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. ThomasPrydeIV

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that nearly everyone here has effectively missed the point of the decisions made by the owners of Hobby Lobby...there's at least heaps of confusion, which is to be expected, I suppose. First misunderstanding on the chopping block is the idea that Hobby Lobby is "forcing" their beliefs on their employees. This is completely wrong – Hobby Lobby simply refuses to pay for medication that, when used as intended, prevents what they define as human life. Wether this is true or not is for a different discussion, they simply do not want their money going to what they define as murder. Next up is the idea that Hobby Lobby is meddling with their employees personal health choices, and this also totally untrue for this reasons: Any employee can receive any type of health care that they want, they'll just have to pay for abortions themselves (oh, the inhumanity!) Heck, nobody forced them to apply for a job there in the first place.
    To end this, I encourage all of you, my fellow human beings, to calmly weigh the situations, avoid accepting all you are told, and try to empathize with anyone and everyone, it's much better that way.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Anyone that thinks the morning after pill is an abortion pill is a MORON. The morning after pill prevents those abortions the religious hate so much. I do love religitard conservatives though, all for the fetus, but once that umbilical cord is cut, it's "sorry kid, you're on your own".

      January 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  2. poopmeister

    Good, crooks have been denying people their right to choose their own path and this company is no different. Hobby Lobby isn't shoving the morning after pill down people's throats, so what the hell is their problem. Let your employees decide what's best for them.....leave it to a religion faction to control other people's lives.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Bob

      The employees can do whatever they want. It is just a question of who is paying. If you chose to not use the birth control pill or a condom(good grief can it get any cheaper) then they do not want to pay for the morning after pill. You can go get it if you want and they won't follow you around.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That isn't what the law requires, Blob. What part of that do you fail to grasp? Why should Hobbly Lobby get away with breaking the law, simply because they don't like it and their religious supersti tions are in conflict with it? Why should I be required to pay taxes when the money is used for actions of which I disapprove? Why should I be required to have car insurance when I don't believe I'll ever be in an accident? Why should I pay taxes to support schools when I don't have kids in them?

      January 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
  3. Stand up for the Word

    Fine example...Now Hobby Lobby is a wonderful place that provides wonderful things beautiful things (I love this store) but these beautiful things can't save your soul ....The word says thou shalt not kill....(or help your employees kill their unborn children). When it comes to following the law of the land and the law of God... you better know your law......you better know Jesus. All of you that have killed intentionally and or unintentionally...seek God's forgiveness now, time is winding down/up/over. Don't let your bad choices (political or otherwise) keep you from heaven. Learn your bible, don't be an educated, goodlooking fool (Like Satin). Stand your ground HOBBY LOBBY, don't sacrifice beautiful things that will turn to dust and that the cancor worm will just eat up. Stand up for God's commandment...you will never go begging bread.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Icono

      The majority of the products they sell, especially the home decorations, are made in a communist country by exploitative labor. Where are you values when you're shopping against the economic welfare of your own country and basic human dignity?

      January 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  4. Icono

    I would recommend people look into Hobby Lobby's ties with the dominionist Christian movement. This contraceptive issue is trivial compared to their direct funding of a theo-fascist political agenda.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  5. kms1217

    Companies do not have the right to make me potentially suffer, all in the name of their jacked up fairy tale religion!

    January 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bob

      Suffer? Because they don't want to pay for the morning after pill? Dude, you need to look around the world, that doesn't qualify as suffering.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you think that the morning after pill will not prevent needless suffering, Bob, then by all means, when you get pregnant, don't take it.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  6. spectrumborealis

    Time to separate church from state, how the hell do you people equate religion with putting food on the table, religion and politics go hand in hand a way of controlling the masses of have nots that out weigh the haves. Wake up hold on to your faith but don't count on man made religion. Its a bloody and corrupt conjure.

    January 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  7. isolate

    Whatever happened to "render unto Caesar"?

    January 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  8. democrat, liberal, communist - tomato, tomahto

    obamacare is an illegal tax scheme and should be removed.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Jen


      January 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • poopmeister

      Believe it or not, this bill is intended on helping the masses that have been obliterated by the private health insurance racket. It's sad that it takes a big government spending bill to make the insurance industry follow, what I would think, to be a moral path. They have been stealing from us and giving nothing in return....time to fight back aka Obamacare!

