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. JT

    There are many things I don't like my tax money going toward, but I can't pick and choose, so why Hobby Lobby? If they want to change the law for everyone they should bring it to a vote...oh wait we already did that.

    December 29, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  2. david defrank

    mrs pepperpot head it dont take correct spelling to make you smart.its what you no to be true.

    December 29, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You are right, spelling is not a sign of intelligence,

      it is a sign of ignorance however.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  3. david defrank

    gary yoou sound just like a genuis. so i cant spell to good . its not nor gary.

    December 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |

    • Aww – this article has a village idiot. lol. – – – ^ ^ ^

      December 29, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  4. david defrank

    mr peppermouth i may not be as smart as you but i am wiser you fool

    December 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • gary

      There's nothing more pathetic than someone arguing against the use of contraception. Well, perhaps an uneducated person who can't spell nor punctuate correctly would be more pathetic.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Obviously not, since you can't even get my name right, Mr. DeFrank, or grasp the concept of the reply button. I don't think you're wise at all. You'd be wise to do some research before opening your ignorant mouth. Fool.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  5. david defrank

    for those of you being misled by cnn and there prodeath friends. hi to all you movie stars who dont care what kind of torture you infllic on the unborn child.do you not no that saline sucktion late term abortion does not include somekind of pain killer for the innocent baby mommy gets it so why not baby ??????????because you dont see the humanity.those of you who read boggies like this please remember the connection between the hobby lobby debate and abortion.dont kill your bby there are lots of free pegnancy places who will help you a lot.they care about you not the chambers that want your baby dead

    December 29, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      You bloody moron, late-term abortions aren't performed unless the woman's life is in danger, and there are restrictions in place in order for a woman to get one...they just can't decide in the 8th month to get one for sh!ts and giggles. Turn off Fox and Rush and get educated before you open up your ignorant mouth.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  6. elgeevz

    While I don't share Hobby Lobby's religious convictions, I believe that they have a perfect right to use them in making their business decisions. If you don't approve of their policies, simply don't trade there.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      This isn't a business decision, it does not affect their bottom line.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  7. david defrank

    cnn it amazes me you heve so many smart asses trying to defend mr.cooly pres.remember abortion is the killing of a child and dont tell me that this subject is differant than hobby position.excuse spellling pleae mom droped me once or twice by accident but she didnt kill me like your friends want to kill the unbornnnn.are you all blind or just not wise.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You moron, you can't even read. You don't have any idea what the subject is. It's NOT ABORTION, you stupid ass.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Oh, I like how you link your lack of intelligence to your mother...and correct me if I'm wrong, but abortion became legal under a Republican administration, so stop you Obama bashing, you misogynist bigot.
      And we are not talking about abortion, but a morning after pill that uses the hormones made naturally in a woman's body, dolt. What next, fool, you want to ban women?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  8. Raven

    Hobby Lobby also has the option of going out of business. and then we the taxpayer can support those 13,000 employees out of work.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  9. Di

    Point is this is a private business. " Keep out"

    December 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No. This is a business operating in the US and either must abide by its laws or pay the fine.

      You don't get to flout the law simply by saying that you own a privately held company. Learn something.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Scott f.

      Amen Tom, Tom. They enjoy the benefits but want to shove their religious misigynistic agenda down the throats of their employees.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Regulating business happens all the time.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  10. david defrank

    please understand those abortion pills your pres. wants you to swallow causes rejection of implantation and or kills after ward.is it not cruel enough when thre child is a little big you chop him or her to pieces or burn that child slowly with saline untill it dies or suck its brains out so you can pull the child through its mothers womb.milins of innocent children have been buthered this way becuse you insist its your body.no there is 2 bodies invoved but one fells the pain of the salt the disemberment.wow how cruel

    December 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Get off your mommy's computer. You don't have a clue.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  11. Happy

    No Need for religions to say a thing they should be answering the statement below!
    !Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  12. Pure SufiAhmadiy

    Hobby Lobby should stop trying to play god, and preach to its employees. Let nature take it's course,and let the animals that cant control themselves from there own desires and lust fall to disgrace...naturally!

    December 29, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  13. Really

    Information has been obtained from the Jones Insti*tution for Reproductive Medicine that the poster known as CHAD was conceived at our facility. CHAD was part of an in vitro procedure and after he was conceived in a petri dish was an extra embryo that was placed under cyropreservation in our embryo bank. A third party agreed to implant that embryo about two months later which resulted in a successful pregnancy and the birth of CHAD. Upon learning this information the CHAD wanted to have his parents changed to petri dish and have his birth date changed to the day of conception before cyropreservation, his request was denied.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Jones Insti tution Statement

      This information was hacked from our data base. Although the information obtained is accurate, we can assure all donors of eggs and sperm that their identies are not compromised. As an insti tute names of donors are destroyed and only genetic and health history of donors is provided to the recipients. Thank you.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  14. Paulette Cooper

    Hobby Lobby should fight on the basis of the religious freedom restoration act signed by Pres. Clinton which includes corporations!
    They have the right under this act!

