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.
So, which contraceptive are they concerned with that is an "abortifacient"? Or is this just sensationalization to support their politics?
All of them.
Just a bunch of religious cry babies who are upset that Obama won. Boo hoo... IRS keep fining them and make them pay!
You're not supposed to win in this country when the loser is the first amendment. So much for the freedom of religion.
No, Trina – they are standing up for their rights. How would you react it if a law was enacted that made you go against your core beliefs?
This is great. I think I will do the same thing with my businesses health insurance plan. Oh wait, we are bucking the system and paying the fine. Because this is BS. Birth control is your own personal problem, not mine.
morons dont read articles. now where does it say this is about birth control...
"The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs."
You don't pay for the plan – it's part of your employees' pay package.
Funny how people who hate the government making decisions for them do the exact same thing when they are the government of the business.
Boycott HOBBY LOBBY for being a tax evading company that practices religious persecution!
Because of you, I'm going out of my way to buy stuff from HL.
Dum dum. It's tax avoidance utilizing LEGAL loopholes, not tax evasion. There's a big difference.
I'm telling everyone I know to boycott HOBBY LOBBY due to their practicing religious persecution.
I think all business that disagree with obamacare should take the hostess solution to liberal trying to empty their pockets. Just close your doors. This is exactly what I don't need to work or run a business anymore so fack obama and his obamacare. Obama made me put 200 employees on the street. Well that is whay they deserve for voting for obama. I invite all business to do the same. As the owners we have enough money so it not going to hurt us.
I sincerely doubt that anyone who can't construct a coherent sentence or spell the word "what" correctly ever had 200 employees to fire.
You are blaming government for your failure as a business owner. You chose to shut down the business instead of adjusting your business plan and the way you operate. The far right is always screaming about personal responsibility. Unless the IRS showed up and shut it down, that was your Personal Choice to close the business. Man up and accept the consequences of your actions.
Wow, what a caring employer you must have been.
Those you fired are fortunate to be rid of you.
That was so christian of you but you have enough money so that's ok.
If you actually put '200 employees on the street' it's because you're bad at business.
attagoodolboy!...blame that nasty black man for all your troubles...who would you blame if the religious nut had won?
Never again in a Hobby lobby.
Hye Hobby Lobby, Jesus called, and he says he's still dead!
Do you momos realize that 60 percent of birth control pills are prescribed for non-birth control reasons? Probably not, since your knowledge of science pegs the Earth's age at 5,000 years.
Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan.
Well, no crap. Hobby Lobby doesn't provide coverage for *anything* in its health care plan, because it's not a freaking insurance company!
anything you say POS.
I didn't realize a corporation could have religious beliefs...
Corporations are people, my friend.
So corporations can ignore laws for "religious" reasons? Thankfully corporations don't still believe in slavery...oh, wait...
I've been asking that same question for weeks. No one's answered it yet.
@ Morgue 13– Just like Chick fil A, Hobby Lobby is not open on Sundays.
For a company that supposedly bases their decisions on religious beliefs they sure did have alot of non-religious items stocked for the Christmas holidays (which started in July for them when Christmas merchandise first appeared). They basically took Christ out of Christmas with their selection of merchandise therefore seems to me to be talking out of both sides of their mouth.
Vickie, Hobby Lobby's owners are Catholic, thus their religious beliefs are anti-abortion/anti-contraceptives. Nothing in their religion (or in any religion that I'm aware of) prohibits them from selling non-religious items, even in abundance. You're really grasping for straws here.
If I worked there I would sue them for religious discrimination
Religious discrimination because they won't buy your birth control? Good luck with that one.
Yes. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy birth control. Those who object on religious grounds are free to not use birth control. But they are not allowing me to do so, despite a law saying they are supposed to. So they are imposing their beliefs on me. Got it?
chris you are free to use birth control and buy it yourself.
They are objecting to the government forcing them to pay for contraceptives, the use of which is contrary to their beliefs.
"Nobody is forcing anyone to buy birth control." Uhhh, yes, they are. Perhaps you have been living under a rock. The government is forcing Hobby Lobby to include payment for contraceptives for their employees in their funded insurance plans. That's what the whole debate is about.
What do you expect out of a company that won't even honor its sales adds and charge full price when it was clearly on sale. Yea if you are that religous why are they making their employees work on Sunday. ALL GREED!!!!!!!
Will they refuse my dollars since I do not concur with their religious views? Will they not hire a person as employee who does not share their religious views?
Will you consider the relevance (or lack thereof) of your questions?
Hobby Lobby is absolutely correct. No employer should be required to provide benefits for birth control, heart disease, or anything else. Like any civilized country, health insurance should be provided to all as a right by the government. With single payer national health insurance, we would live longer and pay less. The countries that have national health insurance pay around what half what we do, per capita, and their people have long life expectancies.
We will get to single payer eventually, out of necessity. The present system is a disaster, and Obamacare is just a finger in the dyke (giggle). Rising costs and the greed of the insurance and parts of the medical industry will make it unavoidable.
