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January 11th, 2013
03:40 PM ET

Hobby Lobby finds way around $1.3-million-a-day Obamacare hit - for now

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Washington (CNN) - By Friday, Hobby Lobby would have racked up $14.3 million in fines from the Internal Revenue Service for bucking Obamacare. But in keeping with the great American tax tradition, they may have found a loophole.

The company is facing $1.3 million a day in fines for each day it chooses not to comply with a piece of the Affordable Care Act that was set to trigger for them on January 1. The craft store chain announced in December that, because of religious objections, they would face the fines for not providing certain types of birth control through their company health insurance.

The penalty was set to go into effect on the day the company's new health care plan went into effect for the year.

Peter M. Dobelbower, general counsel for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. said in a statement released through the Becket Fund that, "Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months."

The statement continued that "Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties."

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Last month Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected the company's appeal for a temporary relief from the steep fines while their case made its way through the lower courts.

Hobby Lobby announced a day after the ruling 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.

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, dubbed Obamacare, 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."

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.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the high court's move last month.

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.

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The Oklahoma City-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. It is still privately held 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.

MORE BACKGROUND: Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare

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.

Part of the reason Sotomayor rejected their appeal to the Supreme Court she wrote was because their case is still pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A spokesperson for the Becket Fund said on Friday a date has yet to be set for the case to be heard in the 10th Circuit.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (4,609 Responses)
  1. billy

    Boycottttttt!!!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • ptneely

      Your right, but they also have the right to not pay for abortions.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's YOU'RE, you moron, and no abortion drug is being discussed here. Why do you broadcast your stupidity?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • ptneely

      Tom that was "Your right" as in "it is your right". You are stupid.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • ptneely

      Tom, both RU-486 and Plan B are being discussed. RU-486 is indeed an abortifactant. Plan B is if you view preventing implantation as abortion. You really need to get YOUR facts straight before trying to win an argument by insulting another person.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, the stupid one here is you, ptneely. You are ignorant and a cruddy writer.

      Plan B does not cause abortion.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • billy

      ptneely has no facts. I read some of the earlier posts. I can understand why pt misunderstands sh it.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ptneely is a raving fvcktard.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're the one who doesn't have the facts straight, ptneely. There is no health plan that requires HL or any other company to pay for RU486, you dipsh!t. This is about Plan B. It is a contraceptive. It PREVENTS PREGNANCY. It does so PRIMARILY by preventing ovulation. It does NOT cause abortion. READ the definition of pregnancy. A woman is NOT pregnant until the fertilized egg is implanted. There is no pregnancy just because an egg is fertilized. It's estimated that 40% or more of fertilized eggs never implant at all and are simply shed. Do you think those events are "miscarriages"? Go find a doctor who says so, simpleton.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Abortifactant" isn't even a word. You don't have any idea what you're talking about and it shows.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  2. ptneely

    Can't Obama just fix this with an Executive Order?

    January 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • ??

      Perhaps.It sure looks like these Republicans are being exposed as,the weak kneed wimps we always knew they where.BTW what the heck is an abortion inducing drug?..At least this company is gracious enough to supply paid maternity leave to the employees after they give birth.Right?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  3. Impeach

    Go to hell already leftards.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "Impeach", but "hell" is an element of mythology, therefore no one can go "there". Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • James PDX

      Any place where people like you reside probably is Hell.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • ??

      ..4 more.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  4. ELH

    "Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties."

    I will vigorously continue to take my business elsewhere.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Pravda

      And they won't miss you one bit...

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Kiki

      Plan B is not an abortion inducing pill.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • ptneely

      Kiki, Plan B prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. That is an abortion according to many definitions.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • James PDX

      ptneely, not by any scientific definition.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Esaias

      ELH – you're a moron.

      Kiki – You're wrong liberal, Plan B is an abortifacient. You probably have used it yourself.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, you lying sack. It is NOT abortion. The pill prevents ovulation as its primary action, and there is some research that shows that is the only way it prevents pregnancy.

