By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama became ground zero in the conflict between Catholic Church institutions and the federal government when the Alabama based Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) filed suit in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on February 9th.
EWTN released a statement explaining their decision today: ” “We had no other option but to take this to the courts,” says EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice: either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable.”
Chairman Warsaw Continued, “We are taking this action to defend not only ourselves but also to protect other institutions – Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and secular – from having this mandate imposed upon them,” Warsaw continued. “The government is forcing EWTN, first, to inform its employees about how to get contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, a concept known as forced speech. To make the matter worse, the government then will force EWTN to use its donors’ funds to pay for these same morally objectionable procedures or to pay for the huge fines it will levy against us if we fail to provide health care insurance. There is no question that this mandate violates our First Amendment rights. This is a moment when EWTN, as a Catholic organization, has to step up and say that enough is enough. Our hope is that our lawsuit does just that.”
This whole constitutional crisis began when a Democratic Party controlled Congress passed the highly controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010. The act is better known as “Obamacare” after the President who demanded that Congress pass the thousand plus page legislation. The Speaker of the House (at the time) Nancy Pelosi (D) from California said that Congress had to pass the bill to find out what was in the bill. Well one part of the bill, nobody understood at the time, was that the bill apparently gave the President of the United States exclusive power to set the minimum standards of coverage for what would be required in a healthcare insurance policy.
President Obama wrote the rule requiring that all insurers must include various birth control medications, devices, and procedures including abortion pills without any copays. Most religious employers believed that they would be given an exemption from these rules which they believe are immoral under the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects Americans religious liberty. Reportedly President Obama ignored advice from both Vice President Joe Biden and then Chief of Staff Bill Dailey (both Catholics) and refused to grant the religious exemption that the Catholic Church and other faith based groups had expected.
EWTN is a global Catholic media entity that includes a cable television network, a global radio network, a web site, and the newspaper ‘the National Catholic Register.’ EWTN was founded by the nun, Mother Angelica, in Irondale, Al. EWTN also has a large campus and facilities in Hanceville, AL.
EWTN’s lawsuit was filed by Mark Rienzi, Kyle Duncan, and Erik Kniffin from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
To learn more about EWTN:
To read EWTN’s press release: