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. david defrank

    hobby looby should take the vote of employes.and present it to a lower court or supreme whatever procedure gov. requires.this will be there exemption if they vote for hooby.if not fire all those who oppose.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Saraswati

      Yeah, and while we're at it have a vot on whether or not to enslave red heads.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  2. One care system

    These types of debates are just going to escalate once universal coverage kicks in. Everybody's everything is all lumped together and now we are forced to be accountable to eachother, wich pretty much ends individuality as we knew it. I have no answers though.

    January 2, 2013 at 5:54 am |
    • Saraswati

      Unless you lived naked in the woods since your mother dropped you there as a baby there was never "individuality as people knew it". That's the problem really, people ahve invented this sense of individuality to bolster their own egos but at a societal level that ignorance is self-defeating. I make good money and have a graduate degree, but I don't live in a fantasy world that I got here on my own or am living purely off my own labors. We are part of a web, always have been and always will be.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Joanne

      Yes but that's no reason to advocate statism. The proverbial web should be kept as small as possible.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  3. david defrank

    tom your wrong.newyork times is very liberal and lied to you.ask the f.d.a. as they ruled it a abortfacient.you weep .get your facts right and never ever believe everything you hear.thats why your as looney as a monkey .

    January 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • nah carpuss

      more dumbphukedness from defranky

      January 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Post a link where the FDA ruled to that effect. Put up or shut up. I have searched the FDA website, and I could not find anything that said plan B=abortifacient.
      Prove me wrong.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      * goes to get popcorn*

      January 1, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How Does the Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception) Work?
      One type of emergency contraception (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, Levonorgestrel Tablets) is made of one of the hormones made by a woman's body — progestin. Another type (ella) blocks the body's own progestin.

      Both types of emergency contraception work by keeping a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs — ovulation. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.

      You might have also heard that the morning-after pill causes an abortion. But that's not true. The morning-after pill is not the abortion pill. Emergency contraception is birth control, not abortion.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When Is a Woman Pregnant?
      To be sure, not every act of intercourse results in a pregnancy. First, ovulation (i.e., the monthly release of a woman's egg) must occur. Then, the egg must be fertilized. Fertilization describes the process by which a single sperm gradually penetrates the layers of an egg to form a new cell ("zygote"). This usually occurs in the fallopian tubes and can take up to 24 hours. There is only a short window during which an egg can be fertilized. If fertilization does not occur during that time, the egg dissolves and then hormonal changes trigger menstruation; however, if fertilization does occur, the zygote divides and differentiates into a "preembryo" while being carried down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Implantation of the preembryo in the uterine lining begins about five days after fertilization. Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. A pregnancy is considered to be established ONLY AFTER THE IMPLANTATION IS COMPLETE.
      Source: American College of Obstetricans and Gynecologists.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Ever notice how it's the religitards that can't be bothered with the facts? No, it's all "waaahhhh wahhh, but I WANT to call it big ole bad "abortion" so I'm gonna!! I'm gonna, gonna, gonna!!'

      January 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Akira

      I get the distinct feeling Mr. DeFrank gets his information directly from Rush's dirty mouth.

      January 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Athy

      Do you honestly think defrank is that smart?

      January 1, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. Don't think ryan or Lunatic Lion are either.

      Their position on this issue makes NO sense whatsoever. They oppose abortion, but also oppose any means of preventing the need for it! I just don't get how they think women are supposed to live. Be celibate? When one is married? Are all these nut cases Catholics? They refuse to allow ANY contraception? And all these pansy-assed men who insist that women not be able to take the morning after pill but by their own admission don't wear a con dom during s3x. What, did they flunk out of school before they got to biology?

      January 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  4. david defrank

    in response ro peperpothead and tomtom the maniac.listen good.china has a one baby policy.more than that they kill especially female.let me tell you why you should not buy american goods.because people like tomtom and pepper advocate infantiside.and your goverment approves.so dont buy any goods made in usa go to ireland before they start this babykilling calling.get it now hypocrite.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • nah carpuss

      what a dumbfykk you be

      January 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      By buying products from China, you are indeed advocating killing children, for that is exactly what they do there, fool.

      You are un-American if you think buying products from China rather than the USA is a good idea. I am done with your ignorance.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  5. Jamie

    If you are FORCING a business to PAY for something they're morally/ethically against then you're nothing but a mindless Obama zombie, because that's exactly what he wants! Universal healthcare will force people to pay for abortions.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      Read it weep. If you have trouble, read slowly and move your lips.

      January 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Romnesia

      What about our taxes going to purposes we don't approve of say illegal wars, preferential tax rates for venture capitalists, subsidies for oil companies, ....

      January 1, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Akira

      What HE is doing is trying to force HIS beliefs on his employees...you see nothing wrong with that?