      January 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  9. Bishop Hairy Palms

    Hobby Lobby is a business.

    As such, they should be required to follow the same regulations as any other business.

    They have thousands of workers who do not share the owner's religious beliefs and should not be forced to follow them.

    Those employees who do share the beliefs of the owners are free to not take birth control.

    For decades, birth control has been the standard of care for many female reproductive problems and should not be subject to the whims religious fanatics.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • ssdwcc

      Guess you won't see me at HL any time soon.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Bob

      So anyone who disagrees with you is a fanatic?

      January 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • kms1217

      A – effin – men! So tired of the holy rollers. Onward to Michael's craft company

      January 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • T.J.

      Nothing about this requires the employees to likewise follow the religious beliefs of the employer. If they want to get abortions or contraceptive pills, they are free to choose to do so by appropriating money to do so from their own household budgets.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  10. Arthur King

    The time for the enforced production of ever more new slaves for the profits of the elite has passed, and christian control of eugenics has died out 230 years ago. Every new slave that someone is forced to produce through the denial of contraception or abortion is very likely to become permanently 'unemployed' as computer controlled automation takes over more and more tasks and functions of the capitalist's slaves and slavery (human labor) becomes surplus and obsolete. Each and every new, surplus mouth to feed just hurries up the demise of capitalism and the birth of real socialism and moneyless society, or a violent catclysm of world wide proportions where christianity and capitalism gets permanently exterminated.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  11. required

    Well then HL here is an easy solution.

    Just don't hire people who my use the service. That's right. Don't hire anyone who has had an abortion.
    Don't hire anyone who has sinned. Don't hire anyone.

    I'm going to laugh when these guys go out of business because they're idiots.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Bob

      Idiots? They run a profitable, private business. I guess you will laugh as another multiple thousands of people move to the public trough because King Obama has put another company out of business. You idiot, these are the kinds of companies that the US needs to SAVE.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Says you, blob. We don't "need to save" any company that refuses to obey the law because of religious beliefs.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  12. Deusxmach1na

    This is a lot of uproar over nothing. Hobby Lobby is not trampling anyone's rights. So a woman has to pay for a Plan B pill out of her own pocket instead of using Hobby Lobby health insurance. Big deal. People that run corporations do have consciences sometimes. All you bleeding heart liberals wouldn't complain if they put money into like a Polar Bear conservatory so why do you blast them when they are trying to follow their hearts and simply not pay for Plan B pills? Americans are too dumb, they get all uppity whenever someone thinks something different than they do. And liberals think they are open-minded? Hahaha...biggest joke in the world.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Arthur King

      Christendom is following a 1700 year old policy of forcing the production of ever more new slaves for the profits of the nobility, aristocracy, capitalists but the day is long gone where every new slave can make more profits for their capitalist master. Slavery, human labor, is becoming obsolete and surplus, and the christians scream and howl about every effort to 'support' these unneeded and unwanted and non-earning mouths to feed which will eventually result in another "let them eat cake" event and widespread effort to exterminate christendom and capitalism, again.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • poopmeister

      This is an uproar! I don't care if anyone is trying to save the polar bears but I do care if someone tries to take away something that I have earned. If my insurance plan is suppose to pay for a covered item, why would my employer be able to take that away. It's not about the employers viewpoint, it's about the employee...remember them, the backbone of our society.

      January 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Chris

    Hobby Lobby has always been a religious-based store. They have exceptional values and I agree with most of the things they stand for. However, being a part of our great nation, they have to follow the law even if it is something they disagree with. Just like everyone else! I will continue to shop there because they are good people. I hope their prices don't rise too much because they are following their collective consciences rather than the law.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  14. B D-L

    Made the mistake of recommending this retailer to friends who are "crafters." Then I learned of their absurd policy....they are now on my list of places, including at least two pizza chains and several restaurants, that I will now avoid.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  15. Grumpster

    Bye bye Hobby Lobby...I never visited your stores, and now never will for sure.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  16. IrishGriz

