December 27th, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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Washington (CNN)– Craft store giant Hobby Lobby is bracing for a $1.3 million a day fine beginning January 1 for noncompliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.

The company opposes providing some contraceptives to employees through its company health care plan on religious grounds, saying some contraceptive products, like the morning after pill, equate to abortion.

After failing to receive temporary relief from the fines from the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby announced late Thursday through its attorneys that it "will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."

In September, Hobby Lobby and affiliate Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, sued the federal government for violating their owners' religious freedom and ability to freely exercise their religion.

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"All they're asking for is a narrow exemption from the law that says they don't have to provide drugs they believe cause abortions," Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan, a general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNN affiliate KFOR in November. "Our basic point is the government can't put a corporation in the position of choosing between its faith and following the law."

The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion inducing drugs. As of August 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employer-provided health care plans to provide "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation and a narrow exemption was added for nonprofit religious employers whose employees "primarily share its religious tenets" and who "primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets."

In the face of that opposition, the Department of Health and Human Services tweaked its original rule in February to require health insurers, not employers, to cover the cost of contraception coverage, reasoning that would prevent religious groups from having to finance such coverage. Critics have argued that exemption for nonprofits is far too narrow and a host of nonprofit religious groups have sued the administration over the regulations.

The Internal Revenue Service regulations now say that a group health care plan that "fails to comply" with the Affordable Care Act is subject to an "excise tax" of "$100 per day per individual for each day the plan does not comply with the requirement." It remains unclear how the IRS would implement and collect the excise tax.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, based Hobby Lobby chain has more than 500 stores that employ 13,000 employees across 42 states, and takes in $2.6 billion in sales. The company's attorneys say January begins a new health care plan year for Hobby Lobby and that excise tax from the IRS would amount to $1.3 million a day.

Hobby Lobby is owned by CEO and founder David Green and members of his family. "The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles," a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, adding that one outgrowth of that is the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest. Each year the company also takes out full-page ads in numerous newspapers proclaiming its faith at Christmastime and on Independence Day.

The store is not formally connected to any denomination, but the Green family supports numerous Christian ministries and is behind the Green Collection, one of the largest private collections of biblical antiquities in the world. The family plans to permanently house the collection in Washington at a museum set to open in 2016.

On Friday, attorneys for Hobby Lobby petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene and provide temporary relief from the the fines until the case was decided by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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Wednesday evening, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals from the 10th Circuit Court, said the company failed to meet "the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief," and that it could continue to pursue its challenge in lower courts and return to the higher court, if necessary, after a final judgment.

"Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the 10th Circuit. The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time," Duncan said in a statement.

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

White House officials have long said they believe they have struck an appropriate compromise between religious exemptions and women's health. The White House has not commented specifically on the Hobby Lobby case.

"It's just so sad that Hobby Lobby is facing this choice. What company, even a successful family owned business like Hobby Lobby, how can they afford the government $1.3 million in fines every day? It's just really absurd that government is not giving on this," said Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy adviser for the Catholic Association. Religious liberty groups like hers are watching the Hobby Lobby case closely.

"I am optimistic that these cases will eventually snake their way back up to the Supreme Court and given a full hearing on the merits of the case, I am confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of religious liberty," Ferguson said. "But in the meantime there is serious damage being done to businesses like Hobby Lobby and nonprofit charitable organizations."

The Hobby Lobby case is just one of many before the courts over the religious exemption aspects of the law. The case represents by far the biggest for-profit group challenging the health care mandate.

After this piece of the law went into effect in August, religious nonprofits were given "safe harbor" of one year from implementing the law. "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said in January when the administration announced the move.

Dolan's New York Archdiocese won a victory this month in its legal battle against the administration and the mandate. In May it sued the government in federal court in Brooklyn over the mandate, saying it "unconstitutionally attempts to define the nature of the church's religious ministry and would force religious employers to violate their consciences."

The government moved to have the case dismissed. On December 4, Judge Brian M. Cogan denied the government's motion to dismiss the case, saying the government's promise of changes to how it will implement the law were not enough to merit dismissal. "There is no, 'Trust us, changes are coming' clause in the Constitution," Cogan wrote in in his decision to let the case proceed.

UPDATE: Hobby Lobby's $1.3 million Obamacare loophole

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church and state

soundoff (5,627 Responses)
  1. A conservative (not a member of any party)

    Freedom of religion does not mean, that you have the freedom to force your employees to live by your rules in the name of a religion that they may not share.

    December 28, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • cranston

      Actually, Hobby Lobby has made it quite clear that it has no desire to control its employees' behavior. It just doesn't want to pay for that behavior in this case. Employees are quite free to spend their $10 for this "treatment".

