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. BlackCoffee

    So Democrats, this is what you voted for-a totalitarian society. Obama cared about all Americans until he was elected and then told the 48% that disagree with him "sit down, shut up, elections have consequences." For years liberals have been trying to convince conservatives that moderate policies are a comprimise until they get in power, force through a partisan, unpopular healthcare bill, and ignore any contrary opinions. Well, I think Republicans have learned and with control of most of the states, the House, and local government, no more comprimise. The tide will turn and the veil of moderation has been removed. History shows the next President, and Congress, will shift to conservatives. When that happens, don't expect moderation.

    January 21, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • C.Redd

      Liberals are liars.

      January 21, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • gwen

      So, you're saying that the Heritage Foundation plan to force everyone into the insurance pool, and buy coverage from private insurers is NOT a conservative idea? This was the answer to Hillary-Care, and now it is called PP-ACA and is the law of the land. But suddenly, you hate it and its a bad idea. okey-dokie. Ya'll cry and scream for the market to be first and foremost, even if it hurts us as citizens and then when you get your way, you're still complaining. Get a grip. Moderate insurance regualation to match the coverage that your congressmen and women get is NOT socialism. Its a simple consumer protection (thus the name) so that your family wealth is protected in the face of catastrophic injury or illness, and guarentees that you won't be cancelled after you paid your premiums in order to enhance their bottom lines. No, its not Medicare for all (that would be an expansion of the social safety net, not at all what we got.) It's the conservative solution to our healthcare coverage gaps, and now its yours forever. If you hate it, maybe you should change parties. There are those on the Left that are still hopefull of a single payer/public option.

      January 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  2. mike

    Suppose the President has a conversion experience and told you that abortion was wrong and filled the high court with prolife judges. Would all you baby killers just roll over and say "ok"? No, you'd fight for what you believed in....

    January 21, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • doris

      1. Fight
      2. Write Congressman asking that they vote to request psychiatric exam for the President.

      January 21, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      psychiatric competency is not a requirement for elected office

      January 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • gwen

      what abortion medication are you referring to? Do you have any idea what the chemistry is in Plan B? Do you know how Ortho-Novum 7.7.7 works? You're fighting for a fantasy akin to fighting over the inclusion of flying pills in the coverage. Nothing in ACA requires that tax dollars pay for abortion, and emergency contraception does not abort a fetus. So, tell us again what it is your arguing about?

      January 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • janey33

      doris...Ha! He already needs one.

      January 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  3. LJ

    So if Obamacare was really about providing healthcare to these employees, there wouldn't be a problem. This company is being punished because they dare to stand up to what they believe in which doesn't coincide with what Obama thinks they should believe in.

    January 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Karl Denton

      LJ that's the biggest load of crap I have ever heard. What this company wants is to get away with NOT providing health care to it's employees the very ones who work hard to make the owners richer! Obama could care less what the owner believe what he does want is for them to follow the laws!

      January 21, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • mike

      Agree LJ, this is ulimately gong to cost HL more money to fight in the long run to take this stand. I applaud them and will continue to give them my patronage!

      January 21, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • doris


      January 21, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • janey33

      mike...Me, too. I will make it a point to do more shopping there.

      January 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  4. SlobbyLobby

    "All they're asking for is a narrow exemption from the law that says they don't have to provide **drugs they believe** cause abortion"

    Medicine is science and has nothing to do with "belief" which is precisely why these lawsuits will not prevail. Morning after pills are NOT abortion pills. Hobby Lobby can "believe" anything they want, but that does not change the medical facts in this case. This is nothing other than FOR-PROFIT Hobby Lobby trying to force the CEO's morals about family planning on it's employees. Anyone who believes these wingnuts should be given an exception to this should give serious pause to the implications. What if Lobby was run by a Jehovah Witness and decided to no longer have their policy cover blood transfusuions (about 80% of cancer patients receive transfusions), knee reconstructions and cardiac bypass surgery using allografts? These medical procedures are all strictly aginst the Jehovahs' religous beliefs, so, Mom can die of leukemia and Dad can die from a heart attack because their employer doesn't "believe" in these medical interventions. Your right to freely swing your fists (or in this case "beliefs") ends at the start of my nose. For the record- I am not a JW, and they firmly believe they should never forcibly impose their beliefs on others.

    January 20, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Your missing the point

      Government is telling private business how to run their private business.