      WILL you read?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Plan B is not an abortifacient. You people are too stupid to be believed.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Esias- you're a moron and you're wrong. Double whammy!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • ptneely

      James, when life begins is not a settled scientific fact. This is the whole reason that abortion is controversial.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • ptneely

      Tom, it is not an abortifactant in the way RU-486 is, but it does prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. It stops a human life.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ptneely, you're simply wrong. The morning after pill is not an abortifacient and no amount of insistence on your part will change that fact. It is a contraceptive and prevents pregnancy. It also prevents abortions, dumb sh!t.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Wrong, wrong, wrong, you moron. Its PRIMARY action is the prevention of ovulation, as you'd know if you'd read ANYTHING about it that wasn't put out by religious nuts just like you. It MAY, not "will", not "does", but "MAY" prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg IF one is present. Are you even aware that 40% of fertilized eggs are expelled by a woman's body naturally anyway? What kind of stupid are you? Why do you choose to stay that way?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  5. Ken

    Go Hobby lobby woohoo Obamacare sucks

    January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • ??

      ..as Ken fires his 6 shooter into the night sky.As is his GOD GIVEN right !

      January 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  6. AW

    This is a disgrace. How can hobby lobby make it illegal for their employees to use birth control??!!!
    If their insurance doesn't cover it, birth control is impossible to access.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • ptneely

      Hobby lobby isn't telling anyone that they cannot have birth control or abortions. THey just don;t want to be forced to pay for them. HL is violating no one's rights.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Old Macdonald

      Go to Walmart and BUY it for $9 a month you twit. It is not impossible. And they are not against ALL birth control by the way. They are against the 'morning after/plan B' or 'abortion pills' being paid for on their plan. It is their company plan and they should have 100% say for what they pay for. If an employee wants optional coverage they can purchase it somewhere else.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Jim Steele

      Are you kidding? You take your prescription to Wal-Mart and pay cash. It's about $10 a month.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Hm

      They are not refusing most birth controls. Only Plan B and the week after pill.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Are you kidding me? A company that is refusing to obey the laws set forth by congress?!?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • James PDX

      They aren't paying for the Morning After Pill. They are paying their employees for their work. Part of their compensation is healthcare coverage. Just like with their wages, employees can choose how to use the compensation they have earned through hard work.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Jessica

      Actually your statement is completely inaccurate. Birth control is relatively cheap. You can purchase condoms at any convenience store, gas station, etc. AND Hobby Lobby isn't objecting to birth control. They are objecting to the morning after pill which, in my opinion, is not birth control.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • AW

      Wow, I guess I should have read the article. I always skip straight to the comments, and everyone was saying that Hobby Lobby is denying access to birth control. Thus my comment.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • The Truth

      Health benefits are just that, BENEFITS. They are not a RIGHT. If an employee does not like it then too bad. Unless an employee has a contract that spells out direct compensation health benefits and only a bonus. Either way the company can change carriers, plans and coverage and charge you accordingly with notice. All Hobby Lobby objects to is being told they HAVE to pay for pills that abort an already conceived fetus. That is it. Not regular birth control pills. Not other girlie stuff. Nothing. So get over it. It is no other than a lot of other organizations that have already been granted waivers for whatver 'reasons'. This law is crap from the begining and is only going to run prices up for everyone. even the leaches of society who THINK they don't pay for anything. They will see increases in their stupid crap they actually do pay for (alcohol, tobacco, tanning, tattoos...) This law touches everyone so put on your rubber boots dummies because you voted for it and it is going to get deep.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  7. ?

    ::( my paycheck is now showing the signs of Obamacare (10% smaller so far this year). Thanks Barak!

    January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • You are a liar

      Bullshit.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • ??

      If you blame this on Obama-care..You might want to change accountants.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • James PDX

      If that's true, you must be a millionaire, in which case I don't care.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  8. James PDX

    To put it simply, Hobby Lobby is attempting to monetarily punish their employees for not adhering to the company founder's faith.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • The Truth

      There are other jobs. And oh, it is known when they apply what the company is all about. I have read your other posts and you don't seem to educated on the matter. They only object to paying for abortives, not birth control. An employer can cancel all health care if they want and just pay the fine to the IRS. This would probably actually be cheaper to Hobby Lobby in the end. This is probably what the government wants anyway. That way more people rely on government since they will be on medicaid since they will have no insurance of their own. The fine really is cheaper for everyone to pay than footing the bill so why not? Then once Uncle Sugar has you on the dole *poof* instant Democrat for life!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • tom

      Completely agree.

      Health benefits are a part of your compensation as an employee to a company, the same as your paycheck or matching 401k if you have one. Your boss has NO right in telling you what you can or can not do with your money and there is absolutely no difference between this or you health coverage.

