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.
Is Hobby Lobby a church or a business? If the owners want to keep female employees from getting adequate health care, then that's okay as long as they are a church and thus lack the morals to care about women. However, they are a business that's open to the public and as such should face the same penalties that any company discriminating against their employees should face. There are plenty of other places to shop for "hobby" supplies where you don't have to worry about your money going to religious hate groups like the ones these Hobby Lobby owners give to.
So......does the CEO of Hobby Lobby think he will go to hell if he provides "abortion-inducing" birth control or what? That's never been clarified. And if that is so much a problem for him, why provide wages to workers who could be using that money for the same medication?
And if I'm a Christian Scientist and I feel it is wrong to have insurance that pays for employee's organ transplants, can I get away with that?
Boycott the company and it's so called "Christian" owners. They would rather see their employees suffer in pain and with financial woes than have affordable health care. Now the owners are finding loop holes in tax laws to avoid paying fines that they should be paying for the harm they are causing their less-well-off employees. Is this what Jesus would do? Oh wait, I forgot, these so-called Christians only believe in Republican Jesus.
Im going to go there and buy a truck load. Companies dont need the murderous behavior of liberals forced upon them.
The comment here from "me me me" or whatever it is shows the typical right-wing mentality. Yuck.
Employers should not get a say in their employees' medical decisions. What if the only job you could find was for a company owned by Jehovah's Witnesses, and they decided that their insurance wouldn't pay for blood transfusions, and then following an accident you need a transfusion, and it's not against your religion, but you can't afford it and you die because of your boss' religious beliefs? Companies should not get to decide what their insurance covers any more than I should get to specify that my tax dollars cannot be spent on war (which is against my religion, btw.)
Let the religious right keep fighting and fighting against social progress. All their efforts will accomplish is the eventual realization of universal single payer, and then women's health care will be paid for by all of our taxes, including emergency contraceptions AND abortion, the way it should be.
I wish I could see the look on the owner's face when Jesus condemns him to an eternity in Hell for his ridiculous selfishness and complete lack of understanding of what Jesus was trying to teach people.
Marty..no where in the Bible does Jesus state that he will condemn people for selfishness or foolishness. Condemnation comes by a person failing to recognize that they too sin and choosing to reject Jesus' gift of salvation that came by His death and resurrection. Christ has already done the work to get you into Heaven. All you have to do is accept that you are saved by grace and not by your own works. Once you realize this you will serve him because you are saved, not so that you can become saved. And on that day that you enter God's kingdom you will not be gazing on anyones anguish or rejection unless you too are rejected because of your rejection of Him. If you truly knew Jesus personally you would not be wishing or hoping to see anyone condemed Marty. Real Christianity is not merely a religion; it is a relationship with a Person. It is an intimate love relationship with God.
Um, Todd, thanks for the Bible lesson, but I believe Marty's comment was intended to be ironic, not literal. Your little sermon sounds very strange to me. You talk as if you are buddies with God and Jesus and know exactly what these imaginary beings think and want. This is just nuts.
Bernard.. if Marty's comment was intended to be ironic then I suppose the fact that it completely lacked love, compassion, and hope of an eternity with the one true God should not be surprising to me. And if it was meant to be literal then shame on him. Unfortunately without Marty's input all you or I can do is speculate. And, I find your disbelief in God probably just as unbelieveable as you find my belief in Him. And yes I do know Jesus personally because I believe that His Word, the Bible, is without error and true and accurately displays the love that God has for mankind and also accurately describes the actions he took to save us from an etenity without Him. In reference to your "thanks" for the Bible lesson, should I take this literally or was it meant to be facetious?
Time to start taking my business to Michael's
I must have misunderstood something. Hobby Lobby in my understanding provides birth control medications and devices for all of it's employees and always has. Their problem is with providing abortive procedures, or chemicals. In a free society it should be completely acceptable to provide or not provide as the employer sees fit.
I would not be happy if my employees got upset because I provided them with insurance for doctors, and medications when some of them do not believe in medicine period. Hobby Lobby is an EXTREMELY successful company because of it's beliefs. It has them... Too many people, organizations, and governments wither when they are WITHOUT a set of beliefs..
Having beliefs isn't redeeming if your action is to be jerkish.
So....if my religion forbids using anything but prayer to cure...or, let's say cancer, by YOUR standards that should be OK. Nice. I'm glad there are laws to protect us from people like you.
Regardless of how much successful a business is, it is not above the law. Birth control is a woman's choice, not the employers, besides, that is what the majority of the people voted for when Obama was re-elected; what part of democracy do they not understand?
How willfully blind to the situation you are. Where is your compassion? Where is your empathy? Today's right-wingers are so cruel and hard-hearted. They scare me.
It's obvious: health care must be taken out of the hands of corporations. They are not capable of acting responsibly. Single payer.
Single payer it should be.
Why would anyone want birth control covered AT ALL by insurance? That makes absolutely no sense from a business/economics view. Insurance is to reduce risks associated with, primarily, catastrophic events. You wouldn't purchase your gasoline or food via insurance; why would you suffer the mark-up and inefficiency of buying birth control through insurance? Once again, the Democratic Party has sold public policy that contributes to generational economic servitude and undermines individual independence and freedom. Furthermore, what right does a government have to mandate "healthcare" coverage by an employer? Why are those linked in any way? If a company provides you with healthcare coverage that you don't like, get a different job, work to change its policy, or buy the company and change things. Hobby Lobby doesn't want to provide coverage due to the religious beliefs of the owners. So quit forcing your beliefs on them by abusive legislation and go figure out how to squander your wealth in a different way. Gotta love how a massive but uneducated, unthinking, and immoral populace quickly turns into a thugocracy.
The idea that insurance only being for catastrophic events is one of the major contributors of why it's so damn expensive. That and the cost of medicines. When we as a country start dealing with prevention is when things are going to get better. But hell, the President's wife is always an easy target, so let's keep on trivializing her child obesity campaign, right?
@Peter–Prevention could reduce costs but a more important determinant of current pricing is ineffective use of insurance. You implied that I said that insurance is for catastrophic events only. I did not. Insurance is to hedge against risk. However, for most people it makes little sense to purchase insurance for events they know they will experience because the insurance companies also know they will experience them, and thus the companies build the costs, plus profits, into the customer premiums.
I said nothing of any childhood obesity campaign.
Why does every single right-wing nutjob work "thug" or "thuggery" into their twisted comments? They really seem to love this word. Every time a right-winger utters the word "union", some variation on the word "thug" is right behind it.
These people are kind of cute with their "follow the leader" games and "I'm rubber, you're glue" projection. Yet they seem pathetic at the same time.
@Bernard–I did not realize others were frequently using some variant of "thug." Here's why I used it: There's a group of dissatisfied people that wants to change society through government decree, not because of a significant structural inequity but because the group is incapable or unwilling to obtain something it wants and so it resorts to overpowering through legislation without regard to morality or the greater good. That's being a "thug." It's members usually have jobs, cars, cell phones, and cable TV. They are usually safe, (over-)fed, educated, and can obtain healthcare. But they lust for something else. Even though what they desire is sometimes good, they give no consideration of how to obtain it in a right way. Rather then educating themselves on how to fix problems or working hard and effectively to obtain what they want, they demand by force de jure. These people, sir, are thugs.
By the way, you would hardly think me pathetic.
"the companies’ religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs." A corporation can't have religious beliefs. Only it's owners can have religious beliefs, and Obamacare isn't forcing the owners to do anything. This lawsuit is frivolous. I wonder how the Supreme Court is going to deal with the impact of Citizen's United, as this emphasizes the stupidity of calling corporations "people."
Maybe this man started his company believing God was his foundation in everything he does. Believing that if he kept his foundation in faith God would honor that. I believe religion does not belong in government or it politics. But in my own company I have to follow my conscious. I'm complying to federal law by providing affordable healthcare coverage, but you are asking me to go against my conscious. Not frivolous at all. Close my company down for this reason or force me to close. 13,000 employees at once without work. Sometimes you just have to choose between what you believe is right and what is wrong and make a stand. No matter what the majority thinks. The majority isn't always right.
Harlequin – somehow I see forcing your religious conscience on your employes as a much graver violation of ethics. If they don't like it, they can go work somewhere else, right? Not sure you'll be so convinced once qualified individuals take your cue and seek employment elsewhere as well.
But...but, I thought corporations were people too
@Peter Grenader he's not forcing his conscience on anyone. He's taking moral responsibility for his part. It's His company. His leadership determines in his opinion whether or not the company is successful or not. He sees himself accountable. what is so wrong with that? The company complies with federal laws concerning healthcare. He just opposes the insurance covering the cost abortion inducing drugs. Simple. If his employees so choose then they must finance that part themselves. You don't want religious fanatics forcing their beliefs on non believers. I don't either. Politics should be secular. I don't want some fanatics telling me or my wife how to dress. I believe in God but I want to make my own interpretations. I'm an electrical engineer and I was employed by one of the companies that supplied the dipole-magnets for the LHC supercollider at CERN. Believe me I know personally particle physicists that believe in God and others that are absolute atheists. I've listen to them argue among themselves and I've not seen one single argument where there was a winner one way or the other.
