December 27th, 2012
07:20 PM ET
Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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.
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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.
If you are OK legally with a liberal president forcing employers to buy birth control for employees, by the same logic you'd have to be OK with a Rick Santorum-backed law that forces employers to pay for bibles for employees. Both are wrong.
No, they aren't. Did you miss the SCOTUS decision?
The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:
(a) Circular reasoning at its most simple and obvious;
(b) The reason 99% of Christians believe what they do;
(c) Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or
(d) All of the above.
You missed some important things, I'm sure it wasnt on purpose..
1. No historical fact in the bible has ever been demonstrated to be incorrect
2. The historical facts in the bible describe the interaction of the God of Israel with humanity
3. Christians believe in the reality of that, that the God of Israel is real, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Christians dont merely believe something that is written in a book, they recognize that the events described in the bible actually occurred.
Doesn't mean they are correct in that assumption, Chard. Can you prove they are?
(c) may not be true. Human beings and human failings led to Christianity. I think you'll find similar products of our lapses even where the God of Israel isn't the most obvious problem.
Chad. probably 90% of the bible never happened, including the talking snake, people living to be hundreds of years old the worldwide flood, all people originating with adam and eve, a talking donkey, etc., etc.
Sorry, love to debate, but got to run. Skiing in Québec this year..
@Colin "probably 90% of the bible never happened"
@Chad "interesting claim, couple questions for you:
1. what investigations have you done that have lead you to this conclusion (I"m sure it isnt something as simplistic as "you just know none of the bible is true")
2. Can you provide a single historical detail in the bible that has ever been disproved? This should be extremely simple for you, knowing as you do that "90% of the bible is false".
Despite very extensive archeological research there is not a single bit of evidence of a large Jewish population being in Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. There has not been a single discovery of any campsite of the fleeing Jews during the 40 years of wandering the desert.
I do under stand that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. However, considering the extensive and detailed records of the early Egyptians and the millions of artifacts already found and analyzed, the total lack of any artifacts of an entire population is very convincing.
"talking snake" you must mean "talking serpent", as serpent in the garden didnt take the shape of what we know now as a snake until AFTER the curse.
"people living to be hundreds of years" no reason to think this isnt true, right? do we have any data demonstrating this couldnt have happenned?
"the worldwide flood" A) when did this happen (we have no idea)
B) what was the extent of the flood, was it planet-wide or merely the world as they knew it at the time (it isnt clear)
"all people originating with adam and eve: who did cain marry? Does the bible say that Adam and Eve were the only two humans on earth prior to having children? (it isnt clear).
"a talking donkey": can you show me where the bible says that the donkey was able to actually talk in the sense that other people had they been standing there would have heard it? Or are we talking about something else here..
@Dude "However, considering the extensive and detailed records of the early Egyptians and the millions of artifacts already found and analyzed, the total lack of any artifacts of an entire population is very convincing."
@Chad "A. New archaeological finds occur every day, no one would even attempt to advance the argument that we have a complete history of ancient egypt
B. The early Hebrews were slaves, evidence of slaves is obviously going to be vastly smaller than for members of society
C. NEVER bet against the bible, remember that atheists used to gleefully claim that Pontius Pilate was a Christian invention, then the discovery of the pilate stone in 1961 (oops!)
"No historical fact in the bible has ever been demonstrated to be incorrect"
That is because there are no historical facts in the bible.
No boss has the right to tell me what kind of medical treatment I should choose. My Doctor and I can discuss the best methods for dealing with all emergencys thank you.
Hobby Lobby should just stop paying for their employees health insurance too.
BRAVO to Hobby Lobby! They should be free to set whatever coverage they want. If an potential employee doesn't like the coverage, they can choose to work elsewhere.
Yes bravo to Hobby Lobby to choose to lay the 1.3 million tax penalty a day. lol
Please choose your favorite Christian superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Christians believe and give an example of a non-Christian belief which is just as stupid.
(a) Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.
(b) When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.
(c) You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.
(d) A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.
Please provide biblical evidence (chapter/verse) supporting each contention
That's rich, coming from Chard, who never backs up a statement with facts.
(a) is a Christian doctrine developed after the last book in the Bible was written.
(b) The Bible is riddled with examples of people praying for things and their prayers being answered.
(c) Also developed after the last book in the bible was writte.
(d) The basic theology of Saint Paul, and of Matthew and Luke's Gospels.
Chad – recall, I said "Christian beliefs" not beliefs contained in the Bible.
ok, so a) and c) you acknowledge are man kinds inventions.
still waiting on your biblical support (chapter/verse) for b) and d). Are you having trouble finding it?
