Three US states back EWTN religious liberty lawsuit

Michael Warsaw, EWTN's chairman of the board, speaking at a June, 2014 conference. Credit: CNA.

Alabama, Georgia, and Florida each filed legal briefs on Monday in support of EWTN in a lawsuit over the HHS mandate, saying the federal rule unjustly and illegally burdens the network’s religious freedom.

“We are grateful for all the support that we have received in our fight for religious freedom,” EWTN chairman Michael Warsaw said Aug. 4.

With their “amicus curiae” briefs, the three states join 20 other groups, including a pro-life coalition and a coalition of religious ministries, in support of EWTN’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit challenges certain federal Department of Health and Human Services rules instituted by the Obama administration in the name of “preventive care.” The rules require employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including drugs which can cause abortion.

The rules are particularly burdensome upon Catholic organizations, which reject the mandated procedures and drugs as unethical. Catholic teaching also rejects cooperation in providing the objectionable procedures and drugs.

Lori Windham, senior council at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending EWTN in court, praised the states’ involvement.

“It sets a powerful example when three states stand up to support religious freedom for ministries like EWTN,” she said.

“These states recognize that they must protect religious freedom for their citizens. It’s time for the federal government to realize the same thing and stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

EWTN was founded by the Franciscan nun Mother Angelica to help advance the faith.  It now broadcasts television to over 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories.

EWTN’s lawsuit against the mandate was originally dismissed in early 2013. With Alabama’s attorney general, EWTN filed a new lawsuit. It again received an unfavorable ruling, but at the end of June the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the network emergency relief pending the outcome of its appeal.

At least 100 lawsuits filed by more than 300 plaintiffs have challenged the constitutionality of the HHS mandate.

In a June 30 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held businesses whose owners have religious objections to the mandate are protected by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

However, the court has yet to rule on whether religious non-profits are protected from the mandate by constitutional and other federal protections for religious freedom.


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