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

    mamakay i told the truth.this unborn baby baby get it was killed by a deranged doctor

    January 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • mama k

      A four month old??? where? when? show us a news story. I know that horrible things like this do happen, but what does this have to do with abortion or contraception????

      January 2, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      January 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • mama k

      david – I think you're mixing up terminology. No wonder your original post made no sense.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  2. david defrank

    understand this a unborn baby 4months old as i held that cold chicago night or just concieved is a human i seen many like him younger perfectly formed torn to pieces by a deranged doctor.where do you draw the line hobby lobby did .you go hobby lobby

    January 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. No babies in an abortion, 4 months old or otherwise. But do keep on bullish!tting. You're doing a big favor for the opposition.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  3. david defrank

    i once held in my hand a four month baby black scolded by saline.he was beautifull but had lots of pain on his face.we found him in a dumpster behind planned parent hood we buried it in a catholic cemetary.he was about fourmonths.he was of african decent my brother my soulmate friend.this you guys do .what next kill god.i find it hard to believe you are so stupid rather evil is better.because you no how to twist things

    January 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • mama k

      Look david, you're never going to make it in country music this way. You have to put something about flowers on the side of the road or similar if you really want to make someone cry over a story. Just saying.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What, mama k, you think he's making this up? I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you.

      david can't seem to figure out that four-month old babies aren't aborted.

      What a numbnuts.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • smjcpa

      Nice try. Not working. You people think that you are not sinning when you lie because you think God is on your side and will forgive you for lying.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • mama k

      And furthermore, david, if it really was a four-month old, then that might have been a child that would have been better off had it been aborted, or better not planned for, instead of tortured. That's what I don't get – everyone getting all upright over a morning after pill, and wanting to bring children into this world at an alarming rate and then abusing them and then wanting the rest of society to teach them religion because they can't. ABSURD!!

      January 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Candle

      You, david defrank, are lying. This never happened. I live in the Chicago area, and I can state unequivically that this never happened. If you have to make up sh!t to support your argument, you've aLready lost the argument.. Go soak your head, buddy, you're a liar.

      January 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  4. david defrank

    fda hires jo lo to poste

    January 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  5. david defrank

    im ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssooooooooooooooooooooo sssssssooooooooooooooooooooooo stupiid

    January 2, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  6. david defrank

    well by me a pizza its dum dom .dominics.you guys will lose

    January 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  7. Payton

    I find it laughable that companies are saying they don't want to provide certain forms of contraceptive that they clearly don't even understand.

    The morning after pill is not an abortion pill. It prevents a woman from ovulating: for those that don't understand how a woman's body works, that means there would be no egg to be fertilized and the pill would only work IF the woman has not already ovulated. It does not induce abortion, it does not do anything to an already fertilized egg. This is why it is not 100% effective; not even 99% effective or 95% effective.

    If a company is going to protest providing a method of contraceptive, they damn well better have their information straight. Right now, Hobby Lobby looks like a bunch of ignorant fools to me.

    January 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • david defrank


      January 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That's why davey the dolt is cheering them on.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • smjcpa

      Neither the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) or the New Testament books of the Christian Bible explicitly prohibited abortion.

      Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) decreed that a monk who had arranged for his lover to have an abortion was not guilty of murder if the fetus was not "animated" at the time and that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of "quickening" – when the woman first feels movement of the fetus.

      The image of Pope Innocent III was immortalized during 1950 as a one of 23 marble bas-reliefs of great historical lawmakers installed on the chamber walls of the U.S. House of Representatives.

      The explicit prohibition of abortion is not biblical, but rather, papal in origin.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  8. Matt

    We can also draw some interesting parallels between Mr. Green and other (righteously) defiant historical figures:


    January 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  9. tami4663

    i say go for it h. l. stand your ground. that's why we live here so we can have the freedom to stand our ground!!!!!

    January 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Jim

    Everyone here is attacking the company though they are fighting to provide the best to their employees that they can within their belief. The company could have simply dropped coverage for their employees (paying $2,000 fine) and not have to worry about the lawsuit. Instead they are going to court, which is within their rights, to have this small piece pulled.

    For those that plan on boycotting them, where are you going to shop? Michael's or JoAnn's Fabric. These companies will only pay minimum wage (Hobby Lobby starting pay is 180% of minimum wage) and won't even provide insurance.

    FYI – If they lose the judge will likely not make them pay the fine and the company will simply drop insurance coverage for their employees.

    January 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The problem you're missing here is that if we allow a company to skip on this one relatively small thing, a company can refuse to cover anything, be it transfusions or cancer treatments.

      Note that the policy you refer to, btw, becomes fully effective in 2014.

      January 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And the thing you are missing Sara is that if we allow the government to violate one religious belief or Constiitutional amendment, they can then violate them all.

      January 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Jim

      People also have to understand that this law has flaws and its likely going to be the courts that deal with them as congress never will.

      What didn't get much attention the other day but the administration just set the rules saying that a company must only provide affordable coverage to the employee. They are not required to cover the spouse and coverage for dependents doesn't have to be affordable.

      January 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Payton

      Is Hobby Lobby a business, or is it a religious group?

      If it wants to become nonprofit and declare itself a religious group, I'm all for it doing whatever it wants insurance wise.

      As long as it is a for profit business that provides services and employment regardless of religious beliefs, then I do have an issue with it deciding to pick and choose laws it will follow.