Good. Fine them. By not allowing me to get my abortion pills they are forcing their religion on me. Get your cult away from me.
"...by not allowing you..." ??? You are still free to get abortion pills. The law forces someone else to pay for them. That is wrong.
Abortion pills? Both of you are idiots!! It is the morning after pill, meant to be taken the MORNING AFTER when it is much too early to determine if pregnancy has occurred.
Alright alright my use of the term "abortion pills" was meant to be pretty loose. I don't believe they are abortion pills in the slightest way.
But they are a medical expense and Hobby Lobby should have no ability to force their religion on me. I'm not asking them to give up their religion in any way.
Do you even understand the issue? They are not keeping you from abortion pills. You can buy them all day long. What they are saying is that they do not want to pay for it. Are you suggesting that you have a RIGHT to have someone else pay for your abortion pills? Why?
The morning after pill is called an abortion pill for the same reason a fertilized egg is called a fetus. Shock value.
If they could get away with it they would refer to embryos as 6 year old children.
Hobby Lobby doesn't think the government should interfere while its owners attempt to force their personal religious beliefs on their employees.
This chain is a dump. They are not a church and their employees come from a variety of back grounds with rights granted by U.S. law. Fine these guys and make it hurt.
Okay. Look. I believe that a completely religious organization should (maybe) be exempt from certain issues like this. (For example, a Catholic diocese that has many employees, should not have to pay for stuff that is clearly against Catholic teachings...since, by default, everyone who works there is essentially required to be adhering to Catholic religious "rules"...) (*) (On the other hand – This really does give rise to some serious "slippery slope" possibilities...but I digress...)
However, HOBBY LOBBY is not a RELIGIOUS organization. It is a gods-damned craft store, owned by religious Christians. They employ people who are NOT religious Christians, or even Christians at all. They don't get to make those decisions for other people, particularly when those people almost certainly pay at least a portion (most likely ALL – as these kinds of companies usually "pay it forward" to the employees) of the costs of the healthcare anyways.
Finally, HOBBY LOBBY's attorney said, "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." The key word here is "believe." Sorry, but science, the law, and the government says otherwise. The "morning after pill" is not an "abortion," and you don't get to "decide" such things.
Again, think of the slippery slope possibilities! Let's say a Conservative Muslim owns a bunch of craft stores, and says, "Well, I don't believe that women are worthy of being treated the same as men, so I think the health care coverage shouldn't have to cover women." Et cetera.
Man up, HOBBY LOBBY. The word "religious freedom" does not mean, "freedom to force your religious beliefs on your employees."
* NOTE: Obamacare ALREADY exempts such organizations. ("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.")
It's still a owned thing. Are you telling me a government can tell me what I can do with my sneakers or pencil are you?
Do your sneakers have elves in them? If so, your sneakers are required to pay minimum wage to them.
What are you, 16?
the elves have a free choice, they don't have to work for me.
Idiot, are companies allowed to employ 10-year-olds? Why should the government tell a restaurant owner to refrigerate certain items? Why aren't employees required to work for less than minimum wage?
The government regulates all kinds of private business, doofus.
Christianity is the belief that an infinitely old, all-knowing being, powerful enough to have created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies about 13,720,000,000 years ago, has a personal interest in my $ex life.
Atheism is the belief that the above belief is ridiculous.
The assertation is self-defeating. If God is infinite, then personal details of our lives certainly aren't too small for Him and he certainly isn't too busy for them.....comforting actually.
"then personal details of our lives certainly aren't too small for Him and he certainly isn't too busy for them.....comforting actually."
This is a simple case about healthcare – NOT religion. This has nothing to do with the individual freedom of the owners, they are not being forced to take the pill themselves. However, by law, they are supposed to pay for a common (and vital) heath service for their employees. The Hobby Lobby is not a church, so they are not exempt from federal law. The HL company owner does not want to cover a form of healthcare he don't belive in...if they win, then any company could deny any type of helthcare based on their religion. This would be unnacceptable in Amercian society.
It comes down to ownership. Once you define who owns a thing, then you know who gets to control what happens to it.
Hobby Lobby likes to imply they own the insurance which they are supplying, but that isn't the case. The insurance was bought FOR someone AS compensation. If the employee stopped working, Hobby Lobby would stop buying the insurance and that means they aren't buying it for themselves.
Hobby Lobby wouldn't try to control how you spend the money they give you as compensation because they realize that money, once given as compensation, is no longer theirs.... and neither is the insurance. It was never theirs, they didn't buy it for themselves, it belongs to someone else and it's not their place to say how it gets used – just like a person's paycheck.
