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. Joann White

    I don't have issues shopping at Hobby Lobby..I can go to Michaels.

    January 7, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • david defrank

      yea but michaels dont have some of the pretty chinese ceramics.but give michaels credit for there chinese fake flowers.

      January 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  2. david defrank

    if you are new to this site you will be amazed at how the satin satans brother thinks.no joke.only a lucifer worshiping blog could possibly compete with the devils on this blog.these people other than prolife pray first before reading ask the holy spirit for guidance.

    January 7, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • kandi

      Thank you David, for posting this, I appreciate your Godly input:)

      January 7, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  3. Banjo Ferret

    To the Pit of Despair with healthcare of any form since the world is ending on November 5th 2014. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent!

    January 7, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • david defrank

      can it not wait until after all the holidays

      January 7, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Ken Margo

      GREAT. Another fool who thinks the world is going to end!

      January 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Banjo Ferret

      Fool? Nah my friend. Ferretians are a peaceful folk who preach death, destruction, and the end of days brought forth by a giant purple banjo playing ferret. He is Tim the Destroyer of Worlds. He doth not pity the fool. Repent!

      January 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  4. Ditzmore

    Hobby Lobby basically imports Chinese junk to this country and sells it. Why should they be granted an exemption from anything? I don't think so. Perhaps they should move their "Chinese Junk" stores to a different country. No loss.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • david defrank

      dizzy so does michaels wallmart joanne fabric lowes menards best buy and just about every one who sells bublegum.i would bet your furniture your electronics and maybe your toilet seat has parts from china.by the way we kill over 1 million babies per year.there has been millions world wide totured to death from 6 months to 9.jump in a tub filled with saline make sure you have had acupunkture first.than you will no why hobby lubbyy say no no.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  5. donner

    First off, it's time to take the tax exemption away from churches. Tomorrow. And isn't it amazing that we have lost 4000 soldiers in Afghanistan battling religious zealots that force their beliefs on people, but somehow christians zealots in America get a free pass? Hey right wing filth. You can do whatever you want. Just leave the rest of us alone. It's called freedom.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Dave Thrush

      Your version of freedom only goes on way...too bad you're too ignorant to see that.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:15 am |
    • End Religion

      @dave: OP didn't say "america should get rid of religion." He just wants you to stop pushing your religion into government and public square. Left to its own devices, Christianity in America would become an American Taliban Theocracy. It continues to try.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • david defrank

      no bonner face you want to take away our freedom..go to another country...you go military.thank you for serving our country against perverts like them.there are lots of them on this site and in middle east.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • kandi

      My son IS in Afghanistan fighting for OUR freedom to choose the right to "CHRIST"ianity, and for Hobby Lobbys' right to remain faithful to what they believe in, my son is not practicing Christianity, but he risks his life everyday for the rights that our fore fathers' put into place, the very foundations that our great country was founded on. I believe that our so-called "government" is laughing in the faces of those brave men and women who risk their lives for our freedoms! I WILL NOT SUPPORT anyone(our so-called government included) that supports the destruction of our Declaration of Independence, and our Bill of Rights!! BIG GOVERNMENT is for those people who can't run their own lives!

      January 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  6. Michaele

    How in the hell does the Internal Revenue Service have anything to do with the rights of people's free choice! How long will it be before we're told here in the United States we are only limited to 2 children and all the rest have to be aborted like in communist China? My God what the hell is going on? This is becoming a disgusting display of our very rights in this country being taken right out from underneath our noses! How much more are we going to allow our government right over our personal. Wake up people!

    January 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. What freedoms have you lost? Where is anyone being forced to abort anything?

      Why are you so stupid? There is nothing about abortion in this health care requirement. Contraception PREVENTS abortion.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You certainly do prove my rule, however, that any post in which some bozo wails, "Wake up, people!" is full of more crap than a barnyard.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • one wise latina

      You obviously did not read the law, nor do you understand modern medicine and it's capabilities. If they are forced to provide the "morning after" pill that can stop a pregnancy, albeit short, in progress 2-3 days later. That is the objection of these people.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Ditzmore

      Obviously you have never been to China before or else you would understand why they have limitations on the number of children.... There are more people in China than you can imagine and many are hungry. Let's hope we wise up before we need to enact a limit on offspring here.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @one stupid latina, you don't have a clue what you're blabbing about. READ and educate yourself. The morning after pill prevents a pregnancy from occurring primarily be PREVENTING ovulation, no differently than any other oral contraceptive.