    1. Although "corporations are people," Hobby Lobby as a company does not have religious beliefs. It can't attend church, it doesn't pray, it can't help out at the soup kitchen. People can worship as they please, but a corporation cannot object on religious grounds.
    2. Regardless of Mr. Green's personal beliefs, the "foundation" of his business cannot be to "honor the Lord." His employees work to sell goods and services, not honor his chosen deity. Forcing employees to adhere to the religious beliefs of the owner is ludicrous.
    3. Yes, an exemption like this would open pandora's box to dozens of other arguments for exemption from U.S. law.
    4. This is exactly why we need to break the tie between employer and health insurance!! Let the law require employers to provide every employee with stipends toward the cost (or full cost) of health insurance. An individual's personal medical care should NOT be tied to his/her employer.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • FamilyDoc2

      I agree entirely. One other point, whether it is an individual or a corporation: there are competing rights here, and Hobby Lobby's right to exclude certain contraceptives infringes upon the right of women to have those contraceptives covered under their insurance. A balance must be struck, and hopefully that is what the SCOTUS will eventually rule upon.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Deusxmach1na

      I think you're right. Health care should not be tied to an employer. Unfortunately, the government does not see it that way now. They are fining businesses for not providing health care. So you tell me, is Obamacare a step forward in that direction or a step back. Oh, and @FamilyDoc2 you are confusing the argument. A woman can still go get the Plan B pill, Hobby Lobby is not trampling that right. They just do not want to PAY for it because that would make them a sort of accomplice in murder in their eyes. Do you get it? It's religious freedom vs. a woman's right to not pay for Plan B. Makes it easy for me to see which side we should lean.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Arthur King

      The only reason that we have 'soup kitchens' is because of christian supported organizations like this that strives to support human slavery through the denal of basic human rights, like the right to control one's own body and reproductive practices.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Lisa

      What about blood transfusions? Some religious groups are oppossed to these, so it ould be okay for HL's insurance to not pay for this? No. It is totally wrong for HL to impose their religion on their employees by using their insurance program to do it. If it is legal, then it SHOULD BE covered!!!!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • poopmeister

      Deusxmach1na, you are completely wrong on this one. Obamacare was a step in the wrong direction but only because it didn't go far enough. It was geared to be a universal healthcare system, which should have taken health insurance completely out of the private market. This is the problem with the US. Our insurance policies should not be interconnected with our jobs! If we had a universal system for all, much like Medicare, we would not have all of these silly problems. I work with a lot of people who have Medicare/Medicaid and they go to the Dr., focus on their health ailments and leave....no monetary transactions. A woman should not even have to pay at all for these type of services and you are saying that they should just suck it up and pay because she has a horrible employer that does not care about her health, just her unborn fetus. I'm starting to hate this country, mostly because it is full of capitalist pigs!

      January 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  17. Farrok

    This Company is toast.................

    January 6, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  18. Brooke

    Where does this stop? Can a Fundamentalist Muslim or Pentecostal Christian refuse benefits to women who don't fit their standards? Can Jehovah's Witness business owners make stipulations that insurance will not pay for blood transfusions? Can an Evangelical Christian business owner refuse insurance to a gay person?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  19. david defrank

    do not accept anything that is contrary to truth that god entered our world by the woumb of a mother.a divine infant . who we were made in his image.this is why hobby lobby will not give you people your abotfacients.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • e

      SO you do not care that they are A: NOT ABORTIFICANTS an B: Nothing in the Bible supports your stance?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • B D-L

      So...you are against warfare...the death penalty...on these same grounds?

      January 6, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Arthur King

      Jesus became who he was, an anti-slavery voice of god, after he was born, chosen by 'god', a supercomputer residing in the subconscous portions of all the physical brains on this Earth, to be the control node of 'god' while he lived. BTW, Jesus fought with Spartacus and escaped the mass cruxifictions.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  20. david defrank

    it is trully a crime that a child is killed by abortion so that you may live.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • e

      Neither of these drugs kill anything, they prevent ovulation. But people like you are never bothered with reality and facts.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • bonniecate

      Exactly, "E"- abortion and prevention of ovulation are two totally different things. Plus the morning after pill prevents conception from even happening in the first place. I wish people would freaking educate themselves!!

      January 6, 2013 at 3:21 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.