      December 28, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Primewonk

      So cranston, according to your logic, since my bizarre religious beliefs (hypothetically) say that black folks are subhuman, I will not provide insurance coverage for black employees. They can go buy it themselves.

      And, diseases like hyperlipidemia and type II diabetes are signs from god that fundiot nutters should become vegans. So I will refuse to pay for statins or Januvia for fundiot nutter employees.

      Sound fair to you?

      December 28, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  2. Really

    At the time of the Declaration of Independence several northern states that were dominated by Puritans and Refom churches actually persecuted members of the RCC as they did not want papal influence to contorl their lives, after all, that is why they escaped to America. Now with the rise of fundamentalists and the policies of the RCC we can see that influence trying to interfere with the laws of the government. The courts must stop this, a correct decision. Religions have to understand that they can preach to their own flock but must butt out of the rest of our lives.

    December 28, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  3. MagicPanties

    The root problem here is the "life begins at conception" myth.
    At the time of 'morning after' pill use, there might be some tiny clump of cells.
    Calling this abortion is so far removed from reality, it is just astounding.

    December 28, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Rundvelt

      Ignorance and gullibility are a virtue. Didn't you hear?

      Ignorance of reality so that you don't mistrust the bible, gullibility so that you have faith that it's all true.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • cranston

      Actually, the root of the problem is basic liberty and choice. An employer should be able to choose what it will pay for and not pay for. The employee is free to buy what they wish and Hobby Lobby supports that freedom. The issue is a government requirement that is onerous. Abortion is just a wedge issue again in this case.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • MagicPanties

      @cranston, that is ridiculous.
      By your logic, any company can claim that any belief (no matter how absurd) is against their religion and thus they shouldn't have to pay for it.
      For example, my Holy Herd of Unicorns does not believe in antibiotics; therefore, my company won't pay for any of them.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  4. Rseb

    A Jehovah Witness faith based company then following same principles can refuse to provided blood transfusion to its employees?

    December 28, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • daveinkc

      You're exactly right...and a Christian Scientist based company can refuse their employees medical care of any kind.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  5. ed

    Pro choice – I guess not... Hobby Lobby has no choice – either do what big bro says or get taxed to death. Yet more "trust us" crap coming from Obama Care –
    And before you snap off, yet I did read the entire bill, all 923 pages of it (or whatever.) It isn't really that long due to the large spacings and huge indents but many parts of it are very poor conceived and written in broad generalities and only took a few hours to read through. Regardless of where you stand on public health care, this is a poor piece of legislation that was crammed down the throats of Americans.

    December 28, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Rundvelt

      It's a start. Up here in Canada we have great health care. Every time I come down to the states I always think it's weird that "I need to pay for medical care".

      Jesus would be for health care for everyone.

      Matt 25:40
      "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

      See, the bible has some good stuff in it too. It's not all nonsense and stupidity.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Robert Warner

      Actually, it was voted into law by our elected representatives. If you don't like it, you should move to China. Seeing as you hate our democratic process, maybe you'll be more happy.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  6. John Spurlock


    December 28, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  7. Rick1948

    The latest big business excuse for not doing the right thing – "it's against my religion."

    December 28, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • true texan

      When Hobby Lobby found out they would be fined they should have immediately called a news conference and announced the closing of ALL stores in the U.S. and said why they were doing it. This gov. has turned into a tyranntical gov. I say enough is enough! If I had a business and I was told how I was to run MY company I would close the doors!!

      December 28, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • WASP

      @yup you're a TRUE TEXAN. YOU WOULD RATHER PUT all YOUR EMPLOYEES out on the street then pay to cover them with insurance.

      I D I O T.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  8. Sagebrush Shorty.

    Obamacare at it's finest. Exemptions are given to many of Obama's union cohorts and various other contributors but not to a family-owned company like Hobby Lobby.
    This administration is disgusting.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • WASP

      @shorty: if you don't like the country...................................guess what you have the FREEDOM TO LEAVE.
      best of luck elsewhere.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Bridget

      What are you talking about? What exemptions to unions?

      December 28, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • MagicPanties

      On what wingnut blog did you get that info? Not true, of course.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • true texan

      @ wasp...Just what do you think obozocare is doing to this country? HELPING it??? Not likely. This is about a tyrannical government you brain dead lib! I would do the same if they told me I HAD TO go union! You lose your authority over YOUR COMPANY! The gov. didnt start MY company, neither did a union and damned if I would allow them to dictate how I ran it! You libs are being fed a line of garbage and arent smart enough to see the damage its doing. By bozos own admission, his raising taxes on the top % will cost 2–4 hunderd THOUSAND jobs and he doesnt care. Do some research, its HIS own admission! My DR., 2 years ago told me obozo care had already cost him $40,000 just to make changes in his systems so THE GOV. can keep track of OUR RECORDS!! DUMBA$$E$ just amaze me!!!!!