      I don't give a ripe sh!t if Hobby Lobby 'objects'. They can either leave the country and operate in some other place where the laws are different, pay the fine, or obey the law. Simple as that.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  7. Pippa

    I work for a hospital..they refuse to pay for Tamiflu..not due to religious reasons but due to the high cost of the medication..$10 per pill..when the dr wrote a prescription for Tamiflu I had the option to buy or not..health insurance companies and policies have all kinds of limited services and meds that they don't pay for.. Your dental insurance usually won't pay for braces...Viagra is not a covered expense on most plans.vision insurance will pay for glasses or contacts but not both..HL simply has made a choice to limit what they will help cover..how is that different than any other company?

    Buy condoms, or diapers ...neither are covered by your insurance
    Personal responsibility has flown out the window..Birth control is cheap and abortions are NOT BIRTH CONTROL! We all know how babies are born, go out and buy your birth control or get ready to buy diapers..Use some basic common sense.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It is different because it is basic health care. Tamiflu isn't a medication one has to buy every month or take every day. Diapers aren't medication at all. When women spend most of their reproductive years trying to prevent an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy, it's not a frill. It's a necessity. And there is not a thing wrong with the law requiring birth control be covered by health insurance.

      Unplanned pregnancies result in lower birth weight babies, in more birth defects and in more crime and poverty.

      Get over it. Birth control IS health care. It will benefit everyone.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Insurance plans most certainly DO cover vision care. Since when does someone spend 75% of her time getting her eyes examined or buying new glasses?

      What part of this do you not get? Hobby Lobby isn't doing this to save money. They're doing it because they think it's okay to flout the law when their religious beliefs are in conflict with that law. They can either leave the country and go elsewhere, pay the fine, or obey the laws of this country.

      There's nothing unclear about that.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • one wise latina


      Why all the hate? Did your mom not have healthcare back in the day that would allow her to abort you. Is that why you are mad at Hobby Lobby?

      January 7, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @one stupid latina: It's not hate, you ninny. It's disgust with people like you who are misinformed and ignorant.

      January 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  8. paul teague

    My religion forbids me from paying any taxes whatsoever, therefore I should be exempt from the IRS.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • Ditzmore

      Hey, the Amish get a similar exemption. They do not have to pay SS tax which for the self employed is over 12%.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  9. paul teague

    People have a right to their religious beliefs. They DO NOT have a right to impose those beliefs on their employees – as Hobby Lobby is trying to do.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
    • Dave Thrush

      Hypocrites, apparently you cannot see that the forced mandate is an infringement of this organizations religious freedom as it's written in the bill of rights. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof"

      January 7, 2013 at 5:23 am |
  10. Misty

    Hobby Lobby has lost my business.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • david defrank

      misty good .i think your buisness is not wanted anyway

      January 7, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  11. Jack

    This is a gigantic win for the American people. It is time we stand up against our public servants and remind them that we, the people, are in charge.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Religion however, IS NOT!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • david defrank

      ya jack you sure ??????????????????/ you forgot the unborn americans.the blob you guys refer to.the chickens and polar bears

      January 7, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  12. DCP the Lesser

    "We are a nation of laws. No one forced Hobby Lobby to go into business in this country."

    But the government certainly will force them out of business and Americans will lose yet another 13,000 jobs. Way to go, America! You voted for change; you got it. The worst is yet to come....

    January 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  13. Sadie

    Hobby Lobby stores are great. I shop there often. However, I am really upset that they play religious music in the stores. I don't need their brand of Christianity shoved down my throat. It feels like they use Jesus to sell products. By the way.... i am a Christian!

    January 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Shiloh

      It's their stores – I have to listen to crude obnoxious music in some stores – same dif, I don't like it but it's their choice. I actually love the music HL plays – beautiful but subtle.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Hans Anderson

      Well said Shiloh. Some places play music with lyrics that are vulgur and crass and yet no one complains about the obscenity.

      I don't understand how someone can call themself a Christian and hate Christian music?!?!

      January 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Alex

      How do they push a Christianity brand. The Hobby Lobby in my town has some Christian product as it is a craft store (Christianity having many motifs that are used as decortation). Yes they have quilt squares with angels on them. But the only truly christian aisle in my local branch has supplies for what each church in town is seperatly doing curriculim-wise. Sorry about the poor spelling and gramar but my learning disability is hitting quite hard right now.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Dave Thrush

      We have something called free speech in this country, if you don't like their music shop somewhere else...and I got news for you. You say you're a Christian, but you're really not...otherwise the music wouldn't offend you.

