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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. AlienShark

    There are many "debaters" in the CNN forum are really shills
    working in offices getting paid to post talking points and arguments
    from papers their boss gave them. A quick google search will shed some
    light on this little known but very lucrative business.

    http://consciouslifenews .com/paid-internet-shill-shadowy-groups-manipulate-internet-opinion-debate/1147073/

    January 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      still fishing for clicks? It's just an article about marketing, which is what you're doing. Nothing shadowy about it.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • AlienShark

      one of two things is going to happen. Either I am going to inform a percentage of the forum viewers about this business, or somebody is going to take me seriously, look at my debate record and see that I am no chump, and give me a job. I already bested their top debaters again and again. As long as the job is legal and serves some public good, why not?

      January 12, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • AlienShark

      and by the way, either way I am doing a public service. One hand, people that cannot figure these things out on their own probably need to be informed, and on the other hand, I can do a world of good with the skill that I have. win win either way.

      January 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  2. IMHO

    Why are there so many anti-religious comments on a religious blog? Are there really that many anti-Christians visiting or just a few hacks changing their names and making multiple comments?

    January 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Stephen

      yea! they are just unemployed and have nothing better to do than knock christians!God takes care of his own!I have a job by the grace of God!

      January 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  3. Pam in Oregon

    They are undermining their employees access to health care. I am glad there are no Hobby Lobby stores in Oregon. I'll be sure to boycott them none the less.

    Pam in Oregon

    January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      Nobody is stopping their employees from going and purchasing contraception.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  4. Jim

    Someone needs to explain to me how someone calls themselves a disciple of Christ, AKA a Christian and then does nothing but quote OLD Testament stuff contradicted by Jesus' teaching. Just asking.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Pethuel

      Jim: I am a disciple of Christ I typically do not bother quoting OT to those who do not believe as it usually turns out to be a waste of time. To answer your question, the OT (the Torah, Prophets, and writings) does not contradict the teachings of Christ, rather they foretell his comings and what he will do. Christ is woven throughout the OT. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes you have to search to understand. For example, in Genesis 18, the pre-incarnate Christ appears to Abraham with 2 angels to announce the birth of Isaac the following year. Sarah did not believe it as she was very old and unable to conceive. Nevertheless it happened. It was not a vision or dream, as they sat and ate a meal together. Another, Genesis 24, Jacob physically wrestles with the pre-incarnate Christ. Jacob knew who he was as he asked for a blessing and then says "I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been preserved." This could not have been God the Father ( first of the Trinity) as the Torah explicitly states that no man may see the face of God and live. (The examples are too numerous to list here). In the NT, Christ states "do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17. Notice he says "fulfill" and not "keep" the Law. This is a very important distinction. The devout Jews of the time did their very best to keep the Law of God which (in a nutshell) is the 10 Commandments. The Law demands absolute perfection, 100% all the time. It is an impossible standard, yet this is what God demands. It seems like an email catch-22, but the point is to show that no one born of Adam can achieve God's standard. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. Since no one achieves God standard, then how do we get to heaven? God provided his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ to pay the price for all people's sins. He died and rose from the dead, proving his authority over death. God accepted this sacrifice and offers the covering of Christ's death and resurrection to blot out a oerson's sins. It is a free gift. There is no price but it must be taken. It is like a Christmas present under the tree. There is a tag on it, it the gift does not belong to the recipient until he/she makes a conscious decision to take the gift and own it. None of this is hate speech and I am not judging anyone on this site. I am not saying I am any better than you. I am relating what is written in the Bible. It boils down to a personal decision. What are you, Jim, going to do? Will you accept the free gift of salvation that God offers you? He has given you many years of life to make this decision. Make the right decision. Choose life in Christ. It's not an easy life, as you can see by the hateful comments on this site, but the payoff is eternal life. If you have made it to the end of this post, then I ask you to start with the Gospel of John. It is a good place to start. It is an easy read. Keep an open mind and you will begin to understand.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Pethuel

      evil catch-22, not email catch-22.. Autocorrect. Sorry. Actually that's funny!!

      January 12, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  5. Mr. Big

    Sotomayor. Another Obama puppet !

    January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      Another big surprise there!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  6. eric

    1. Morning after isn't an abortion pill any more than condoms are abortion jackets.
    2. For a "religious organization" they sure have high prices for the junk that they carry in there.
    3. They have bad grammar when they put their christian messages on the front wall: "He is risen." Really?

    January 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      I believe this is a carry-over from Latin or a Romance language, where the literal translation would be "He is risen." At the same time, "He is risen" is not strictly incorrect in Englsh. It indicates an ongoing state, referring to the Christ's status, rather than the event of his rising. It's like saying "the answer is complete" instead of "the answer has been completed."

      January 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • gale

      And your stupid.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

      He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

      And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

      And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

      Matthew 28:5-8 KJV

      January 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      Your stupid what?????

      January 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  7. JohnInNova

    I refuse to patronize companies who block freedom of choice for their employees.........Hobby Lobby, Papa John's, Domino's..... I will not spend my money on your products.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Mr. Big

      I don't think they care !

      January 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      I refuse to patronize any company that does not sell what I want! Never again!!!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • Stephen

      keep it up !And you will be setting in a cardboard box starving to death!!LOL because ther4e is alot of those out there who do share those values!Thats ok ill just spend a little more money when I shop there to make up for you!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  8. DEC

    I think all of you need to realize a very important point. The owner of a business has a right to run the business in the manner he or she see fit to run it. It is their money that they use to start the company. It is their drive that creates a successful business. Why do you hate someone like that? Would you rather these entrepreneurs just say never mind why go through the effort if I have to turn my company over to the masses once it becomes secessful.