      January 20, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Edweird69

      JW's do "force their beliefs" on others. They use "shunning" as a way of forcing others to either embrace them, or live without them. A tactic used by most cults. Even the most staunch Xtians teach to not associate with sinners, as it would be a stumbling block to any potential recruits (who could think they were a hypocrite).

      January 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • ReasonableIndividual

      Well said!

      January 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • ReasonableIndividual

      Just so there's no confusion...by 'well said', I am referring to slobbylobby's comment.

      January 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • janey33

      The government has no business telling a private company what to do. If you don't agree with what they believe, find somewhere else to work.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • jini

      Actually, the government "tells" private business what to do in certain areas, such as providing breaks for employees, not allowing minors to work, limiting hours to a regular work day, minimum wage. All of these are basic rules that private businesses must follow. Basic, comprehensive healthcare is now a part of that.

      January 21, 2013 at 5:53 am |
    • gwen

      in response to the whacky comments about the gubermint not being allowed to tell a private business what to do, think again. The charter for this for profit corporation was convened with the permission of the government for the purpose of selling craft supplies, and when it comes time for them to get their big tax breaks for compliance with providing coverage for their employees (something Costco has already mastered with 80% coverage and is doing quite well) they sure as heck will have all of their paper work in order because they cannot stay in business if they break the law of their corporate charter. This meme that religious people can enter the free market and be exempt from United States law because of their 'faith' is ludacris. If Scientologists decided to open a sandwich shop and refused to pay taxes on their profits because they believed their tax obligation was to an alien space government light years away, how do you think that would go down? If you enter the American business market, then you obey American business laws. It's treasonist to think that Hobby Lobby has some other convening authority besides the American one listed on their corporate charter. It's also plain stupid.

      January 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  5. loadnabox

    Having the right to your own religious beliefs and values, and having the right to impose your beliefs and religious values on your employees, are two very different things.

    The right to swing your fist ends at my nose

    January 20, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • Dennis

      Exactly, so the governments agnostic / atheist policies should not be trumping others religious beliefs by FORCING someone to do something against their religion. Im glad you see the light.

      January 20, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Dennis – my particular religion believes in animal sacrifices. Can I bring this requirement of my faith, to your public schools?

      January 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • useyourhead

      This isn't a religion issue: the government is telling private companies how to run their business. Also, if it was a religious issue it wouldn't be about whether or not business owners were forcing their believes down others throats. It would be that the right to religious freedom (which is the reason America was founded in the first place) is being threatened in this case. You can be pro-choice and still see that this is wrong.

      January 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • janey33

      Everyone knows what Hobby Lobby beleves. If you don't agree, don't work there. This country has freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. The government has no business intruding on a private company.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:14 am |
  6. Heyzuse

    Law supersedes religious opinion, wishes, scriptures, verses, and desires. It's really that simple.

    January 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Dennis

      Actually no, its been reaffirmed time and time again in SCOTUS that no law can supercede the Bill of Rights, nor treat the Bill of Rights as a privelege that can be taxed or fined.

      January 20, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • useyourhead

      And the law says you cannot infringe upon religious believes, freedoms, and the right to exercise thereof.

      January 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  7. SomeoneE


    January 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  8. SomeoneE


    January 19, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Wow... You must feel special. Being one of the billion people chosen by the creator of the universe, to spend eternity in an opium like bliss... you are so special, and chosen above all others. Blessed with the only truth, that only stupid people like myself cannot accept. It's good to be you. Congratulations! Excuse me, I need to rinse the puke out of my mouth now.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • jerrygunning

      No one will see anything, and no one ever has, so you just might as well stop using that one.

      January 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  9. SomeoneE


    January 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  10. SomeoneE


    January 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • jerryzimny

      Raising the bar once again?

      January 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  11. jnel302

    Contraceptives and the morning after pill do not cause abortion. If anything, they PREVENT abortions from taking place by removing the possibility of contraception.

    January 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Dennis

      What DISEASE do they prevent that qualifies them as preventative 'health care'?

      January 20, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • cat0325

      Dennis, hormonal birth control pills treat ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are a medical condition that can cost a woman one or both ovaries, and the loss of even one ovary compromises a woman's ability to bear children and also can put her into premature menopause. They also treat dysmenorhhea (painful periods), PMS, PMDD, hypermenhorrhea (essentially hemorrhaging during a period) and other MEDICAL conditions. My sister-in-law was placed on birth control at the age of THIRTEEN because she was bleeding so badly during her periods that she was becoming ANEMIC. So before you open your ignorant trap, do a little bit of research to find out the things OTHER than preventing pregnancy that birth control pills treat.

