Lawmaker pushes for tax relief for faith-based businesses

Lawmaker pushes for tax relief for faith-based businesses

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A state lawmaker wants businesses facing federal fines for not including contraception in healthcare plans to be tax exempt.

Hobby Lobby remains steadfast in its opposition to including emergency contraception in its healthcare coverage for employees.

The company that includes "honoring the lord" in its mission statement faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day for not following the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

State Representative Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed House Bill 649 to help businesses like Hobby Lobby stay afloat by exempting them from state taxes.

On his website, Stickland states, "The Obama administration may be willing to kill hobby lobby over their mandate and put hobby lobby's employees out on the street, but I'm not willing to let that happen if I can stop it. Exempting them from state taxes is the least we can do to help them weather this storm. I hope other states follow suit and I hope the courts step-up to protect religious liberty and strike down this unconstitutional mandate."

Read Stickland's entire statement here: http://jonathanstickland.com/2013/01/24/stickland-files-legislation-to-protect-hobby-lobby/

"You have a situation where the federal government is trying to violate the religious beliefs of a private employer."

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values supports the bill. He says requiring religious-based companies to cover the morning after pill is a violation of religious freedom.

"We're hearing a lot of businesses that consider themselves religious and biblical to feel they're being infringed upon by this very restrictive law," Saenz said.

Opponents see giving companies tax exemptions as a reward for breaking federal law.

Stacey Pogue of the Center for Public Policy Priorities says Texas can't afford to support private companies.

"We are in a situation now where last session we have bills we haven't paid for healthcare for our poorest citizens that's between $4 and $5 million dollars. We cut public education by $5 billion dollars last session. We are at no position at this point to talk about how to take revenue out of the state coffers and give tax breaks especially based on violation of federal law," Pogue said.

Currently, churches, religious-based hospitals and universities do not have to cover emergency contraception. She says private business are excluded for a reason.

"Hobby Lobby is an employer where the employer may have one religious view, but the employees could have an entirely different religious view," said Pogue.

FOX 7 News contacted Hobby Lobby. The company does not have a comment at this time.

Stickland has also filed a resolution urging congress and the federal department of health and human services to provide an exemption to contraceptive mandates and penalties for religiously-based businesses and organizations.

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