Health care is about relieving human suffering, or it should be. Nothing else. No one's religious, political or other beliefs should be be allowed to interfere with personal decisions such as whether or not to use birth control. I will never shop at Hobby Lobby, Chik Fil A or any other company that believes in imposing the religious beliefs of its owners on it employees.
I love how a chain store that sells cheap Chinese made "crafts" knows what drugs are abortion inducing. Why don't they stick to selling fake floral arrangements and plastic garlands and let the medical experts decide about what induces an abortion and what doesn't. Time to shop at Michaels.
Wow..they did not say they believe certain drugs might induce an abortion..they said that they are against having a health insurance plan that provides abortion inducing contraceptives. Which is not really a contraceptive, rather its a way to terminate a pregnancy. Please I beg you people to read the articles before you comment, as poorly written as the articles may be.
Except Michael's donates to the Republican Party. Shop at JoAnn's-they donate to Democrats.
Well I'll just make sure I never shop there again.
They're hurt I'm sure. Loser
interesting how birth control pills are deemed abortion drugs.... silly christian taliban
Funny how you think it should be the responsibility of others to pay your bills. Silly liberal morons.
Funny how morons think u should pay for everything, even funnier how morons think birth control is an abortion pill.. oh yeah morons dont read articles
I love it when people think the liberals should pay for their own stuff yet the red states tend to recieve more than they give in taxes.
Great retort, bam. Now answer his question. Why is it my responsibility as a taxpayer to pay for a woman's decision to use birth control, have an abortion, or use any other form of contraception?
Or better yet, don't answer his question. Simply respond with more of the same ignorance that essentially defines the modern liberal movement.
read the article moron, no where does it say it is about birth control
"The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs."
wah wah wah they shouldnt pay for birth control but it is OK to pay for VIAGARA etc....
Viagra is a pharmaceutical that cures a medical illness.
DC Johnny, why is it my responsibility as a taxpayer to pay for any man's erectile dysfunction drugs?
The entire premise of their argument is invalid. Birth control does not cause an abortion. Even if you take the most extremee interpretation that conception creates a sentient being they are wrong. All birth control does is simply prevent conception by altering a woman's cycle. Therefore, their religious argument is null & void because it is not medically or religiously acurate.
More to the point if exceptions are made, what else are comings going to start denying on religous grounds. Will FICA, taxes, etc fail to be paid on "religious" grounds. Simple fact is that if they cannot follow the law as written, then they should be fined until they comply. I am tired of the right flaunting the law but wanting everyone else to be bound by their "religious law & values".
ironman9, the owner of the compay thinks the Earth is only 5,000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs lived together. Science ain't exactly their best subject!
Interesting point, from someone who most likely supports every decision made by an administration that proudly admits that they will not enforce immigration laws, DOMA, or many other laws that have been passed by prior Congresses and signed into law by past presidents.
Especially when they are imposing their religious beliefs on their employees, when they claim to be the victims of that very thing...
Headline: Religious fanatics find way to avoid complying with the law through trickery and deciet. The systematic oppression of women by the far right continues. And these people consider themselves moral? Ridiculous!
the Christian Taliban. if u r not with them u r against them
Oppression of women? That's ridiculous. There are many places women can get this kind of treatment / these drugs for free without HL's owners having to compromise their moral beliefs.
as long as the company is FORCING CHRISTIAN beliefs on its employees it is OK....
now if this were islamic beliefs forcing women to cover their faces....
So now it is a woman's "right" to get free birth control and abortions? Am I reading that correctly? That the company is somehow forcing it's crazy belief that abortions and birth control are personal decisions and should be financed personally?
You are everything wrong with the direction this country is heading. A misinformed, misdirected and small-minded, hateful person.
If that is your excuse then men should stop getting viagra for their 'heart problems'. BC has been known to help with the bleeding assosiated with a woman's time of the month as well as the pain that sometimes sends women into the hospital; however you never hear religious people talk about the pill to let old guys have relations.
If it were Islamic beliefs forcing women to cover their faces, then the employee should change employers IMHO. Its not, though. It is a company that does not want to provide abortificants to people. They aren't restricting it, like restricting a woman's face to be shown. They just don't want to pay for it.
If an employee of Hobby Lobby wants some abortificants, they just need to use their budgeted paycheck to pay for it. Easy-Peasy. If an Islamic woman wants to show her face, all she needs to do is dodge the stones being hurled at her. Easy-Peasy
Oh, the extremely popular yet incredibly stupid Viagra argument. Let me educate you, if you are prepared and willing to actually learn something.
What is the fundamental difference between Viagra and birth control? They both work on the same system of the body – the reproductive system. They both relate to intimate relationships. Certainly if one is for a man and the other for a woman, supporting one but not the other must be evidence of a war against women!! Right?? Go get those conservative misogynists!!
Here's where you get put in your place. Birth control is almost entirely used to undo the personal choice of intimate acts. It is not used to treat illness in most usages of it. It is not the cure to anything but lust. Viagra, while thought of as detestable and laughable to you, actually CURES A MEDICAL ILLNESS.
Did that ever occur to you? That one has an actual disability to target, while the other has... simply pregnancy to target?
Yeah Johnny, Its her RIGHT to PURCHASE health insurance from her employer that provides birth control. Get over it.
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.