Hobby Lobby owes $1.3 million a day

Having lost its court case, Hobby Lobby is refusing to pay for abortifacient drugs, as mandated by Obamacare.  So since January 1, it has been racking up fines of $1.3 million every day.  There is a company that is putting its money where its convictions are.  Does anyone know any other companies owned by pro-life individuals that are resisting the law and paying the price like this?

By Friday Hobby Lobby would have racked up $14.3 million dollars in fines from the IRS for bucking Obamacare. The company is facing $1.3 million dollars a day in fines for each day they choose not to comply with a piece of the health care law that was set to trigger for them on January 1.

The craft store chain announced in December because of religious objections they would face the fines for not providing certain types of birth control through their company health insurance.

via Hobby Lobby’s $1.3 million Obamacare loophole – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

Religious non-profits have a year before they have to comply, pending the writing of new regulations that might exempt them from the requirement, but for-profit companies are not allowed to claim religious liberty rights. Shouldn’t the owner of a business have the right to express his faith in his work, even though it is for-profit and “secular”?  Isn’t that kind of what vocation is about?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I know Hobby Lobby is a big outfit, but one wonders if it can sustain paying fines that amount to nearly half a billion dollars per year?

    The 1st Amendment says that Congress shall make no law restricting the free exercise of religion. There is no exception to that which says, “… unless such exercise is part of a for-profit endeavor.”

    Actually, no business ought to be forced to pay for any kind of employee benefit, regardless of religious motivation. Employee benefits should be part of the free market bargain between employer and employee. The government’s onerous control of such things serves no legitimate purpose of the Federal Government.

    But, there are a whole lot of onerous federal regulations concerning businesses, employees and unions that need to be unwound on the basis that they serve no legitimate federal government purpose.

  • Tom Hering

    Isn’t it the corporation, and not the owners, being required to comply? I know corporations have some of the rights of persons, but I also know they don’t have all the rights of persons. Can any of our lawyers here tell me if corporations have religious liberty rights? Has that ever been decided?

  • Kempin04

    What an encouraging example of someone willing to STAND in the face of persecution! This makes me want to buy stock and lose the money just to show support. (I won’t . . . probably. I’m just saying that it is inspiring.)

    (Yes, I contend that this is religious persecution.)

    Tom,

    The corporation IS the owners, as far as I understand. There are more owners than a partnership or propritership, but the company is still the property of the shareholders, jointly owned through the documents of incorporation.

  • Tom Hering

    But there are all sorts of exceptions/exemptions made for owners of corporations to protect them, personally, from consequences their corporations must suffer under the law … aren’t there? So things can’t be as simple as “a corporation IS the owners.” I’m curious if there isn’t some form of “wanting your cake and eating it too” going on here, legally.

  • Kurt

    Modern day white collar economic martyrdom.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Tom, please don’t make excuses for the Obama administration about this. They’re being asked to pay for abortions, period.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom,

    Good question. I’m of the opinion–and SCOTUS seems to be of the opinion–that explicitly religious institutions like churches and charities ought not be penalized by a law/regulation like the HHS mandate. But what about private corporations? Sure, the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s CEO shouldn’t be trampled by any law, but should his employees be subject to his religious beliefs? Hobby Lobby may play Christian music and purvey all manner of Christian wares, but they are not, technically speaking, a Christian institution. They are a business.

    At the level of the SCOTUS, it’s an open question.

    Personally, I think the HHS mandate was a terrible, terrible move–not only in terms of politics, but in terms of policy. Hobby Lobby shouldn’t be forced to make this sort of decision, and it will be tragic if Hobby Lobby is shuttered by this mandate. So it’s a moral travesty, but I’m not sure it’s (yet) a constitutional travesty.

    Any Armchair Lawyers willing to chime in?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Besides, Tom. Corporations are people. Supreme court said so.

  • mikeb

    Tom, a corporation is made up of it’s stockholders much as a church congregation is made up of it’s members.

    Hobby Lobby is not a publicly traded company. Yes, it is a legal entity known as a Corporation, which saves individual owners from certain liabilities (on an individual basis), but it is still closely held. To my knowledge they don’t disclose how many owners there are but it’s a good bet CEO/founder David Green and his family own a large majority of the stock.

