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.
I dont want to pay for old men to take Viagra – Pay for it yourself.
I don't want to pay for you old white men to take viagra – pay for it yourself.
What about old black men?
What about old morons, like you, derp?
this is only the beginning.......companies will either cut hours, or just basically shut down in order to not violate their religious beliefs. And then, the ObamaCare will violate us all, by telling us what we can and can't have in health care, who can live, who must die(in order to not be a 'burden' on society), and how we must not 'offend' our government masters, lest we get stuck with nothing. Well, with the fiscal cliff coming, and businesses shutting down because they can't afford the ridiculous mandates, taxes, etc., guess what? Our 'great' government will give we, the legal taxpayers NOTHING except hell on earth. However, our 'great' Relieorats, Demonrats, Independiorats, the White House rats and the Prezorats will all have THEIR salaries, THEIR medical care, THEIR retirements, THEIR foreign deals, THEIR perks, etc. at our cost. You that voted for Obama? Thank yourselves – THIS is what you get for your reward for voting in the Demonrats and for Obama. God help this nation!!!!!
God won't help. The country will collapse by the actions of the elected and no divine intervention will prevent it. Christians are going down in this boat along with everyone else.
Heiny, it's your weight that's dragging the country down.
Tom, I'm conservative. That includes my diet.
Funny thing is, once they force the legislation of every evil thing they believe on us and finsh forcing us to pay for all of thier bad decisios, at the end of the day they STILL won't feel better about themselves.
If you're a conservative, your "diet" consists of corn dogs and deep-fried everything, you hypocrite.
Ooh Tom your intelligence is underwhelming. Uh, Heiny is fat, huh huh huh. Yeah fat, hee heehee. He likes corndogs, hee hee.
I disagree. You underestimate the greed. Remember those companies dont work for charity, they earn hard cash. They will first bent their religious believes before they stop the cash flowing.
Hobby Lobby is free to have their opinion and position...they will jsut have to pay 1.3 mill a day
That's not a reasonable solution. We're not dealing with terrorists, this is an American company that employes thousands of people. The government needs to negotiate corporate ethics for the sake of the employees. If it's such a big deal for people to have access to this one drug, then maybe the government can find the extra money to provide the pill at women's health clinics at reduced or no cost.
I don't see how this "zero tolerance" additude is going to help anyone in the end.
That's fine. One day a bill will be forced on you tha you do not agree with and you will also be forced to pay a fine. Then, there will be nobody left to stand with you because all of the power will belong to the goverenment- FACT
"the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest" BS. Per a friend who is an Assitant Manager "yes, the store is closed on Sundays but", and this is a BIG but, "employees are working restocking the shelves". Hypocrites.
That is indeed a point of interest.
As stated before, Hobby Lobby wouldn't be paying a dime towards these drugs, the insurer does. This is just another attempt by these self rightous fanatics to get in the news. There is no doubt in my mind they think all the publicity will bring other "christians" flooding into their stores.. kind of like the Chicken joint did.
Ever been in a Hobby Lobby? Full of part time female employee's making minimum wage. This company has no desire to help anyone or save a life, it is all about making a buck.
Okay, once again let me explain how insurance works. Everyone pools thier money together by paying what is called a "premium". This "premium" consists of money from the employer, the employee and it is managed by the insurer using the rules that you (or in this case- the governement) establishes. The insurer is simply an administrator of these funds. Also, it is customary that the employer usually pays the higher share f these "premiums".
Most people are aware that abortion is a sensitive topic, and yet the government is making companies provide a controversial health issue, such as the morning after pill. This country was based on freedom, not having the government tell us as a people what we ought to do. We've become a society where anything goes...except for the rights of conservatives, we are slowly losing our rights. There are many people who believe that life begins at conception and the morning after pill is in fact, a means to abort a baby. This will eventually affect churches, religious non profits, and could be a major break down in our society. It makes me sad that this is what America stand for now. What about religious freedom and the right to choose what individuals feel is right or wrong? I'm sorry but I don't need Obama or anyone else telling me what to do.