      December 28, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  9. Squally

    LOL, silly Christians and their archaic views.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  10. rami

    If China told them to do so, they will... no question asked!

    December 28, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  11. joe

    they shouldn't be forced to help people get a pill that kills the baby inside them.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Squally

      At that point, it's not even a baby yet. It's a zygote, which is the initial cell that formed after fertilization of the egg by the sperm. By your logic, I would be comitting abortion by masturbating because I'm "killing cells".

      December 28, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Rundvelt

      I shouldn't have to be forced to endure laws who's basis exists in fairy tales and nonsense.

      And it is nonsense.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      A pill that kills the baby? The Morning After pill doesn't kill anything you dolt!! The Morning After pill is preventative! No woman can possibly know the 'morning after' whether or not they got pregnant and why the hell should a woman be forced to risk an unwanted pregnancy? What if she is taking that pill due to having been raped?

      December 28, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • jim d.

      send me your mailing address and ill fedex you a microbiology textbook read it. please.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Melanie

      Joe, you're a Moron!!

      December 28, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Robert Warner

      And I shouldn't have the laws from the Vatican rule my life.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  12. Rundvelt

    Freedoms of religion start and end with the individual. I think the following is totally fine...
    1) A person protesting abortion clinics.
    2) A doctor not prescribing abortion pills.

    What I don't think is fine is when religions dictate what they can and cannot do based on their morality.
    1) Stem cell research
    2) Preventing health care support by way of contraceptives.

    The line is a lot closer then some think, which is why I think Hobby Lobby believes it has a case. They don't however.

    Fine them till they relent. You don't get to morally police your employees.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  13. Onefai

    Those freaks need to brush up their biology. Those medicines doesn't cause abortion. They prevent pregnancy.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  14. JD

    It sounds really great when Hobby Lobby says they are honoring the Lord with their business. They should actually read some of their products where it says plainly in 2 Peter 2 and Romans 13 where it talks about supporting your gov't. This company would not be in business if they weren't making money period! So if you are going to use the phrase honoring the Lord and turn right around and ring the cash register up for selling the Lords words well.........

    December 28, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • mrazlt

      As long as the govt isn't asking you to be ungodly. Maybe you should understand the bible a little more before you start requesting other people to follow the bible bud. Did the apostles not spend time in jail for still preaching the gospel? Did Daniel disobey Darius? Paul and his followers in Acts 17 did contrary to all the decrees of Caesar in order to make Jesus the King? Just saying maybe understand it a little.... The govt is supposed to be a representation of God, not all govt's do so. Were Christians supposed to just line up behind Hitler? I don't think Hobby Lobby is in the right, but comments like yours bother me

      December 28, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Primewonk

      @mrazalt – according to your bible, it is godly to go and kill gay folks because your god thinks they are icky. My government prevents you from doing this. My government is preventing you from being godly. Sorry.

      December 28, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  15. Great Flying Spagetti Monster

    Since when can a business have a religon? People have religons, companies do not. Fine them until they relent (or is that repent)

    December 28, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Tricia

      Remember, companies are PEOPLE now! Hence the COMPANY/PEOPLE can cry foul when their COMPANIES/PEOPLES religious veiw are infringed upon. Gotta LOVE America!

      December 28, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  16. Mike

    Nitwits!! They do not have the right to force their beliefs on their employees. I know quite a few people who work for Hobby Lobby and enjoy the working conditions, but are themselves non-believers or of a different faith!!

    December 28, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  17. jack paulden

    Good Luck with your new Hobby ....lobbying against the people's choice. Many lack decent healthcare and this is not a great solution (Obamacare) but it's a start. Lobby against the Hobby of wasted and unnecesary wars where many Americans and others die needlessly, Iraq as an example. Black Christians must be equal in your God's eyes or Christianity is false. The idea that you have to be a white Repbulican to be a real Christian only creates more evidence that perhaps Christianity is a false religion....Wow..what Hobby would most of us then choose if that were true?

    December 28, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  18. WASP

    what these idiots don't understand is they are a BUSNIESS, not a CHURCH.
    case closed, you lose. the government is able to make companies provide benefits to their employees.
    if these people don't like it..................................... TOUGH.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • PevanB

      What you don't realize Zippy, is they have a right to express their religion the way they want. What if the government decided that you could no longer live in your mothers basement past the age of 32, would you feel that is fair

      December 28, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Squally

      And what you don't realize is that not all of their employees share the same backwards views on contraceptives. Why should those employees be forced to shell out money for addionatal insurance just because they don't drink your flavor of crazy sauce?