  • Abby

    These are pro-life comments, not about Hobby Lobby per se:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8knMYK-IX4U

  • Joe

    I think based on Citizen’s United, Hobby Lobby has a very good chance of prevailing. The First Amendment protects the right to associate for the purpose of engaging in the other activities listed in the amendment, speech, assemblage, petition and free exercise of religion. The basic thrust of Citizens United was that it was unconstitutional to prevent that association of people from engaging in political speech simply because they chose to associate via the corporate form. Here, I would suggest it is only one step removed to find that it would be inconsistent with the first amendment to require the association of persons called Hobby Lobby to engage in activities that violate their exercise of their religion.

    Now, the biggest problem is squaring it with prior case law that holds a law of general application that is not aimed at religious activities but happens to catch religious activities is constitutional (i.e. it is okay for the federal gov’t to fire native american park rangers for violating the no drug use policy even though the drug use was done in the context of a native american religious ceremony). Here, it may well be the exception for expressly religious employers that dooms the mandate – it is not a law of general application.

  • tODD

    Thanks, Joe (@12:16 pm). I certainly sympathize with Hobby Lobby’s complaint (if not Hobby Lobby itself, for a number of reasons). But there’s one thing I don’t get: Why is Hobby Lobby the only company we’re hearing from here? There must be hundreds or thousands of similarly “Christian” businesses that are not, as such, religious organizations. What are they doing right now? It does make me a little bit wary to just defend Hobby Lobby without reservation. Something seems odd here.

  • Abby

    Other companies are too small for media attention. When President Matthew Harrison appeared before Congress on this issue, he talked about privately owned businesses with LCMS owners who would be facing this same faith-based problem of being forced to supply abortifacients to their employees. It is a matter of conscience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5au8yj2msQ

  • rlewer

    Isn’t Hobby Lobby appealing the case? Even expensive lawyers are cheaper the federal fines.

  • tODD

    Abby (@1:07 pm), can you give any examples?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think it largely due to name recognition. Hobby Lobby is huge with stores just about everywhere so the media will be more likely to pick up stories that feature them.

  • tODD

    DLit2C (@1:44 pm), okay, so you want to blame the media, then? What about any “Christian” businesses you patronize? Are they saying anything to their customers? I’m going to find it odd if no one else can name another business that is reacting like Hobby Lobby here. It’s not like we lack for access to businesses’ voice in this day and age. Point me to similar businesses’ websites or Facebook pages where they’re also taking this tactic. You can’t just assume they’re out there somewhere and likewise assume it’s all the media’s fault that they’re not being talked about.

  • Abby

    I can’t find the clip where Pastor Harrison mentioned the private business, but I recall (hopefull, correctly) that he did not mention a name of the business. I know that Schwan’s, Pampered Chef (used to be owned by an LCMS family, but I believe now belongs to Warren Buffet), Bronner’s (Frankenmuth) and private businesses that used to give very large sums of money to fund various mission projects of the LCMS. Also, (years ago) a woman who was heir to the Avon corp. used to give money to LCMS for mission projects. These are only the ones I am aware of with ties to our church. Maybe these people have not indicated what they are going to do in the situation. I don’t know.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I am not blaming anybody just offering a simple reason for your question. Plus, if you ever read getreligion you would see the number of times editors/writers don’t even bother with a more detailed attempt at research. So, I am just saying that Hobby Lobby is an easy subject. They don’t have to work for it. If I am saying anything it is that people are just lazy, not some media conspiracy.

    See I am not that interested in knowing who else is attempting what Hobby Lobby is doing, so I am not wasting my time looking up something that I have little interest in.

  • SKPeterson

    I probably missed this, but has the government declared abortion to be an on-demand medical procedure that must be covered by insurance providers? Or is it an elective procedure that does not necessarily entail insurance coverage? I’ve been interested in finding out if any of the health insurance providers have themselves excluded abortion services by placing them in the category (where they should be) of elective surgery. Most insurance companies do not cover elective surgeries such as breast augmentation or nose jobs, etc., so if abortion could be thus classified (even birth control pills done for the purpose of birth control could be thus excluded, I suppose, as being an elective medication) Hobby Lobby could find an insurance provider that doesn’t cover abortion. I’ve seen things that say abortion is covered under Obamacare, not so much that it is required to be covered. I Googled requirements for abortion coverage under Obamacare, and surprise, surprise, there is no clear answer or distinction made between coverage and requiring coverage, and even conflicts on whether states can exclude providers in state-run exchanges from coverage, etc. f anything, the legal challenges might come down to issues of legal clarity and the obvious lack thereof in the act itself. Maybe if a few states decided to deny insurers the ability to write policies if they fund abortion it might work. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Hobby Lobby would be off the hook nationally, but only in those state restricting insurance coverage.