The government is requiring every company to provide comprehensive healthcare because it is a huge issue in this country. The employee gets to decide what they will do with that healthcare. An employer picking and choosing what health issues they will allow the insurance carrier to cover is effectively imposing their religious beliefs on others. Please remember that Jesus told his followers to follow ALL secular laws provided they do not prevent them from worshipping his father. Why do Christians use the Bible to support their choices yet ignore the parts that don't? Or do they just not read the darned thing?
No one is trying to infring one "conseratives" rights. However, the compnay must complie with Obamacare, wheater they agree with it or not. They're also not providing "abortion" as you conseratives like to twist it to seem as if they are. They're providing contraceptives, it's as simple as that. With the morning after pill there is no fetus being aborted, a fetus hasn't even developed yet. This company has no right to try and force the back asswords views on contraception on any of their employees. They should provide it and let their employee decide wheater or not they will utilize the contraceptive coverage they provide. If not, then HL should be fined heavly until compliance, it's a law after all.
You sit here and cry about your rights being infringed upon while supporting HL's decision to infringe upon their employees rights and person choices. This is why I can't take far right conservatives and religious nutjobs seriously. They're hypocrites, standing up on their pedastal complaining about their rights being violated while advocating violating the rights of others.
Firstly the morning-after pill does not abort a baby. Secondly would you want your employer making healthcare decisions for you if they were deciding such things as circumcision, organ transplants, blood transfusions, and the mandatory use of alternative medicines?
My thoughts exactly! The rights of the conservatives have been violated and ignored on so many, many issues on the whims of political correctness. I admire Hobby Lobby for taking a stand on what is right even though it may jeopardize their business.
What makes HL's stance "moral" in any way, shape, or form? What it is doing is denying its employees legal rights.
The educratists got ye ol' sheep skinning down pat. Pat, get dressed!
If I were a Hpbby Lobby employee, I could take them to court for infringing on MY religious beliefs!
But you don't have to be a Hobby Lobby employee. There's the rub. Or you could be a Hobby Lobby employee and pay for your own abortion without involving your employer.
Yeah, especially when they follow you around, telling you what you can/cannot spend money on. It's so awful that they actually have the NERVE to tell you that you can't go into your own bank account and PAY for your own morning after pills!!!! You should so sue them!!!
Most people are stupid, you are included!
Hobby Lobby would rather let people reach the age of 18 so they can murder them in a well thought out and meticulously planned war. For the good of the country of course.
When will you guys get over this phobia of Universal Healthcare. It should be available to everyone, no matter how much they make or whether they even have a job. If we can get corporations to fund insurance premiums that cover almost everything then the people win. Soon it won't matter if you make $500 a year or $500,000 a year because if you need medical assistance, it will be affordable. Thank you Government! We also won't have to worry about whether or not we are paying too much because our costs will be the same no matter what. Thank you Government! Hopefully this will open the door to other rights we should have like renters, home owners, and auto insurance partially funded by corporations. If they want to do business in America then they need to follow the rules, otherwise fine them out of business to make room for corporations who wants to fund the American dream for others. If businesses close, cut back or move their companies out of the US then good riddance because I have a Government that will continue to pay for my Healthcare and anything else that I need. Religion is for simple minded dimwits but I choose to have faith in a Government that actually has morals, feeds me, clothes me and makes sure that those corporations that deny me these rights pay for it. Thank you Government! Unemployment may rise and a bag of rice and beans may cost $30 but I know that the Government will always be there for me in my time of need….right?
Did you actually say you would rather have faith in government? Good grief. It's people like you who will bring on a fiscal disaster like they are having in Greece. Go do something for yourself and stop letting other people carry your lazy self around.
Exactly!!! Since it is a law that the government passed and almost half of Amercians agree with it, it has to be good, right?! I think Affordable Health care should pay for abortions as well. Why not, i mean that's what they do in China. If the governement decides that we only need one chld then we should believe that they know what's best. I wish people would shut up and understand that the governement knows what is best for us. Or, what about when they go certain tests in vitro and it is determined (by a panel of qualified officials of course) that the health care costs will be too expensive. That isn't good for the collective!!! I hope they do something about that as well and these whiners just shut up.
janet ever heard of sarcasm?
Janet, your comments are spot on, I was just just being sarcastic. I did my best to put together a collective summary of what I'm reading from some very angry people. I was once near sited too but then I went to the doctor to get some glasses. Oh yes, that reminds me, Corporations should also pay for my Designer frames, contacts, and even lasik. Thank you Government!!!
If Hobby Lobby wins, does that mean that if you work for a Christian Scientist, you can be just completely screwed out of health insurance?
No it means you have to pay for your own abortion. Or you can get a job somewhere else. It's called freedom.
It means you will have to fund your own abortion, you wont be having it paid for by your employer who will never support your decision and shouldnt have to fund it.
Yes, it would mean if you work for Christian Scientists they you would have no health insurance and they would pray you well regardless of if you have a cold or cancer – no doctors allowed to intervene. If you worked for Jehovah's Witnesses you better NEVER need a blood transfusion or you will die. Seventh Day Adventist could mandate a vegetarian lifestyle as a means to remain healthy. The idea that a corporation can have a belief system is insane. I am certain that with 13k employees HL does not speak for all of those covered. Funny thing is they are being told to offer coverage, no one is being told they have to use it, so th ewhole arguement may be for nothing.
Jesus stated that his followers must follow all secular laws. Yet another example of someone wanting special treatment for their religion that they aren't really even following.
got a quote on that?
There are actually several. The "render unto Ceasar..." quote is by far the most famous, yet not the best. The caveat is that you didn't have to follow a secular law if it prevented you from worshipping God. Otherwise, Jesus wanted compliant, law abiding followers. Or, should we say, the people who subverted Christianity to gain power wanted compliant, law abiding followers.
James, you are taking what Jesus and Paul said out of context. They never meant for human law to trump God's law. Nero burned Christians at the stake and fed them to wild animals for DISOBEDIENCE – they wouldn't renounce Christianity and worship Nero (a state law). Christians have been persecuted throughout history for choosing to disobey on religious grounds. For perspective, if a Christian lives under Sharia law, then they should denounce Christianity and bow to Islam? Broaden your theology sir....
Just cut all the employees to 28 hours a week, making them temps. That way you do not have to provide insurance. problem solved.
no MS, contrary to your own popular opinion, you are NOT righteous.
Corporations are legal "persons" and should be able to operate as they see fit. A corp is free to hire whomever they want and establish codes of ethical conduct. Most corporations do this to one degree or another. Why should the government regulate what a corporation, aka "person", will or will not pay for?
Hobby Lobby has nothing to do with the patient/doctor relationship. The Hobby Lobby "patient" is still free to purchase the morning after pill. Hobby Lobby just won't pay for it. They should have that right IF their board of directors adopts the decision as an ethical standard. Whether the rest of us agree or not is beside the point of a corporations rights under the first amendment. The dividing line here is "profit". Hobby Lobby makes a profit so they are disqualified from pursuing religious ethical standards??? Shouldn't any corporation have religious freedom as well – according to corporate governance procedure?
So my employer gets to tell me how to live, now? Don't be silly.
If your employer didn't agree with blood transfusions or organ transplants, or only approved of homeopathic medicines; would you still feel they had the right to decide your medical care?