      January 20, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • useyourhead

      The morning after pill doesn't regulate anything or prevent a DISEASE. As for the birth control pill, there are some BC pills that are not considered abortive that Hobby Lobby would probably endorse and that would also help the aforementioned symptoms.

      January 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  12. Kari

    I'm not boycotting them.... I don't care enough about the thing to boycott. I also am not supporting them..... their decision, their problem. We don't get to pick and choose what we will comply with when it comes to the law. And it's hooey that this is about their religious convictions.... It's about them pushing their political agenda on the country and penalizing the employees they have that don't believe like they do. Just who is taking whose freedom away??

    January 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  13. Wisco

    Don't most of Hobby Lobby's products come from China? Doesn't their government force poor women to have abortions?

    January 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Jombalga

    it dont matter,.. hobby lobby will be shut down somehow like hostess or chevy

    January 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  15. peb

    If they have employees that share their deranged values this shouldn't be an issue for them!

    January 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  16. Surfhound

    How can you read this article to say that Hobby Lobby doesn't want to provide healthcare to its employees. It simply doesn't want to provide abortion inducing drugs as part of the drug coverage.

    January 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  17. woodie

    Hobby Lobby doesn't want to provide health care for their employees. The rest of what they are saying is a ruse.

    January 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  18. Pravda

    Thank you Black Christians for blindly putting your voting power behind a godless heathen. Now Obama continues to attack Christian and American beliefs one after another.

    January 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Kari

      You seem to think that White Christians didn't vote for him..... How racist can you actually get with one post?? Hobby Lobby has the right to act in Civil Disobedience to the law. But just because they're playing the 'Jesus Card' doesn't mean they are excempt from the consequences of that same Civil Disobedience.

      January 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • mitchiekhabir

      I'm white, Atheist, American. I believe we all deserve to make our own choices. Being the employer of those people doesn't make them their life rulers. They will cave to the pressure of either the big fines for not complying or the customers that are or will boycott them. $ talks!

      January 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • jerryzimny

      White 63 year old male – voted twice for Mr Obama.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • jerryzimny

      I went in there once by accident. It's a real dump.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Cinnic

    Hobby Lobby chooses not to provide healthcare because of their religious beliefs. = I choose never again to shop at their stores. This is the beauty of living in America.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • Pravda

      And they won't miss you one bit...

      January 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Ah...but I'm joining the boycott, Pravda..as are many, many others. So, yes...they WILL be gin to miss us. Hobby Lobby is nothing more than a money-making front for right-wing religious bigots.

      January 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • mitchiek

      I won't shop there either.

      January 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • janey33

      Bob..You are wrong!!! Just because you don't agree with someone's religion, they become bigots. How sad you are. In this country we have the freedom of religion. It is our right to believe as we choose.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:20 am |
    • tallulah13

      Janey, a for-profit business is required to follow all laws pertaining to businesses. For-profit businesses don't get special treatment just because their owners follow a certain faith. That would be unethical and unfair.

      January 21, 2013 at 3:44 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      ELIGIOUS EXEMPTION: The following states permit a religious exemption: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

      PHILOSOPHICAL EXEMPTION: The following states permit a philosophical exemption: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

      January 21, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  20. Ken Margo

    @Bill...........Yes Schmuuck. Join your other bigoted friends this weekend. Don't forget to bring your cross to burn. Oh by the way try not to use anything built by the govt. You know, that evil socialist govt. So if you get sick, don't go to the hospital. Use a helicopter to get around, the govt. built the roads. You wouldn't want to get that socialism on your feet. Sc um bag.

    January 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      To all this appears out of order. I was replying to Bill "Screw everybody else" Deacon.

      January 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      HI Ken,

      Had a great weekend thanks. Spent all day Saturday with some friends and family playing music and having as good time. Lots of food and laughing. Went to mass Sunday and heard the Gospel of Jesus at the wedding in Cana. Wish you had been there. Then a bunch of us went and served lunch at a pro-life rally where we fed 1200-1500 folks who donated a lot of money to support a pro-life women's advocacy organization. I spent the afternoon with a friend of mine watching new England whoop up on Baltimore and making rosaries for an upcoming retreat where about 150 people will gather for a weekend of singing and prayer and ministry. Say, you're not a Baltimore fan are you?

      January 21, 2013 at 9:47 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.