  • mikeb

    There are others but I suspect not many who can afford the fight. Could it be that Hobby Lobby suffers from the Goldilocks syndrome? It’s just the large enough to be covered by the mandate yet still small enough to be very closely held and closely aligned with its founder’s moral philosophy with just enough resources to fight the fight.

  • tODD

    Hmm. A little research turned up this article from today, which says that:

    The evangelical Christian-owned company plans to shift the beginning of its employee health plan to temporarily avoid $1.3 million a day in fines for each day since Jan. 1 that it did not comply with the Affordable Care Act. Without the delay, the fine would now have totaled $18.2 million.

    So they’re not yet racking up any fines for holding to their faith, nor does it seem they will do so for “several months”.

  • Abby

    I’m sure there are lots of small businesses: restaurants, car repair shops, grocery stores, etc. as well.

  • tODD

    Abby (@2:05 pm), I wasn’t asking for examples of “Christian” businesses, I was asking for examples of such businesses that are, like Hobby Lobby, striking this particular stance. I find it odd that there don’t seem to be any other examples.

    MikeB (@2:15 pm), seriously? Hobby Lobby, with 21,000 employees, is “just … large enough to be covered by the mandate”? Um, they’re well beyond large enough. There should be many, many other “Christian” corporations that are covered by the mandate.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 2:39 is right in that Hobby Lobby, presumably because it is self-insured, was somehow able to stave off the fines for now by re-setting its plan year to a later date. I’m not sure how they were able to do that so close to calendar year end, but I’m glad they were. They are entitled to fight this to a conclusion without facing that kind of financial penalty, and hopefully a court will recognize that fact before their new plan year ends.

    tODD, there are a number of private companies other than Hobby Lobby fighting this mandate. It’s just that other federal circuits have stayed the regulations for those companies pending the legal challenge, whereas the 10th Circuit chose not to do so. Here is an article citing another example from the 7th Circuit: http://www.themoralliberal.com/2012/12/31/the-seventh-circuit-blocks-the-hhs-mandate-for-a-private-business/ .

    Regarding the strength of the case itself, I believe the stronger case is made under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) rather than the First Amendment, because the RFRA requires the government to have a compelling interest in passing a law that infringes on religious liberty, whereas the level of scrutiny established under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment is an intermediate one. The problem the government has is that it has already made numerous exceptions to the mandates on secular grounds, so it is very hard to argue that providing free contraception and abortifacient benefits is a compelling governmental interest. It’s hard to argue such a thing anyway, absurd in fact.

    Citizens United certainly establishes a precedent that people doing business through a legal entity, such as a corporation or LLC, are entitled to the same Constitutional rights they would enjoy if operating as a sole proprietor or partnership. And well they should. A business entity is practically required to operate a larger business in today’s litigious climate, and to receive the funding necessary to grow. To hold otherwise, therefore, would be to hold that one cannot effectively have the right to practically live out one’s faith principles in the marketplace, which would be a sorry place for us to be.

  • andrew

    is it seriously that costly to buy your own pill if you want that kind of mediciine?
    i could understand the government being grumpy if you didn’t include cancer treatment, or something that was massively costly to undertake, but a pill that costs not a lot every month is something that an employee could stump up out of their own pocket.

  • Grace

    Hobby Lobby’s leaders as owners, and employers, have the right to run their company according to FREEDOM of RELIGION, straight from the Constitution of the United States. It is OPPRESSIVE to those who believe that slaughtering the unborn is a violent act, one that shouldn’t be practiced at all – but further more, should not be foisted on Christian Believers to pay through health insurance for their employees.