Lucky, what if my Employer thinks the world is overpopulated and feels ethically that people should stop having babies and therefore won't cover pregnancies? The ER provides medical insurance. What the employee and the insurance do is between them. Does the employer get to tell the employee what they can spend their pay on? Maybe they'll stop paying them if they buy alcohol with their pay? Terrible argument, Lucky. Remember, Jesus told his followers they must obey all secular laws. Therefore, this company cannot use Christianity to support their attempt to not do so. It's hypocritical.
What if the hobby lobby feels that collection of taxes that funds war that they are religiously against is a violation of their religious freedom? Can the Hobby Lobby now get a lower tax rate as they are against war? This will lose in the supreme court as they can not afford to have loopholes in these laws.
The employer is not making medical care decisions for their employees. They are simply stating what they will and will not pay for. The employee is free to purchase their own additional coverage, or pay for the procedure themselves. Some employers do not cover dental. Others provide all sorts of additional benefits, or have bare-bones insurance plans that don't cover a lot of procedures – or even caps on certain procedures, like cancer treatments and mental care services. Don't confuse what Hobby Lobby will not pay for with a freedom issue.
Corporations are not people and your post showcases exactly why we need to correct this falsehood of corporations being people. Corporations are companies and they should be regulated and mandated by our laws, but not given the same rights all people have. The excuse that they have to 'choose between faith and following the law" is a complete cop out.
What if someone's faith required them to steal from others. Would that be ok? We would be having a completely different conversation at that point.
Well said Lucky!
And what about the rights of their employees? Why should they suffer discrimination for THEIR beliefs? Also, corporations do not have a faith.
I'll bet they cover Viagra
Considering erectile dysfunction is a real medical problem, it is covered.
Abortions are not medical problems, no need to be covered. Its simiilar to plastic surgery. Just because you are ugly as heck doesnt mean you your employer should pay for your plastic surgery.
so if I am a Jehovah witness employer I don't have to cover blood transfusions?
is there anyone that understands that we're talking about employees' health and therefore THEIR freedom? Freedom of not being discriminated based on the employer's beliefs? I can't stand christians that want to impose religious discrimination claiming it's religious freedom. You don't wanna provide comprehensive healthcare, don't be an employer!
Hobby Lobby, nor any other restrictive employer, is NOT denying patient freedoms to seek individual medical care....they simply won't pay for it. Nothing wrong with ANYONE, corporation or individual, choosing what they will and will not pay for. ALL corporations operate under some type of ethical code, and most are in written form (even state licensing agencies have them). Shouldn't we all have the freedom to choose what we will or will not pay for? Do you want the government telling you to pay for something that goes against your moral code? If you are honest, no you wouldn't....then don't ask someone else to do it either.
So if you work for a christian scientist you're screwed cause they don't believe in modern medicine?
Pretty much, Moby....or.....don't work for the Christian Scientist!!! Find another employer lol. Wow!!!
Raising a chalice of wine into the air, Pope Leo toasted: "How well we know what a profitable superst_ition this fable of Christ has been for us ...
You do know that is a quote from a satirical play do you not? Oh you don't.
Satire, like Fairy Tales, all have a kernel of truth in them. Consider it just another way of looking at the world.
Sounds like Hobby Lobby shoudl convert their stores to churches.
Finally! Someone comes up with the perfect solution!
Religion is nothing more than a tool for the evil to get the stupid to do their dirty work. No one is hampering anyone's faith, if you dont agree with abortions then dont have one, but you have NO RIGHT to tell others they cannot.
Agreed. Corporations do not have faith. People have faith. The people can decide if they are going to follow their beliefs. And, no one should ever have the right to tell me I can or cannot do anything based on their beliefs.
"If you don't agree with abortions then don't have one."
Which statement comfortable avoids the issue at hand. Hobby Lobby isn't attempting to prevent employees from having abortions. Hobby Lobby is only fighting against being forced to pay for them.
In neither case is HL paying for abortion; they're paying a third party. Why should they have a problem when one third party (insurance) pays for an abortion but not when another third (employee) party pays for it?