception devices,... Then they don't have too,... And their religious feelings are not hurt,.... But to demand that they should be able to force their religious beliefs upon all of their employees as a freedom of their religion,.... There you have the utter deceit and evil twisted minds they truly have. It's nice to know how utterly dishonest Hobby Lobby is. Sadly,.. They will probably end up going under and destroying their business just because they wanted to punish employees through their religious beliefs -- Management needs a good swift smack to the back of the head – hopefully that will knock some sense into things. But I doubt it,.... Funny how these same religious used their religion to back SLAVERY,.. And to back their beliefs on a flat earth,.. Medicine was from the devil,...women should not be educated or taken seriously,... Black people should not have equal rights,... Or own land,...or GASP marry a white person,.... It's weird to see how amazingly evil these people pretend not to be but their actions and words show just how disgusting they are.
What people need to keep in mind is that no insurance ever forces people to pay for contraception. In all forms it is saving the company money. An opt out policy would just allow certain members to pay more not to be covered.
If they are paying for something they do not believe in then, they are right not to want to pay for it cause its there money. They are still paying for good quality health care. If you want an abortion then pay for it yourself.
Since when do private for profit Corporations count as "Religious" organizations?
I pitty any child brought into the world the way it is today. what do thry have to look forward to? The point you're all missing is that the government is making them do this. It's called socialism folks. The America we once knew is gone. The government is slowly moving to a Socialist state, so slowly you don't even realize it's happening. The younger generation has no clue the rights they've already lost, as they've never experienced the time when this country actually had them.
The dollar will soon crash, the recession is on its way......
I'm pretty sure you're confused about the meaning of the word 'socialism'.
LOL!! I want some of whatever your smoking!!
A socialist government would not mandate health care by providing millions of new customers to insurance companies.
Yes, the old America is gone. No longer can you count on white skin and external reproductive organs to insure your primacy. In this modern America, fairness is important.
Hmm- the government makes you drive your car at the speed limit, and fines you if you break the law.
Another level of government makes you pay (taxes) for the privilege of living in their fair city, and ppunishes you if you fail to comply (applies to businesses, too).
Yet another government forces you to pay for your subway ride, and will fine you if you don't ante up.
The list is endless, yet you choose to draw the line here??? Never mind the beliefs of the owners, this is a "for profit" business, and business must play by the rules. The reason? It would be blatant discrimination to ensure that only persons of "their" faith were employed in their stores (Imagine the headlines if the store put a "Help wanted, no Jewish, Hindu, Muslin or episcopalians need apply"... ), so therefore, the rules that apply to the vast majority must apply to them.
You said it "for real". They all will see it soon.
The dollar will soon crash, the recession is on its way...... Because of republicans.
Can someone explain to me how a company has a religion or faith?
Most churches have been inc'd by the Beast I doubt Paul would agree
It's the owner's of the company that express their beliefs throughout their business and this is merely an extension of what they believe in and what they support or in this case – what they will not support. Businesses aren't all a "Board of Directors" that are sitting in a conference room somewhere completely out of touch with the real world. Most of us are no different than anyone else. The difference is that they don't work for a company somewhere but they've spent the time and effort to build a company that is founded in their beliefs.
Lets take the word religion out of this. Every company should have the right to offer whatever benefits they want to. Don't like the benefits one employer offers? Then find another one. BUT, Obama took away those rights, your rights, to choose.
Government should not have their hand in business at this level. It's Socialism, look it up.....
Actually, it's not socialism. Perhaps YOU should look it up.
@4real...............Stop watching fox news.
The problem with the affordable care act is that is does not repsect freedom. Why must a business provide any type of medical insurance? It is desires to provide it as a benefit, what gives you or anyone else the right to dictate what is provided.
Just because you think something is a good idea should not give you the right to impose it on others who do not think it is a good idea. Freedom from dictats reduces conflict in society. Let people be free. Advocate for you cause, but let people be free.
The end result, if the government does not give, may be that Hobby Lobby cancels all medical insurance benfits for all of its employees, taking the $2,000 per employee per year "tax/fine" and forcing its employees into the government exchanges.
Did not the President say that if you liked your plan, you could keep it. Sounds llike he lied to me.
They'd have more buying power and options there, without some religious nut-job of a boss trying to dictate how they will live their lives.
No problem for the Green family. They own thousands of acres in Southwest Oklahoma county and each have 30 million dollar mansions. Snobby Lobby rakes in billions in profits from buying cheap Asian imports and dumping them on the rubes who by them by the trillions. Then Mart Green turns around and donates hundreds of millions to organizations such as The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma so they can bail out Anthony Jordan's boondoggle at False Creek. So its all good. There is no amount of fine the Green family cannot afford. Bring it on....
Who cares how much money they have. This is America Jack. Being greedy is not against the law and when the government starts to impede on those rights we have a problem.
I think a big problem is starting to rear its ugly head in America lately. People are bitter and jealous of those who have what they do not and they are using what ever means they have to bring those down their level. The same thing happened before the both the Russian and Chinese revalution.
When we had a belief, fact was then ignored. I thought lacking fact supporting then belief would lose ground in the claim. Why we needed belief because belief did help us to ignore the fact, such as the passing away of our relatives ... I thought belief was like an act of releasing the suppress which if not releasing, the suppress could cause us sickness this way or other. When people needed belief to ignore the fact which could make them sick then belief was helpful like medication but putting belief ahead of everything else then belief was served as motive then it intended to its own law. But law lacking fact could not be law, just the law image seen in the mirror. Tell me your view I appreciated it.
And what "LAW" is that? I have a number of employees and if I would choose to do so – I would cut them to 30 hours a week and there's no insurance at all. Or I can simply eliminate employees altogether and hire them as "contractors" to do the work.
Sure, because who cares about the value of life of your employees? Just cut their hours or hire them as contractors. I mean, whatever you do to the least of these and all.
It's not so easy to make all employees contractors, but the point is taken, The end result will be empoyees losing employee provided insurance benefits.
Yah, who cares about silly laws you dont like, or employees, they are little pithy things anyways, your way better than them OR the law.......really, you need to do what is best to maximise your profits...to huck with society.
If someone cut my hours to avoid a law, I would quit on the spot. Well, right after telling you what a sucky person you are.
You are talking about the "Pappa Jon's" model of doing business. Since they can not move to China and must deal with American workers, the pizza company is cutting most workers to 30 Hrs per week to sleeze their way out of the law.
That's a good way to cost your company a lot of money with high employee turn over and high training costs.
Exactly – I do care about my employees but in the end – I built my company and I have the right to run it the way I choose to. There are no "have to do this" laws outside of the basic employment laws that we all need to meet and if I have a strong belief that I don't want to fund something that fundamentally I don't believe in then I shouldn't have to – simple as that.
Please understand, it's not my opinion but I respect it nonetheless. It's really no different than making someone who doesn't believe in eating meat pay for burgers for each employee once a week. Would you want me to take 5 dollars a week out of your salary to pay for something that you don't agree with or believe in (over and above taxes that is)? I would think not – which is their point.
If that guy cuts his employees to 30 hrs so be it. The number one thing is take care of yourself first, if you don't then you can't take care of anyone else. If you give all your money away today, people will be at your door tomorrow asking for more. Would like to ask why anyone who would think "Papa Johns" is a main career choice, although some might. Starbucks is another or McDonalds,etc . Mr President has never had a job that requires making the payroll. Mr President has wrote a book about dreams of his father, how about Dreams Of His White Mother, the father took leg bail. I do not have employees, I now have independent contractors working with me. I really tried to follow the rules but they change and caused more problems then they are worth.
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.