    Religion permeates the lives of Christian Believers – to DENY us the freedom to follow Christ by not supporting ABORTION (killing the unborn) financially, through health insurance VIOLATES our rights.

      1.   When will the government demand NEW LAWS that we pay for EUTHANASIA, which is lawful suicide, through health insurance?

      2.   Will the government make laws, demanding that all the unborn, when found through scans during pregnancy, that the infant has Down Syndrome, or is not perfectly formed to perfection?
     

  • Joe

    tODD (@ most of your comments). I don’t have time to find the articles right now but if my memory is correct, the the 8th Circuit has also upheld an injunction on behalf of O’Brian Industries (a mining company). And, I think there are cases pending in Michigan and Colorado.

  • Grace

    Adding to the above post: January 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

     

          BE ABORTED, POST HASTE!

     

  • DonS

    Following up on my post @ 3:35, here is an article from NRO (from the right, to be sure, but thoughtful and thorough as to legal analysis and background) http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/337649/elementary-rfra-error-ed-whelan. In the case of for profit businesses, 9 courts have found for the plaintiff and 5 for the government so far, according to the article.

    With that kind of split between courts and circuits, this case will certainly end up at the Supreme Court.

  • Abby

    “Rick Warren has come to the defense of a beleaguered Christian-operated business, as indicated in this report: Hobby Lobby Delays Obamacare Fines for Now; Avoids $18.2 Million Penalty.

    Warren, author and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has described the company’s battle against Obamacare as “nothing less than a landmark battle for America’s FIRST freedom, the freedom of religion and the freedom from government intervention in matters of conscience.”

    Warren said in a statement earlier this month that every American who loves freedom should “shudder at the precedent the government is trying to establish by denying Hobby Lobby the full protection of the First Amendment.”

    He blasted the government for trying to reinterpret the First Amendment “from freedom to PRACTICE your religion, to a more narrow freedom to worship, which would limit your freedom to the hour a week you are at a house of worship.” This, he added, is not only a subversion of the Constitution, “it is nonsense,” because “any religion that cannot be lived out … at home and work, is nothing but a meaningless ritual.”

    Warren predicts that “the battle to preserve religious liberty for all, in all areas of life, will likely become the civil rights movement of this decade.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/14/abroad-and-at-home-religious-freedom-under-threat/#more-55367

  • tODD

    Thanks, Joe and DonS. I guess there are at least as many examples of companies like Hobby Lobby (as to the mandate) as there are won/lost injunction cases. I’m still surprised no other company appears to be using their objection to PR ends as, frankly, Hobby Lobby appears to be (maybe I’m just cynical). But then, most of the other companies I’ve seen named in injunction lawsuits do not appear to be those that market directly to consumers at the level Hobby Lobby does (lumber, HVAC, mining, etc.)

  • DonS

    tODD, public interest law groups are involved in these fights, and they are always attuned to using the media. It’s important in these battles to inform the voter/consumer as to how the government is infringing civil rights — the Court indeed responds to political pressure, as evidenced by John Roberts’ apparent change of mind in the Obamacare case because of a fear of damage to the Court’s image. Hobby Lobby is big, and already attuned to the consumer market, and it got an unfavorable ruling, so its case is prominent. But they’re all being reported, at some level.

    I saw this post about a meeting between a tea -party-styled political group and Move-on recently, regarding issues that bother both the left and the right (big government/big business crony capitalism and resultant intrusion on civil rights, for example). I hope this goes somewhere — both sides, regardless of political views, should hate to see big government in league with big business to trample the citizen’s civil rights for any reason: http://citizens4selfgovernance.org/break-the-left-vs-right-paradigm/hanging-out-in-berkeley-with-my-friend-the-co-founder-of-moveon-org/

  • Abby

    “maybe I’m just cynical” . . . That’s funny :)

  • kerner

    DonS@5:58

    Wow! Who knew? I am so glad this kind of dialogue is going on. Don, I am impressed with the participants in this process and in you for finding out about it and posting the information.

  • Abby

    “The world largely ignored the murder of six million human beings by the Nazis, whom the latter regarded as a “decadent” race, ignored at least until the prison camps were opened, and photos and films were released to a world aghast.