    When you are looking for places to work the health coverage plan is something you should always consider. If you have heart burn about the plan then perhaps it is not the place you want to work.

    I can't believe the hatred all of you have for someone with values. Where do you get off being the one to impose YOUR beliefs on me and other Christans. You don't want a Christian emposing their beliefs on you but it ok to impose your beliefs on them. Wow! I find it funny that the conservative party is always branded by the liberals as the party of hate when it is exactly the opposite.

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

      Because alot of the people on here dont own a buisness and are probably professional students!So they have no clue what it takes to run a buisness except for in the ground!

      January 12, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Stephen

      the bible says in the last tdays they shall call evil good and good evil!

      January 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
  9. Fulleir

    You people aren't reading the text of the article. It says "they would face the fines for not providing certain types of birth control through their company health insurance." "CERTAIN TYPES". HL representatives have said repeatedly that their objection is to the morning-after and week-after pills, which are, without question, abortifacients. HL is not objecting to every contraceptive.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Kiki

      They are not abortion drugs that is a lie. It is plan B and plan B is contraception.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Stephen

      I am writing in reply to DANWHAM!Planned parent hodd also tells girls that the baby in side is not a baby but a fetus!But if you look up the latin word fetus it says the def:Is Baby ,Bambino or little one!look it up if your not afraid to.SO just because you say the morning after pill is not an abortion drug does not mean its not!Amd latin is the language used for and by the medical field !

      January 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  10. DanWam

    If the Hobby Lobby feels it has a right to choose which federal employment rules it can implement, what's to stop them from deciding that they don't need to comply with other federal employment laws, like not discriminating against a person based on his or her religion? Surely, having one of those "scary Muslims" right in their midst must be more of a threat than allowing a woman a pack of birth control.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • gale

      The govt. should not have the right to tell us if we should pay for something we do not believe in. This is America, freedom of religion, speech, etc....

      January 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  11. Kurt Bee

    Should an employer pay for health care when an employee intentionately stabs themselves witha knife? Certainly not! Nor should an employer pay for healthcare when an empoyee intentionally engages in activity that could lead to pregnancy. Pregnancy is a self inflicted wound, so to speak. Not comething you contract by accident. Getting pregnant requires an intentional act, and no employer should pay for something that an empoyee does to themselves.

    This sounds so simple to me actually!

    January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  12. freddo

    Hobby Lobby needs to wake up – and cease offering health-insurance coverage to their employees. They aren't likely to have any other way to follow their conscience.

    Besides, the penalty for not covering employees is radically cheaper than purchasing insurance. In the end, only the employees get screwed ... and for that they should blame Obama and the Democrats.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • sbull

      Math isn't your strong suit, I see. The penalty, per the article, is $100 a day PER EMPLOYEE. That's $500 a week, $2000 a month PER EMPLOYEE, radically higher than providing health insurance.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  13. mec

    I applaud them for standing up for their beliefs. It may bankrupt them but at least they can stand up for what they belief is true. The rest of CNN posts just want CNN or the government to tell them what to believe.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Stephen

      when Hobby lobby decides its cheaper to just shut its doors then ai guess Obumma and all you librals will say That showed them and all the thousands who will loose their jobs well!I guess that was worth it!Thats just one more person on the welfare rolls who can get their birthcontrol from Uncle sam!!

      January 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  14. Yeoomala

    Not that I like Hobby Lobby anyway – a bunch of cheap smelly artificial stuff – but not going to go in and spend my money in their place. If the nuts want to support it, then they need to step it up, but I'm not going to be one of them!

    January 12, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  15. Winston5

    Of course, Viagra and Levitra are basically given out to every male hired once they walk out of H.R.'s office. (but will Christians know what to do with it???)

    January 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm |

  16. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q16KpquGsIc&w=640&h=390]

    January 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  17. hk

    and now i will never shop at hobby lobby .. i found a loophole .. will go to michaels :)

    January 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • joanne1965

      excellent loop hole and post!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  18. Robert Reagan

    Thank the Lord that there are still some God fearing Christians!!! I intend to give them all of my business in the future. God Bless Hobby Lobby!!!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Winston5

      Fear puts a warm feeling in my heart as well...

      January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Jeff

      Yes, worship some monster you have to fear. Those of us without small minds will continue to live in the real world.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Yeoomala

      Good, I cancel you out!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  19. Steve-O

    This is a good example why we shouldn't have to buy healthcare through our employer, and employers shouldn't have to provide health care. We should buy it on the open market like we do auto insurance. The government can keep the costs down through regulations and subsidies.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Winston5

      Sir, have you been alive the past 25 years?? Free market healthcare (I.e. HMOs) are what brought us to this $15/pill madness. Keep up, darnit.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Joffre

      Very true. It has the effect of tying you to a company if you find your health in question.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
  20. Boater39

    Religion has no place in government or for-profit businesses. This is not a Church–it is someone who wants to THINK they are a Church.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • sbull

      It shouldn't matter if.it were a church! There should be one standard of care, which employers should be obligated to provide. The health care decisions should be left up to doctor/patient.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      How about getting people to treat lovemaking as being a sacred act of conceived conceptualization? The women rule the bedroom antics. Abortions along with the day after pills and all manner of drug induced contraceptives abound to governmentally controlled democide.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • tala

      If it's privately owned he should be able to do whatever he wants.
      If you don't like it don't go there.

      January 12, 2013 at 9:49 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.