      January 1, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
  6. Jamie

    What happened to personal responsibility? If you want an abortion, pay for it yourself! Stop being a cry baby and grow up! No one should have to pay for other people's stupidity! Ugh! Idiots!

    January 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Another moron heard from. Nobody is requiring anyone to pay for abortions. What is wrong with you? Do you not know how to read?

      January 1, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Lorrie

    Make them pay. They use there religious beliefs as an excuse. They pay for their employees health insurance, but cannot tell the insurance company what the want it don't want covered in their plan. How ignorant!!!

    January 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Lorrie

      If they feel they don't want to pay for contraceptives, close your stores. Paying $1.3M a day will kill you eventually anyway! Good riddance!

      January 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Terri

      Arrogant not ignorant. They know exactly what they are doing. I have spent my last $ at Hobby Lobby until they reverse this decision. They are not a non profit religious organization.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  8. Mr Everyman

    Hobby Lobby is a for-profit-business serving the general public. Employees are from the general public. It has to provide all types of coverage available to the general public. If the business were non-profit and served only Pythagorean pagans and hired primarily Pythagorean pagans, Hobby Lobby might have a case.

    January 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  9. david defrank

    im going to take mom to hobby looby now and walmart not the chinese one going to michaels to for some art supplies ones made in china because i feel like it. and anotherthing children of the night you all make me want to play golf.thankyou you make me happy im persecuted and not probabykilling machine blogging idiat..........

    January 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      You are supporting a hypocritical company that buys its goods from a country that regularly kills its little babiesssssssssssssssss, and you have no problem with that? Guess what that makes you? A hypocrite.
      Shut up. You add nothing to your cause.
      Oh, P.S., asshat: Walmart is one of the largest purveyors of Chinese crap. There IS no such theing as "not the Chinese" Walmart. God, you're dumb....just because you're not going to the Chinatown Walmart doesn't mean that the one in Justice or Alsip don't sell China manufactured garbage.
      Hypocrite. Spend your money suporting abortion at those stores.

      January 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • That's just crazy talk

      Mrs. Pepperpot, chill out.

      January 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      No. He's a hypocrite. Fvck off.

      January 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • rinchi

      I bought a few things from hobby lobby a few weeks ago. You might want to look at their labeling a little closer. Mine all said Made in China.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  10. david defrank

    it is right for people to alter or abolish a bad law when a long train of abuses such as obamas healthcare rules in favor of genocide.when they pursue the same object a destruction of our posterity.we are commited to hold our beliefs sacred .abotfacients kill humans.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Somehow I'm unsurprised you are not married.

      January 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  11. TheVocalAtheist

    Religious Hobby Lobby (actually code word for Religious Lobby) says to the Judge (nominated by Ronnie Regan), "You and us are cool, right? I mean, if you could put a delay on our fining I would be more than happy to drop a million on you for your efforts. It's a win, win situation for both of us, no one is hurt, you get a mil and it gives us time to get some momentum. Thanks for your help!"

    January 1, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • david defrank

      get over .your not our government you lost out in 73.

      January 1, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • david defrank

      you make no sense like tom tom.

      January 1, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Brian

      Abortion is a private matter, having nothing to do with a company.

      January 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  12. david defrank

    tom tom your no good at all .do you think your the boss here on your stupid run editors choice bloggy

    January 1, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  13. david defrank

    tom recently i met someone in jail Who beat his mom to death with a hammer. you remind me of him.he was very vocal about his right to abort innocent tiny little tadpolelike litlebigger and bigger and bigger untill full grown babiessssssssssssssssss.

    January 1, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  14. ogre12

    my full support is behind Hobby Lobby and screw the libdemwits.

    January 1, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • david defrank

      your righton.

      January 1, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • brad

      Screw Hobby Lobby. I refuse to shop anywhere that dictates their values onto anyone else. The owners can personally oppose anything but the store and the owner is by law supposed to be separate. The religious wrong in this country is getting too powerful and needs to be taken down a few notches to remind them that not everyone believes in their fake sky fairy.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  15. david defrank

    why am?????? i?????????????? dear to you ????????????i thought you only like smart people and dead babies

    January 1, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  16. david defrank

    tom tom you couldnt be more right .it becomes me your not right at all.your a lefty

    January 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      January 1, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  17. david defrank

    tom tom plan b does kill little tiny babies

    January 1, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • brad

      The tiny ones are the easiest. They dont run as fast.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  18. david defrank

    tom tom plan b does cause abortion you stupid .?

    January 1, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Keep on posting, dear. You're doing more good for my side than you realize.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  19. david defrank

    tom tom im following you carefull how you speak of me

    January 1, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • brad

      Uh ho, we got an internet bad ass over here.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  20. david defrank

    argle yes i am

    January 1, 2013 at 10:05 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.