      If your boss can limit your health benefit compensation because HE doesn't believe in equality for women what would stop him from lowering you pay compensation for the same thing?

      January 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Concerned American

    Are we forgetting that putting your self in the situation to get pregnant was a individual's choice. The responsibility is with the individual not the corporation. I don't understand why it is the responsibility of employers or government to provide payment assistance for any type of contraceptive. If you are not prepared or in a situation to provide for a child you should consider this before engaging in activities that may result in pregnancy or be responsible and use protection in the first place. We have freedom of choice, some times we make bad choices it is not the publics responsibility but the individuals. We charge smokers extra or refuse coverage because they made a choice to do something harmful. Becoming pregnant may have not been the intent just as getting cancer isn't the smoker intent. it is not the governments or employers responsibility to take care of our daily life's. It's our own. It comes down to be responsible and don't count on the government to rescue us from our own stupidity.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • Todd

      What about diabetes? Are you going to deny people insulin because they ate too much and got diabetes? What about cancer treatment? Are you going to deny people cancer treatment because they smoked a few cigarettes? How many pills say they are not to be taken by pregnant women? This is because they can END the pregnancy. Contraceptives have MANY other medicinal uses than to avoid pregnancy. There's no way around this without being a complete hypocrite.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • James PDX

      So a condom breaking is an act of stupidity? Interesting opinion. So if the brakes on my new car fail, is that an act of stupidity for which I should be monetarily punished, too?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • CD

      "Are we forgetting that putting your self in the situation to get pregnant was a individual's choice. " That is an asinine claim to make or are you going to blame 16 year old for being molested by a family member and getting pregnant? And yes, such cases have happened.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Esaias

      I've couldn't have said it better – it's called personal responsibility, something liberals just don't understand.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Kiki

      To have a choice women need access to contraception and it is part of why we pay huge insurance premiums so that we have coverage for our medical and prescription needs.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Amy

      ...but if you get cancer from smoking cigarettes, your insurance will cover it. If you get diabetes from being overweight, your insurance will cover it. If insurance covers other poor choices, why not this one? You're pretending to be unbiased and objective, but the truth is, you're foisting your morals on others.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Another concered citizen

      Birth control pills have medical purposes besides contraception. They are also used to treat endometriosis. Endometriosis can be extremely painful and debilitating. In my case, it required surgery and many hospital stays. It would be in the best interest of an employer to provide birth control pills under their health plan than to pay for surgeries, hospital stays and missed days of work. It is a very simple treatment that benefits the female and the employer.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Concerned American

      I don't believe the issue here is contraceptives such as birth control. Which I believe should be covered under insurance plans. I also understand there are other benefits to birth control beyond preventing pregnancy. The issue is abortion related medications which I don't believe should be covered under any medical plans except for a few exemptions. It was the individual's choice not to use protection in the first place even we covered under their medical plans. Why then should an employer or government have to cover their mistake

      January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • PDX is a condom Breakage

      James- You are proof that abortion should be available on demand and probably failed at least once. Did you learn your smooth dance moves by dodging a coat hanger for 9 months? What a shame it didn't work. See, at least some of us are with your in idea anyway!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  10. drdave

    My religion doesn't believe in smoking so no more lung cancer treatments. I also believe in all natural and healthy organic foods, so no diabetes medications for anyone who works for my company. You eat McDonalds? Well, keep your mouth shut you "righty loon" (to quote a poster below).

    January 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  11. Critic

    There's some irony in Hobby Lobby's position. Most of their merchandise comes from China–a country that forces abortion on its citizens and offers no religious freedom.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • Hobby Lobby

      It's okay. They aren't white.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • James PDX

      An excellent point which to this date Hobby Lobby has chosen not to address.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  12. noteasilyswayed

    I will exercise my freedom of choice by not ever purchasing another item from Hobby Lobby until they reverse their stance on this.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • Ken

      and I will support them fully so your boycott means nothing

      January 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • James PDX

      Ken believes it is Ok for a company to monetarily punish their employees for not adhering to the owner's personal religion.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  13. pazke

    A company does not have religious beliefs.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • ptneely

      That is legally incorrect. The first amendment rights of owners and stockholders are inherited by the companies they own.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Ross

      The people who own the company do.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  14. SAB

    This is not about whether you agree or disagree with the position of the owners of Hobby Lobby on these contraceptives. If Obamacare required employers to provide health insurance that would cover euthanizing unwanted already born children, or physically or mentally disabled people, then dismissed the objections of business owners with a conscience by saying it's the corporation that is purchasing the insurance, not them as individuals. . . would that be ok? What if Obamacare said you could only get health insurance through insurance companies that only employ white people? Would the fact that the corporation was the payer of premiums make that ok with you if you were the director of the corporation, as is the case with the Green family that own Hobby Lobby?