    Forty years after Roe v. Wade, we–the soldiers and very liberators of Germany from the darkness of the Third Reich–have largely ignored and continue to ignore the deaths of some 50,000,000 innocent unborn babies in “the land of the free,” where we are allegedly guaranteed “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    http://witness.lcms.org/pages/wPagex.asp?ContentID=1333&IssueID=73

  • DonS

    Kerner @ 8:18 — yeah, I thought it was pretty cool. I saw it through a link from the Instapundit blog by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee — an excellent blog. I’ve wondered where all the liberal civil rights proponents have been the last four years — the same people who fought to the Supreme Court so that a native American prisoner could smoke peyote in the name of free exercise don’t care about what the Obama administration is doing to the right of free exercise? Do they really think a mandate to provide free birth control and abortifacients is worth sacrificing that right? Maybe they’re not all comatose after all.

    It would be amazing to see this kind of attitude in D.C., but the presidential press conference today gives little hope that Obama is going to deal on anything.

  • Chris M

    I think thay Hobby Lobby has every right st stand up as an act of civil disobedience, and face the consequences, similar to the civil rights movement.

    The question I have is where one can draw the line on expressions of religious freedom that violate federal law. Set aside abortion, what if Hobby Lobby decided:
    - To not employ women?
    - To pay women more than men?
    - To refuse to serve minorities?
    - To refuse to hire non-christians?

    What then? Should the government cave every time a business drums up a “religious exemption” to duck a federal law they don’t like?

    That’s just it – I hear everyone beating the drum of “freedom”, but offering no solutions within our legal framework for deciding what’s in or out.

  • DonS

    Chris M.: It’s not an act of civil disobedience right now. They are legitimately challenging the law through the legal system, on the basis that it violates their religious protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Constitution. There’s a big difference.

    The four other examples you identify all involve discrimination against protected categories of people. That is a substantive difference in kind from Hobby Lobby’s objection to being forced by the government to provide health care coverage for all of its employees which includes free abortifacients. It’s pretty darn easy to draw that line you are complaining about.

  • tODD

    DonS (@12:44 pm), it does seem to me, though, that Hobby Lobby’s stance here, should it prevail, should also allow pacifists and similar objectors to object to having to pay the portion of their taxes that fund the military.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 12:56 — we’ve had this discussion about taxes before. The nexus between your tax dollar and all of the millions of things the government funds is very attenuated. Under our system of taxation, each citizen has a responsibility to pay a variety of taxes to fund the government, based on property we own, things we buy, income we make, etc. There is no mandate that we fund the military, for example, but merely that we pay taxes. What the government does with that tax money is entirely outside of our control, except for the extremely limited say we each have through our one vote.

    On the other hand, the HHS mandates under Obamacare specifically mandate that each employer fund, through its health insurance dollars, birth control benefits, including abortifacients. The mandate is not just to provide health insurance, it’s to provide specific objectionable benefits. In the case of Hobby Lobby, since its health insurance is self-funded, the mandate is that Hobby Lobby write checks directly to abortifacient providers. That is a very big difference from merely paying taxes that are thrown into a pool for use in a million different ways.

  • Chris M

    I don’t understand, why is it ok to limit a business’ religious liberty based on an arbitrary line drawn by the government. Saying it’s because they’re a “protected category” is meaningless, when the creation of the category in the first place limits “religious freedom”.

  • tODD

    Sorry, DonS (@12:51 pm), but you haven’t explained the big difference you perceive in the two situations.

    As a taxpayer, I am required to fund the military, even if I consider doing so morally objectionable. To claim otherwise would require you to pretend that it’s at all probable that a federal budget would contain no funding for the military. Please. I pay my money, and other people decide how it gets used.

    Similarly, Hobby Lobby’s employees decide how it spends its funds. If they go skiing a lot, Hobby Lobby will have to pay to set their broken bones. And, yes, if they choose to get an abortion in certain ways, it would appear that Hobby Lobby would have to pay for that, as well.

    I’m not saying the latter is a good thing. Far from it. But, again, if you object to Hobby Lobby having to fund something they don’t like, based on the decisions of other people, why do you not also object to pacifists having to fund something they don’t like, based on the decisions of other people? Don’t pacifists also have freedom of religion (let’s assume that they’re religiously-motivated pacifists, as there are not a few of those)?


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