I have a friend with endometriosis. She just had to have surgery for it. If she doesn't want to have her ovaries removed, she has to stay on birth control until she hits menopause to reduce it's affects. A lot of other women take birth control to help regulate their periods and reduce the strength. Not to mention a great many other conditions a women may have where a pregnancy could have serious health concerns. Birth control is used for medical purposes and shouldn't be any more restricted than any other medication. I mean what if you were suffering from heart disease and needed an expensive medication your employer chose to exclude from the plan because they didn't like the idea of people living longer than god intended?
Birth control is absolutely affordable. Why would you want insurance to pay for it? You do realize by using insurance this way that you end up not only paying the cost of the birth control (or some cost close to it) but also additional business expenses and profit AND you drive up the cost of healthcare in general, right? Insurance is not free. It does not make things less expensive. It exists to hedge against risk while providing profit to the insurer. This is a good and defensible use of resources. What you are advocating is not.
This has nothing to do with contraceptives in general. Get with it. It's about the part of birth control involving abortion inducing drugs. A very big difference. The CEO is a man. People make their comments here without understanding the real issue. I voted for Obama and I believe in socialized healthcare. But I do not have to sacrifice my conscious over it. Either way politics on both sides have their strategies for inducing fear into the mainstream media for achieving their goals. Take this one issue out of the legal process and the problem on both sides of the issue is gone. Use white out. Who cares.
Easy enough loophole to close...just don't let religious organizations get away with not paying taxes if they choose to get politically involved. Secondly, religious beliefs have no bearing on revenue or the law. If I, for example, disagreed with a law because it conflicted with my religious beliefs, I'm not exempted from following it. Whether you like/agree with a law is not important...you follow them or you face consequences. Close the loophole and they will have no choice but to comply. Loopholes are inevitable if you have a 20,000 page tax code. How's this for a tax code: Everyone pays. Period. If your tax rate is X%, you pay X%. No negotiation. It's taxes, not a business deal.
there paying taxes guy read the story they just dont want to pay for contraceptive since its a christian based group if you have the right to take them we have teh right not to. It should never be our way or the highway we cant keep doing a one fix for all approach.
Religious belief is irrelevant. They aren't a church, they should have no religious freedom at all. If they want to collect billions of dollars tax free, become a church–the surest way to amass untold riches. I hate how everyone wants things both ways. One day they're a business, the next they are a religious organization. I honestly don't care if they don't want to pay for contraception. Get the law changed then. Easy enough if you have enough money to buy a public official.
Why doesn't the government just allow Hobby Lobby to purchase an alternative plan that does not cover birth control but instead puts an equal amount of money into a HSA? That way Hobby Lobby does not have to pay for something they are morally opposed to, but employees can choose to use this money for birth control if they want. As somebody who is against birth control, I feel cheated when I receive benefits that I would never morally use. Nobody is talking about the employees who will be earning less because their employers must buy them benefits they will never use!
Because that's reasonable and still grants women a choice...which is unacceptable to the Christian right.
You see, the way insurance works is that they do not fund for EVERYONE using the various services, but for the percent of people who are likely to use those services. Your choice to not use certain services has already been discounted out of the overall price. That's how insurance works. You and the employer are not paying for services you don't use; you are paying an averaged estimate of what you and your co-workers might use.
You do understand how insurance works, don't you?
Hobby Lobby's arguments may have merit, if (sorry- BIG "if") they restricted their employee pool to include only members of the same religious organization as that of the ownership. That way, employer and employee share the same belief and can do as they please. However, I would be wiling to bet that H-L has employees who do not share 100% of the tenets of the owner's style of christianity, and so these folks are losing out on a benefit they may need, simply because of their place of work.
Doesn't work that way, Hobby Lobby-really, any business- is not above US Law. The dangers of allowing a business to disregard the law of the land, whether you happen to agree with that particular law or not, is opening the door to chaos. Other businesses will find reasons to ignore other laws, then tie up the Supreme Court for years with their arguments. The result will simply be economic chaos.. Can't happen. And I hope the Supreme Court can see beyond H-L's request for exemption to what kind of precedent they may be setting on this one.
I do understand how insurance works. I definitely oversimplified it, but it is just a post on a CNN story. I was not actually writing the policy. I do think that perhaps a lot of these issues can be solved by letting employers opt out of certain specific benefits that are known to be controversial. If employers opt out, then they must take the savings (savings = cost of the service * the numbers of employees * the percent of employees estimated to use the service) and distribute that equally into a HSA for their employees to use as they choose.
I guess I'm just saying the penalty paid by these companies should be going to their employees, NOT THE IRS. Make the penalty equal to or slightly more than the service they are denying their employees. Just don't make them pay directly for it so that their conscience can be clear. I think most parties could be happy with this.