    December 29, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      "...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.”

      They don't qualify...and nobody is infringing on their rights of religious freedom. They ARE, however, breaking the law.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  15. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from an agnostic guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":
    – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)
    Followed by:
    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    December 29, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  16. Reality

    Currently, a perfect STD/contraceptive barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?

    December 29, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  17. Peter Q Wolfe

    Why doesn't Hobby Lobby and other U.S Corporations want preventive health-care in the U.S? Simply put Division of Labor exploitation of cheaper and cheaper wages for the same or more productivity out of their workers. This case has nothing to do with morals but the conservatives platform of endless wars is considered holy? Jihad anybody?

    December 29, 2012 at 5:25 am |
    • david defrank

      idont understand you its about killing litlle litttle littttttle tiny babbbbies not taddy poles.you go hobby.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Jim

      How can you claim to know their motivation? In fact, this position is entirely consistent with the Green family who 1) own a line of Christian bookstores 2) donate millions of dollars to Christian charities and universities and 3) are Christians.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Jim, they don't qualify. Simple as that. If they want to run a business that reaps enormous profits, they have to abide by this. They can take it to court, but they don't satisfy this: " ...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.”

      Mr. DeFunk, what you don't seem to understand is that contraceptives prevent pregnancy, so their is no tiny little babies to kill. You cannot have a female in your life or you would know this.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  18. Lance

    Well ... god-forbid that Hobby Lobby and it's affiliate doesn't back down and winds up paying out the ass and they wind up closing down every single store and 13,000 people loss their jobs.

    December 29, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  19. J.W

    They are not being forced to provide anything to the employees. If their employees share the same beliefs as them then they will not use any contraception, and if they dont share the belief they shouldnt have it forced on them. I think the way it is set up now is fair.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby is too dim to see that...and they are about to pay for it.
      Oh, well.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • bioteacher1

      Hobby Lobby is absolutely being forced to provide something for their employees. No one is arguing that the employees can't buy contraception with their own money. How is not making Hobby Lobby pay for something equivalent to putting a ban on that thing!?

      December 29, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • BigDaddyG

      And if I'm a Christian Scientist I should be able to deprive my employees to normal medical care, because that's what I believe? I don't think so. Get off your high horse and join the 21st century. Why are we the only 1st world country to act this backward?

      December 29, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • bioteacher1

      Well, in a diverse nation, I don't think it should be absolutely required that all employers provide health insurance as a benefit. E.g. I do not, in fact, think Christian Scientists should be forced to pay for things they don't agree with. Does a person who wants employer provided health insurance really have to compel the few Christian Scientists in the country to cooperate with them? Most people in this country are okay with contraception and funding it. Is it really necessary to hound the minority that don't support contraception into conforming with everyone else?

      December 29, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What part of "it's the law" do you not comprehend? Do you get to pick and choose what laws you obey? Neither should corporations if they operate in this country.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  20. Terry

    I find this entire situation very sad. First off, we have so many males wanting to tell females what they can and can't do with their body. I personally feel if all of the males were to get the hell out of this debate, the debate would be settled and over with very quickly. Once I can conceive, carry and, deliver a baby, then...and only then...do I have a voice in this matter. The owner of Hobby Lobby, the Pope and every Catholic ordained priest and, all of the vocal elected officials need to look down and realize that what they were given...by God...will not allow them to conceive a baby. IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO DEBATE!!! Shut your mouth, back out and watch the females settle this debate. And I assure you it would be settled in a very lady like manner.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      What a remarkably sensible post! Bravo!
      We need more men like you in the world...especially elected officials.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Saraswati

      An interesting result of men sticking their noses into this issue is how they drive women away from the organizations they represent with their implied lack of trust in women to decide the issue for themselves. As a tip, if your part of an organization that has something to say on this issue, let women represent you or you are just going to insult free thinking women everywhere. You really don't, and can't know enough to speak to this issue.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • bioteacher1

      I'm a man. Not that is really matters, but recent polls have found that more women identify as "pro-life" than "pro-choice." In my experience, I find that women tend to be the most passionate advocates on both sides of the abortion debate.

      December 29, 2012 at 4:35 am |
    • david defrank

      terry you sound like a false fem.try aborting my childs body and i would have you for lunch.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Raven

      What a ignorant comment. They are not deciding what someone does with their body. They are attempting to
      keep their RIGHT to not pay for something they consider offensive and against their moral beliefs.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Tim Schlabach

      The males are not involved?
      Try conceiving without having a male involved.
      You are SO STUPID i should not have responded to your dead brain cells.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, goodness, Tim. However can we thank you for your enormous contribution! You moron, you aren't the one who carries the fetus or undergoes childbirth. Your body is at risk for NOTHING in the matter. You don't have a say in what women do with their bodies or the contents thereof. Your say ends at contraception. If you use it, you'll never have to worry about creating an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. If you don't, you have no input as to what occurs to that pregnancy. Get it?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:33 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.