      January 7, 2013 at 5:26 am |
    • david defrank

      sadie your about as christian as tom tom .the truth is you need to read the summas.understand reason natural law ..thomas aquina .i belive was his former name can teach you a thing about truth.he was called a dumb ox. but became a great doctor of the church.all those who are studying for the priest hood must study him.he is a good read ...

      January 7, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • kandi

      Sadie, there is only one "brand" of "CHRIST"ianity, and that is being "in CHRIST", and have a daily walk with him I will pray for you and your "hatred" for inspirational music, and Hobby Lobbys' choice to play whatever music they like.... you have the option to go to another craft/book store that plays a different kind of music other than inspirational:)

      January 7, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  14. Malevolution

    Now if you're under the impression that you are somehow enabling behavior that goes against your religious beliefs by providing these options (as HL obviously believes) then you shouldn't be hiring these potential sinners to begin with because you’re also enabling them by giving them a paycheck whereby they can pay for an abortion, or the morning-after pill.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • david defrank

      what????????????????????????male female revolution.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  15. Malevolution

    Personally, based on their religious beliefs, I don't see the conflict. As a Christian, you're not supposed to force people to follow your beliefs. Isn't that why God gave us free will...to allow each individual to choose for themselves whether to sin or not??? It is not the job of the priest, pastor, or business owner to consciously take that option away from them. So if you offer an employee the option to use the morning-after pill, or even to have an abortion, and they choose to do so you have not sinned but they have and that is solely between that employee, their conscience, and their God (if they have one). And if you have a business where you're hiring Christians and non-Christians alike, that's the risk that you take.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Shiloh

      They aren't trying to "take that option away from them" – they just want the individual to be totally responsible for it including all cost and not them. Insurance plans often have select services that aren't covered – that doesn't the person can't get them – they just have to pay for it themselves.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • david defrank

      sorry error fro m 6 or 7 up to 9 months old they stick a long sharp object in the babies neck suck brains out ...............at about 4 5 months they hack to death a innocent baby

      January 7, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • kandi

      These people have the right to do their homework BEFORE they go to work for a business, and if they don't believe in what this business does or does not condone, they can go to work for someone else, why should Hobby Lobby, or their owners change their beliefs for a few employees? They shouldn't! Grown-ups should own responsibility for their actions and stop blaming EVERYONE for EVERYTHING! If everyone would live their lives on Godly principals, we wouldn't even need the abortion pill!

      January 7, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      defrank and beans, you are behind the times. The procedure you're describing was ruled illegal years ago. Where've you been? Under a rock?

      You are so friggin' stupid it's laughable. Nobody who is 7 months pregnant gets an abortion unless her life and health are in jeopardy.

      Stupid git.

      January 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  16. Malevolution

    This is what happens when anyone with strict religious beliefs decides to interact in the secular world. If HL truly wants to maintain its outdated belief system without having to comply with laws that conflict with that belief system then they should liquidate their company and buy some land someplace down in South America where they can grow their own food and focus on practicing their beliefs the way they want to (although we know what that can lead to). This is just another case of Christians wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • david defrank

      your forgetting something male.roe vs wade amendment was is founded on lies.so its not legal law at all.now remember abortfacints of all kinds kill little and bigggeer babies.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  17. dave

    doea anyone know what contraceptives cost, wouldn't they be less than your deductibel - unless you have three really popular daughters

    January 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  18. dave

    does anyone know what contraceptives cost - wouldn't they be less than your deductible anyway?

    January 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Malevolution


    January 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  20. 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. Oh, and regarding those who like to fling nasty names around, don't give them the attention they crave, trolls can't fathom the idea of being wrong anyway.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jim

      If Hobby Lobby wants to do business in this country, then they have to follow the law in this country.

      Hobby Lobby is refusing a legal medication under their insurance program. What if another company wanted to refuse to pay for antibiotics for what they perceived as religious reasons? Of course, the person could still buy it on their own in that case too but then what is the purpose of health insurance?

      We are a nation of laws. No one forced Hobby Lobby to go into business in this country.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Saraswati


      Precisely. What people don't get is that refusing coverage for one medication means you can refuse it for anything. Just wait until it is your medication or surgery being pulled, especially if it's an expensive one, and the tune will change.

      January 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Nativist

      Sorry Thomas, but you are spreading confusion; allow me to correct you. Your employer managed health insurance policy is part of your compensation; your employer does not 'give' it to you, you earn it. Your employer may not tell you how to spend your money.

      January 7, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • JoePub

      No one forced Hobby Lobby to go into business in this country?

      That's the problem with this country. We are making laws that makes it almost insane to run a business in this country. I for one, no longer do business in this country. I make my money elsewhere without the hassle and with simplicity and ease instead.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:57 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.