So, if I want to claim it's against my religious beliefs to provide a safe working environment, can I avoid OSHA? Or do I need to have a minimum number of followers for my religion to count?
That's the ticket.... just claim you don't want to do anything because it's against your beliefs.
The minimum number of followers is at least 1 more than any current mainstream religion.
Churches are businesses, but can a business be a church? Work rules are enough, who needs religious edicts as well.
But what liability does this open the company to if (WHEN) an employee of theirs does not have health insurance and is hit with a catastrophic illness. Sure they can avoid the fines... but can they protect themselves from a pack of lawyers suing the company because they failed to provide healthcare under a federal mandate? All is well and good as long as nobody in their company gets sick with a costly illness. But go in front of a jury with a sick employee who didn't have health insurance and start explaining why your company failed to provide because some other employee may get birth control... not sure it will wash.
Providing health insurance should not be a responsibility of a company – it is just a benefit. Birth control is not life saving – get a grip on your underwear dude.
@The smarter Aaron yeah well in Germany it's not the company's responsibility either, it's society's. That's why it isn't considered a tax. It's regulated very carefully by a pool system that has nothing to do with their version of the IRS. The political parties are very secular even though they have Christian at front of their names ie. CDU and CSU. But it works. And the system only provides for abortion in those emergency situations where it concerns life and death. But basic healthcare is a right here and not a benefit. I must also point out the teenage pregnancies are a rare occurrence here. It happens just not as often as in the US. The Netherlands has even more liberal abortions laws than the USA but for some odd reason their statistics on abortion are very low. Especially among teen-aged citizens.
@Aaron, you are a moron
"nazi" "communist" "moron"
Your words reveal you definitely the dumber aaron
The more I see the behavior of companies like Hobby Lobby and AIG and J.P. Morgan and Enron and all too many others, the more I am willing to consider communism. Which is a surprise, because I have travelled in a number of communist countries, and that sure isn't the answer either. But damn capitalism has some very ugly sides to it.
The world needs a new political paradigm, because the old ones are repugnant.
aig and jpmorgan paid zero in taxes along with GE hobby lobby pays taxes and so do its employees the company just doesnt want to offer contraceptive why is that so hard for people to understand. Obama is forcing churches to do very immoral things this would never fly in a mosque.
Lol get with the times Hobby Lobby... This is the age of technology and intelligence. Religion is dead. We are a free thinking society not a society of blind followers. You signed your death warrant.
Free thinking and intelligence? What's that have to do with killing unborn babies? Give me a break! Bring pro life does not mean that you are blind religious, it means that you respect something more than yourself.LIFE.
Religion is dead? I am going to church this weekend. Which la la planet you reside on? Did you not know that this country was founded on the belief system of God and concience?Who are you – Are you a Nazi or a Communist to impose your intolerant athiestic views ?
I'm for socialized health care as I've lived in Germany the last 27 yrs. but I so disagree with your comment. Most European nations overwhelmingly have their health care systems socialized and at the same time abortions or abortion inducing medications are not prevalent. Why should anybody give up on what they stand for and believe morally just because the times are modern and there is technology available. If you you don't believe in God your choice. Don't. I won't force you. But if my business is providing employment for 13,000 people and I believe that its success is very much to do with my faith what is that to you. Don't like it? Find employment elsewhere. I'd rather stick to my belief and principals that have brought me this far. You want to have an abortion, your business. I don't have to be part of that. I won't. My decision. My faith. I have to deal with my own conscious, not yours. You say its your body. No problem for me. On this issue you foot the bill. I'm not a religious person. But I do believe in God. My decision. You don't like it. Live with it.
"Free thinking society not a society of blind followers"? Following obamacare communism manifesto mean you ARE a blind follower. You dumb sob!!!
You are claiming you own your employees' pay package, harlequin. Sorry, but they earn it; it's theirs. You are not paying; they are, even if the company writes the check.
And no, you don't get to make medical decisions for employees, which is what denying them coverage effectively does.
You are doing exactly the same thing as withholding wages because you don't want them to pay for abortions. It's their pay package. Stop playing moral vigilante.
@ The (questionably) Smarter Aaron
Who are you – Are you a Nazi or a Communist to impose your intolerant RELIGIOUS views ?
Actually, going straight to calling someone a nazi or a communist automatically marks you as the dumber Aaron.
@Pettruchio sorry not the way it's done here in Europe. The employer is required to pay the greater percentage of the coverage. The employee pays at the moment under the German system around 12.7% of that what the employer pays. I'm paying about €275 euors a month from my salary. The rest is like I said paid by the employer. But I have support a family of six. That's with dental and medications included. But I do see your point. Still I stand by my argument.
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.