Excellent point on the compensation angle.
How about a Mormon owned company telling me I cannot use the money they provide me to buy coffee?
They are not required to purchase coffee, only to provide me with financial compensation for my labor. How I choose to use this compensation is not their affair.
They are not required to purchase birth control, only to provide me with insurance as compensation for my labor. How I choose to use this compensation is not their affair.
That's like saying if the company provides a restroom for the benefit of the employees that the employees own the restroom. Shouldn't hobby lobby be able to decide if they will provide automatic versus manual flush?
Bathrooms need to meet sanitary requirements. You need to post signs that all employees must wash their hands. etc.
You cannot maintain an unsanitary bathroom because you found a passage in the Bible that you think exempts you. You also are required to supply a bathroom to employees.
You have to supply a bathroom and that bathroom must meet certain standards in size, lighting sanitation, soap etc.
You have to supply insurance and that insurance must meet certain standards in coverage, limits etc.
Your precedent speaks against your case. Specifically, in regards to a motion sensor flush or sink I would not be surprised to see them required in the future in order to reduce the spread of disease.
@ Dude: The question was regarding ownership. Who owns the bathroom? The government? The employees? or the employer? I presume it is the party that pays the property taxes.
The fact that there exists regulations on bathrooms is irrelevant....by the way, the government shouldnt be regulating that either. The fee market always works better and more efficiently, but that topic is for another thread.
This is basically Hobby Lobby owners trying to force their personal religious beliefs on their employees. A company cannot have "religious beliefs" because it is not alive. The gov't should FINE THE HELL out of them and put them out of business. KEEP YOUR !@#$%^ RELIGION TO YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's a free country last time I checked. A business is a owned thing like my car or my sneakers. If I own a company, it's mine. That's what being free is all about. Obama wants us all to be slaves to his way and nobody owns anything.
It's "yours?" Sure. So why don't you have the right to employ children? Why can't you tell your employees that they get no bathroom breaks? Why aren't you allowed to pay less than the minimum wage? Why aren't your restaurants permitted to operate without refrigeration?
I don't think you'll ever own a company. You're not smart enough.
This country would be a third world country if had not been for religious beliefs , and this is what our country was founded on good morals and a belief in aLIVING GOD. So why dont you just pack up and leave if you do not like it. We would not care at all .And no a company should not have to partake in something deemed moraly wrong!!!!!!!!
jenni's school is on winter break right now.
@Ken Freedom goes both ways, an employer is expected to pay an employee for work, give them lunch breaks and such as well as a clean environment, free conversation in the lunch room and access to a rest room and band aides, saftey standards and offer health care. It is not the employers right or place to tell an employee how to get treated for ANY medical issue. It is a free country not a Corporate country and by the way Ken when was the last time a corporation lost a loved one to a work related injurty? When was the last time a corporation baby sat your kids? Corporations are not citizens......down with Citizens United and that Facist indoctrination.
If you don't like their policies with insurance then DO NOT WORK THERE! Bottom line. Everyone knows Hobby Lobby is a Christian based store, if that is not your belief then don't apply for work there. Simple enough!
@ Jenni actually this country WAS a third world country when it began (in European Civilization terms based on 16th century standards). The first colonist came here to aviod religious persecution and to make money on unexploited resources and to have a NEW start. They only agreed on one religious idea.....that was "HAVE THE GOVERMENT LEAVE MY RELIGION ALONE" and not to Control the government with their religion because like today the Pilgrims, Calvinists,Quakers, Atheists, Merchants, Ex Cons, and others brave enough to come to this country NEVER agreed on RELIGON EVER! So please take your Bible knowledge and add some REAL history to it and some REAL events and REAL human nature to your replys in the future. Believe what you want with your higher power, dont condemn me or anyone else to follow all of your religious BS.
@ Ken – so if I own a company I should be able to refuse to hire those "colored" folks? How about if I say that no Jews can sit at the lunch counter?
If you don't like their policies with insurance then DO NOT WORK THERE! Bottom line. Everyone knows Hobby Lobby is a Christian based store, if that is not your belief then don't apply for work there. Simple enough!
Spoken like someone who has never had to look for work to support her two kids or pay her rent in an economy where there are at least 200 people applying for every part time, minimum wage job. Sometimes it isn't a choice as much as it is a desperate need.
"So why dont you just pack up and leave if you do not like it."
Guess Jenni hasn't gotten to the part of history class where the teach about who the christards stole the land from to begin with!! Jenni, it is no more your land than it is that of anyone else, feel free to move to a theocratic country-the one you reside in was founded on secular beliefs!