      January 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Bill, The US already violates people's religious beliefs all the time and the world hasn't collapsed. Believe in multiple wives when a brother dies? Religion violated. Religious belief in FGM? Religion violated. Pacifist? Religion violated through the taxes you pay. Believe that images of humans and or gods are sacrilegious? Religion violated. I could go on all night. You just aren't seeing all these violations because they don't affect you. As a mixed society we will always be violating someones beliefs...you just want to put your religion forward as deserving of special treatment.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Since when, Bill, do you have any concern about the Const itution and its amendments? You certainly have no respect of the right to be secure in one's person, otherwise known as the right to privacy. At least not where women are concerned.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Edit: "of" should have been "for."

      January 2, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
  11. dinslc

    They are an employer and they are required to supply health insurance. case closed. We cannot let each company cherry pick things they agree with and don't agree with. Maybe I don't believe God wants you to see a doctor at all, should they be able to be expempt? You don't like conreaceptives than don't take them!!! GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!!

    January 2, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  12. woodrow

    This company needs to operate in the best interest of their employees. They should follow the law. They do not get to decide the law. They only get to decide the size of their fines for not complying.

    January 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jim

      The law allows them to drop coverage and pay a $2,000 a year fine. Which is better for the employee no insurance or an insurance that provides everything but the morning after pill.

      January 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Carlos

      Funny Woodrow, that it would be much easier to ask for an exemption, like many HUGE american companies have NOT to have Obamacare forced onto them-I always like to use GE as the prime example). It would have probably been easier, but at least they have the guts to voice what they feel is wrong (or right). You may not like what Hobby Lobby did, but the beautiful thing about america is the freedom to do what you think is right (as long as it is legal). Wish GE had the guts to do the same thing-pay huge daily fines, instead of running to the White House looking (and receiving) those prized exemptions.

      January 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. donner

    There is a Hobby Lobby about three miles from our home. The parking lot is usually jammed. The last week, about half the lot is empty. Honest question. What exactly are the owners of this company trying to accomplish? Seriously? What kind of fanatic tries to intrude into employee's lives like this?? And why?

    January 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Carlos

      what kind of fanatic tries to intrude into people's lives this way? How did you mean that? Hobby Lobby? If they disagree on being forced to pay for (some) contraceptives? How the devil did people get them before? Like going to the grocery store and buying a pack of condoms? Like going to see your gynecologist for a routine exam and getting birth control? Obamacare has barely gotten off the ground and the eggheads are already saying "how can people interfere in people's lives this way"???? How did they manage before? Let me ask you something. If you were (are) a catholic and own a fairly large business and this "care" was imposed on you-would you have a problem problem certain contraception "coverage" to your employees? I know I know-rules are rules and must be obeyed. But certainly you would have a problem (if you were/are catholic) with obamacare? Intruding in people's lives, please. Now you are sounding like you would consider "intruding in people's lives" when medicaid payments would be capped, food stamps and other freebies. Not something anyone was born with as a must have. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness I think, are what you are born with in the US-or that was the case until now.....UGH><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

      January 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  14. david defrank

    goooodbye now im not feeling to goood.

    January 2, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  15. david defrank

    and i meaan it im doumb

    January 2, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  16. david defrank

    -0- yes if i own th to stay e company i would put in them little cookiesto stay clear of paople like you.allso would put trickle down works obama no no

    January 2, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  17. david defrank

    lets all pray that killing or murder of the unborn stops.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • == o ==

      The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works:

      "david defrank" degenerates to:
      "Salero21" degenerates to:
      "felix navidad" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      and many other names, but of course we all know this resident idiot as
      the disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer wannabe.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. david defrank

    saraswateee sory imm in a fuuuunk of a messski

    January 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  19. david defrank

    peperpot i dont have to .but if you stop smoking pot i will get it framed for you

    January 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      David, I've noticed you don't hit the Reply link to post back to people. Are you using a device on which this is unavailable?

      January 2, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Athy

      I don't think he's smart enough to even understand what you're saying.

      January 2, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  20. brad

    Just one more company that I wont spend my money at now. I refuse to give money to any bigots, zealots, or a ssholes. These religious nutjob businesses fit into all three categories. The owners are free to believe in whatever fake sky fairy they choose but by law the business and the person must be separate. That is what a corporation or LLC is for. What is the difference between Jesus and the Easter Bunny? Answer, marketing. Neither one can be proven to exists but no wars have been fought over the Easter Bunny.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • david defrank

      good go to michaels they have plenty china stuff.but dont buy usa because they kinda dont select just women to buther to pieces

      January 2, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      brad, I understand your willingness to punish people who don't believe what you do but can you please make the ethical argument for me on why an employer should be forced to provide a benefit, which is generally available from other sources, to his employees? I don't mean tell me "it's the law" That's like saying "because I'm your father, that's why." I'm sincerely asking for the ethical background behind the thinking.

      January 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Dave

      Brad, it's really not debated whether Jesus actually existed. The debate centers around whether he was insane, a con man, or God.

      As for the notion that a corporation should be made to go against its conscience because the law says to, just remember: any power you give the government to do something is also power you give it to do the opposite. Insane hypothetical: what if Texas passed a law that required all businesses to arm their employees with some form of lethal firearm? Would some corporations take ethical issue with such a law? Should those corporations be compelled to comply with what the government deems to be the common good? Or bring the hypothetical closer to the actual case: what if the government banned all insurance coverage of the morning after pill (but not the use of the pill)? I imagine Planned Parenthood would prefer to offer the morning after pill with its health insurance coverage; should they be forbidden because the government believes it to be the common good?

      Note that this is also an excellent argument against the attempt to Christianize our government: every bit of political preference Chrisitianity receives is precedent for other religions to be given political preference over Christianity. Freedom of religion should be rebranded as religious free market.

      January 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
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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.