EWTN to appeal after 'troubling' HHS mandate ruling

Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Eternal Word Television Network speaks with the press in this undated file photo. Credit: EWTN.

The EWTN Global Catholic Network has announced that it will appeal a June 17 ruling that would require it to facilitate products and procedures that go against Church teaching.

“We have no other option but to continue our legal challenge of the mandate,” said Michael P. Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN. “We are making an immediate appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.”

U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN in its challenge to a federal regulation that the network says require it to violate its Catholic faith.

“We are extremely disappointed with the decision reached by the court in this case,” Warsaw said.

“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 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,” he added. “We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices.”   

The EWTN lawsuit challenges the federal HHS mandate, which requires most employers to either provide or facilitate employee insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

More than 300 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits across the country charging that the mandate violates federal and constitutional protections of religious freedom.

An important ruling about the mandate as it applies to for-profit businesses owned by individuals with religious objections is expected from the Supreme Court later this month.

In early 2012, EWTN filed an initial lawsuit against the regulation. However, that suit was dismissed on technical grounds in March 2013. The current lawsuit was filed in October 2013.

The Catholic network is being joined in its lawsuit by the state of Alabama.

“Alabama has a proud history of protecting our First Freedom,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “We have been honored to continue that tradition by standing with EWTN and protecting rights of conscience for all Alabama citizens, and we will continue to support EWTN as it appeals the district court’s disappointing decision.”

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending EWTN in court, noted that more than 80 percent of cases have received rulings protecting religious freedom of those objecting to the mandate.

“This decision is out of step with the overwhelming majority of decisions in similar cases nationwide,” she said.

Established 33 years ago, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world, reaching over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories.

The network includes television, radio and a publishing arm, along with a website and both electronic and print news services.


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In our time

Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write, I’ve just read the sad news that 90 Christians have been kidnapped from two villages in Syria. Of course we were all shocked earlier this month by the news that 21 Coptic Christians were executed in Syria — killed, as Pope Francis said, “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 

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