@myheightinwords: "...desperate need"
....then we should be thankful there are christian companies to help fill the "need" and try to make sure they are around instead of trying to put them out of business.
Yep, that will be good for the economy. Is that a talking point from Obama's economic plan?
Why should employers have to provide contraceptives for women? If people choose to go out and have a good time then it's up to them to protect themselves. It is not their employers job. How about providing condoms to guys? When does it stop? Give me a break...
Why shouldn't they provide coverage? It's not all on the company dime, you dolt. The employee pays premiums for health care. And as for "having a good time," you dimwit, do you not grasp that 90% of women use contraceptives at some point in their lives? It's not a matter of s3x; it's a matter of economics and health.
Why are people like you so ignorant?
The employer isn't making the rules here, the employer is breaking the law and is being fined for not following the law. This is a country of laws, we voted for Obama 2 times the ACA passed period, get over it. This is no different in the eyes of a judge than a company who wont pay overtime wages to an employee or is negligent in its safety procedures. It is the law my boss does not make the law, nor does his boss, nor does his boss, nor does the CEO or the CFO or the COO or the president of my company. They live in America they are reguired to follow the law in this country.
And if any of the employees that work for Hobby Lobby don't happen to share their onesided religious beliefs, their right to this health care option should be trumped by Hobby Lobby's personal views?
So, a big company can profit from customers that may have had abortions and may be on the pill – they are always welcome in the store, right? – but would not pay for its employees' cost of prescription of contraceptives? Convenient inconsistent behavior – typical of the righteous.
You have to sell a lot of plastic crap, made in China to a lot women who live in trailers to afford $1.3 million in fines.
Religion should have no say in business or government. Period! Just because you believe in a god doesn't mean everyone does. And if you want to provide healthcare you have to play by the rules and if those rules state you have to provide contraception, then guess what you have to! Because NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES IN RELIGION!!!!! When are people gonna get that through their heads in this country.
While I don't agree that religion is a fantasy, I do agree that religion should have no role in the governing process. This country is made up of citizens many cultures and religion. It's what makes us great. Apparently, some psuedo-religious right wing-nuts believe that Christianity should be shoved down everyone's throats. How's that for freedom and libery? And they want prayers in schools. WHO'S prayers? If an elected official wants to represent religious beliefs, they should do so from their actions, not words. They should provide an example of how a spiritual person governs fairly and equally, not try to legislate their beliefs on others...
You do realize that the majority of the world believes in a god or goddess don't you? The majority just doesn't believe in the God that Judea-Christians believe in. Abortion is still against a large portion of the worlds beliefs. Obamacare is a double standard by saying that it isn't right for us to say a woman can or can't have an abortion, but in the same step saying that we have to support it if they want it. I'm sorry, but if I can't force my beliefs on you then you shouldn't be able to force your beliefs on me either and that is the real problem with Obamacare in this aspect.
Privately owned business/corporations have every right to limit any benefits. If it is not government sponsored, not publicly traded then why should anyone be able to tell them what and how to provide. This is a very good example of the government trying to control what they have no right to. Obamacare is already infringing on companies telling them what they have to do. If they government fines Hobby Lobby a million a day, how do you think it will be paid. Hobby Lobby will have to raise their prices to cover this government induced hardship. They will lose business, end up shutting down, filing bankruptcy and now Obamacare will take credit for putting another 13,000 people out of work. Oh but they can themn rely on the government to support them with welfare, and our once great company falls deeper in debt to big government!
Hobby Lobby shouldn't feel morally responsible that it is providing the means for employees to have access to abortion (or abortion-inducing drugs). Labor is indispensable to production so the owners shouldn't feel it is their money exclusively. The employees have a moral right to those revenues to be disbursed to their benefit.
My employer is a Christian Scientist. He says that he is opposed to every form of medical treatment except psychotherapy.
My wife's employer is a Muslim. He says he doesn't want to pay for injuries if a woman is attacked by a rapist when she was not accompanied by a male relative.
@El Flaco, Exactly. If you let people arbitrarily follow any ethical systems you end up with employers who provide no health care at all, and vegan pharmacists who get paid to sit around all day refusing to hand out any medicine tested on animals. You have to have one religion-neutral standard.
Three should be NO exceptions to ANY law on religious grounds, period. At the end of the day, religion is fantasy and it needs to be treated as such. Biblemongers can believe all they want and can hold on to their fairy tales until the are blue in the face but they should be made to obey ALL the laws of the land. Laws are real and exist for good reasons. It's ludicrous to allow only certain groups of people to disobey the law because they believe in childish fantasies.