    January 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  15. Alicia

    Good for them!! I applaud anyone that can get around the fraudsters illegitimate health plan which isn't even a health plan.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Esaias

      Amen! I can't believe how stupid 50% of Americans are. They have no clue how ObamaCare is going to negatively impact the healthcare system in the U.S. What bugs me is how ignorant half of Americas are and most of the people responding to this article.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  16. Zobit

    This is just another excuse to exclude women from treatment they may need.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • ptneely

      Abortion is a "treatment"?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      ptneely, WILL you get a clue? This is NOT about abortion or an abortion drug.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Zobit,

      "Exclude women from treatment"? How about getting them to treat lovemaking as being a sacred act of conceptualization? The women rule the bedroom antics. Abortions are legalized democide.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Kiki

      PT this isn't about abortion....that is a lie.m It is about contraception, specifically plan B which is not RU 486 and does NOT cause abortion.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      LL, you moron, "conceptualization" is NOT the same as "conception". Grow up and use the big-boy dictionary, you nitwit.

      This is a contraceptive. How many times does this have to be explained to you? It does not cause abortion. It prevents pregnancy.

      I'm thankful to the universe that you never begat any offspring.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,

      I am very grateful to the powers that be for not procreating as well. This world is heading for disastrous consequences.

      BTW, MY use of conceptualization means the "act of conceiving". Put that in your dictionaries for all the good defining it will do you.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, Loopy Lion, you don't get to decide that "conceptualize" means whatever you want it to mean. It does not mean "to conceive."

      You have no clue what you're babbling about, no matter what the topic, but in this case, your insanity is especially egregious. Women are not sl -uts that you get to lecture to about "lovemaking" and the results thereof, you diaper-wearing old coot.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      conceptualize, conceptualise [kənˈsɛptjʊəˌlaɪz]
      vb
      to form (a concept or concepts) out of observations, experience, data, etc.
      conceptualization , conceptualisation n

      Stupid sh!t.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  17. Bill

    This is beaurocracpic nonsense as usual. The corporation does not have religious freedom, people do. Hobby Lobby shouldn't have to worry though, as I am sure are ALL their employees are god-fearing, high moralit people, with such exemplary standards that they would never consider taking birth control pills or having an abortion. For heaven sakes....

    January 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • frontgate

      I assume your post is tongue in cheek. Because we all know that Baptists don't drink, eh? hahhaha

      January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  18. HenkV

    Hobby Lobby should just shut down, supporting Dear leader's efforts to get everybody dependent on government handouts.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  19. Smeagel4T

    Health care coverage is not a gift. It is compensation to the employees for services provided to the company. HL has no right to dictate what employees do with their compensation once the employees have provided their services to the company. What is next? Should a Muslim owner of a company be permitted to tell his/her employees they cannot donate any of their compensation to any Christian groups? No company provides health care coverage as a gift. It is always provided as compensation for services rendered by the employee. Therefore the employee owns the health care in exchange for their services provided to the employer. If the employee does not wish to use their compensation on contraceptives, no one is forcing the employee to use their compensation on contraceptives. Contraceptive coverage exists in the health care law solely because both the medical and insurance professions stated that it lowers the overall cost of provide health care.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • sbull

      Why is that soooooo hard to understand?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Esaias

      "HL has no right to dictate what employees do with their compensation once the employees have provided their services to the company"

      Really?? What country are you from, China?

      If you don't like it work somewhere else. It's called private industry, and they can provide whatever benefits they choose. Obama is a communist forcing HIS ideology on provate business. Get a clue!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Wombat

      By the logic that insurance = compensation, would employers also be required to cover accupuncture, crystals, magnets or witch doctors if the employee sought those treatments?

      January 12, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  20. lionlylamb

    Insurance companies are behind Obamacare. They need to be more profitable for their backers.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
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About this blog

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.