      December 28, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • WASP

      what you missed planB; was they are using their BUSINESS as a religious building.

      YOU STILL LOSE..............................SEE EVEN THE SUPREME COURT AGREED. XD

      December 28, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Rundvelt

      > What you don't realize Zippy, is they have a right to express their religion the way they want.

      This is 100% wrong. I cannot exclude Asians/Furries/Gingers/etc. even if I have a deep seated belief that they are evil. My right to swing my arm ends at your nose. This is a concept that you seem to forget when it's in your favour, but I bet would outrage you if you were on the receiving end.

      > What if the gove> rnment decided that you could no longer live in your mothers basement past the age of 32, would you feel that is fair.

      Again, you provide an idiotic argument. Either you're a troll or mentally challenged. If it's the latter, I'm deeply sorry and my only advice to you is to stop posting.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  19. Rundvelt

    My religion prohibits me from paying taxes, providing health care or paying anything besides minimum wage. My religion also requires me to force employees to work at least two hours of overtime a day, unpaid of course.

    I really hate it when the government comes in and starts taking my religious freedoms away.

    The above is literally no different then what Hobby Lobby is doing. They're effectively saying "You cannot take part in this because we've decided that we're not paying for it."

    Odd that they seem to have no problem paying taxes, which go the teaching of science, which is opposed to their bible, contraception, which is sooooo bad and in some states, the paperwork required to process gay marriage licenses.

    What people need to realize is that you have a right to practice your religion freely. You do not have a right to have others accept your religion or adhere to your religion.

    I guess the best example of this is when people get huffy about "Holiday Tree" or "Happy Holidays". Some people are not happy enough that they can go and worship a pagan ritual that was absorbed by their religion, but you have to obviously change your languge too.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • WASP

      rundvelt: don't forget about our religion not believeing in child labour laws, THOSE DAM KIDS SHOULD BE WORKING JUST LIKE THEIR PARENTS.

      lmfao. XD

      December 28, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • PevanB

      Abortion is not a right there kumquat. What if the government decided to take away something that you held to? Or do you have anything that you believe in strong enough? Your children, what if the government decided to take your children and put them in a different school and you no longer could have any control in their life. Would you agree to that? well?

      December 28, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • WASP

      @parents should have used PLANB:
      idiot this about a COMPANY refusing to provide insurance coverage to ALL OF THE EMPLOYEES BASED ON THEIR RELIGIOUS VIEWS.

      a company is not a religious organization, they fall under the same rules as every other company in the U.S.A.

      December 28, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Rundvelt

      > Abortion is not a right there kumquat.

      What abortion is occuring? If you mean that the fertalized cell is not attaching to the wall or otherwise not viable, then God's the biggest abortionist of all time due to his crappy design of the femal reprouctive system.

      > What if the government decided to take away something that you held to?

      Nothing is being taken away. You still have the right to not have an abortion. You still have the right to go to church and live your life the way you want to. What they're doing is enforcing the concept that you don't get to enforce your morals on other people.

      > Or do you have anything that you believe in strong enough?

      You know what I believe strongly in? I believe that restrictions placed on people should be made by sound arguments based on reality. Not a claimed authority by something that isn't demonstratable in reality.

      > Your children, what if the government decided to take your children and put them in a different school and you no longer could have any control in their life. Would you agree to that? well?

      Wow, that's special. Are employees your children now? If not, this argument is moronic.

      But I'll answer your question. I'm 50/50. I believe that parents have a right to raise their children the way they want, as long as it's reasonable and healthy for the child. So, if you were planning to send your child to "Hajib's Itty Bitty Suicide Kiddy" school, I'd have an issue. If you sent your child to a cath/pro/evan/luth/etc school, I'd have less issues.

      The point here is that Hobby Lobby is required to provide Obamacare benefits to employees by law. Just like how they have to pay taxes that support other things they don't agree with.

      Freedom of religion is necessarily related to the self. You don't get to dictate your beliefs to others.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Robert Warner

      My religion says tha all beautiful women must sleep with me. I'm filing a BUTTLOAD of lawsuits mionday morning.

      December 28, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  20. rtrauben

    maybe they need a new hobby besiding violating the laws of the country they do business in.
    otherwise they might be fined a large sum of money. perhaps business and religion shouldnt mix.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • JCQueipo

      And my friend you got it Right !! probably because you are looking at the big picture !!

      December 28, 2012 at 7:39 am |
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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.