Irondale, AL (EWTN) – The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has granted the EWTN Global Catholic Network an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS contraceptive services mandate against the Network. The appeals court released its twenty-nine page order just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The injunction allows EWTN to continue its court challenge of the mandate without incurring the fines of $35,000 per day that would have begun on July 1.
"This has been a very good day for religious liberty in America," said EWTN Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw. "The Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case was a great affirmation of the constitutional right to freedom of religious expression. While the Hobby Lobby decision did not directly resolve EWTN's case, this afternoon's injunction from the appellate court allows us to press forward without facing the government's crushing fines.
"As we have said repeatedly, contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization are not health care and the government should not force EWTN to provide them as part of our employer-sponsored health plan.
"The Hobby Lobby decision recognizes that business owners don't give up their religious freedom when they start a business," continued Warsaw. "The fact that the Supreme Court believes that the government has an obligation to use the least restrictive means of accomplishing its goals is very helpful to the EWTN case. EWTN has raised similar arguments with regard to the government's 'accommodation' scheme for faith-based organizations. We are both relieved and encouraged by the action taken by the courts today and look forward to making our case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the coming months."
EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 33rd year, is available in over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website www.ewtn.com, electronic and print news services, and publishing arm, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world.
"EWTN is extremely pleased with today's Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The fact that the Court believes that the government has less restrictive means of accomplishing its goals is very helpful. However, it remains unclear whether this decision addresses the serious objections that EWTN has raised with regard to the government's "accommodation" scheme for nonprofit faith-based organizations. We are consulting with our legal team to determine how this significant decision applies to EWTN and our pending case before the courts."
Irondale, AL (EWTN) – "This evening, EWTN filed a motion for emergency relief with the United States Supreme Court asking that it grant an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the HHS contraceptive services mandate against the Network starting on July 1st. The Network had requested this protection from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court has yet to respond to our petition. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant EWTN protection from this onerous rule that would force us to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan. As we have said repeatedly, these drugs and procedures are not health care and EWTN should not be forced to provide them or face over $35,000 per day in penalties to the government for refusing to do so. In addition to our request for an emergency injunction, the Network is also filing a motion asking the Supreme Court to take up the full merits of our case. We believe that the issues at stake are deserving of direct consideration by the highest court of the land.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in the Hobby Lobby case. It is not certain that a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby will actually settle the matter for EWTN or other nonprofit organizations. Similarly, it is not certain that a negative decision in that case would apply to EWTN. Therefore, we felt it important to move our own case forward now while we await the verdict in the Hobby Lobby case.
We ask our EWTN Family to continue to keep this matter in prayer."
Irondale, AL (EWTN) – "We are extremely disappointed with the decision reached by the court in this case. The opinion issued is clearly inconsistent with the decisions reached in nearly all of the cases decided to date. The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling.
As an organization that was founded by Mother Angelica to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization should be defined as health care. We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices. We have no other option but to continue our legal challenge of the mandate. We are making an immediate appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta."
The news that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two of the cases challenging the HHS Mandate is certainly welcome news. The two lawsuits, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, were both filed by for-profit corporations who object to portions of the mandate. The fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider these cases should be seen as a very positive development.
However, it is important to note that the facts argued in the for-profit cases differ from many of the the arguments made by EWTN and the other faith-based plaintiffs. In addition, a decision from the Supreme Court is not expected until June of 2014. Under the regulations, EWTN would be subject to the Mandate's fines for non-compliance effective July 1, 2014. As a result, despite yesterday's positive news, EWTN and the State of Alabama will continue to push forward aggressively with our pending case.
I ask our EWTN Family to continue to keep this matter in your prayers.
Irondale, AL (EWTN) – EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a new lawsuit October 28 in Federal Court against the Department of Health & Human Services, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other federal agencies seeking to stop the government from imposing the HHS contraception mandate as well as asking the court to find that it is unconstitutional. The State of Alabama, through its Attorney General Luther Strange, has joined EWTN as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
"EWTN has no other option but to continue our legal challenge to the mandate," said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. "The revised rules, published by the government in July, have done nothing to address the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has been raising since the mandate was first published last year. The government has decided that EWTN is apparently not religious enough to be exempt from the rule. It has still placed us in a situation where we are forced to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan or to offer our employees and their families no insurance at all. Neither of these options is acceptable. The mission of EWTN is not negotiable."
EWTN's original lawsuit opposing the mandate was filed Feb. 9, 2012, but was dismissed by Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn on March 25, 2013. In her order dismissing the original suit, Judge Blackburn noted that the government had promised to implement a new rule addressing the issues raised by EWTN. Blackburn's opinion stated that "common sense weighs in favor of withholding judicial review until new regulations are created and finalized. At that point, if EWTN still has objections, it may then file suit."
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a new set of rules on July 23, 2013 which Secretary Sebelius claimed addressed the concerns of EWTN and other similar organizations.
"When the government opened up a period for public comment earlier this year in advance of publishing its revised rules, EWTN submitted extensive remarks and an explanation of its moral objections to the mandate," Warsaw continued. "We sincerely hoped that our concerns would be addressed. Instead, the government ignored our comments entirely and pressed forward with a rule that changed nothing. We are in the same position today as we were when the mandate was first published.
"As an organization that was founded to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, voluntary sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs constitute health care. We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices," said Warsaw.
"Version 2.0 of the mandate is just as bad as version 1.0," said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund, which filed both the original and new lawsuits on EWTN's behalf. "It would still force the world's preeminent Catholic network to betray publicly the very teachings it was founded to promote, and which it promotes on a daily basis."
In 2012, shortly after the first EWTN lawsuit was filed, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange petitioned the court to join the EWTN complaint. In this new lawsuit, the State of Alabama has joined EWTN as a co-plaintiff from the start.
Commenting on this new lawsuit, Attorney General Strange said, "I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate. … The freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our 'first freedom' under the United States Constitution. The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience."
"EWTN is extremely grateful to Attorney General Strange for his support on this important issue. The Attorney General clearly understands what is at stake here, not just for EWTN, but for all people who feel that government cannot take away the right to religious freedom," said Warsaw.
EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 32nd year, is available in over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website www.ewtn.com, electronic and print news services, and publishing arm, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. The Becket Fund has a 17-year history of defending religious liberty for people of all faiths. Its attorneys are recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory against the federal government at the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.