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Appeals Court Hears EWTN Religious Freedom Case

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, February 4, the Irondale Alabama based Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) Global Catholic Network delivered oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in their case challenging Obamacare mandates which they say violate their religious beliefs.

EWTN Global Catholic Network Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw said, “Three years after we first began our legal fight against the government’s unjust mandate, EWTN finally had its day in court.”  “I am grateful that the judges of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard our arguments against this mandate.”

Warsaw said, “Despite the fact that there have been hundreds of lawsuits filed against this mandate and that it has lost nearly all of the cases that have been considered by the courts, the government continues to try to argue that it should be allowed to force organizations like EWTN to violate deeply held religious beliefs and to provide services which they find to be immoral.”

EWTN is appealing a decision by Mobile Federal District Judge Callie Granade in the ongoing legal challenge brought by EWTN Global Catholic Network against the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) controversial contraceptive services mandate.  Under rules written by HHS under the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, popularly known as Obamacare, employer-sponsored health care plans have to provide full coverage for contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization procedures.  Failure to do so will result in massive fines being imposed by the government.

EWTN filed suit and was joined as a co-plaintiff by the State of Alabama under the leadership of Attorney General Luther Strange (R).

Attorney General Strange said in a previous statement, “I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate.  Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions.”

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In June 2014, Judge Granade ruled against EWTN.  Following the Hobby Lobby US Supreme Court decision, which gave private closely held private for profit corporations their religious liberty not to participate in policies which violate their beliefs, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary injunction to EWTN. That injunction allowed EWTN to continue its court challenge of the mandate without incurring the penalties of more than $35,000 per day for defying the edict of the Obama administration.

Despite the Hobby Lobby decision, the government has refused to yield in this case arguing that since EWTN is a non-profit corporation instead of a closely held for-profit corporation the ruling does not apply to them, despite their Catholic affiliation.

Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for EWTN Lori Windham said, “Religious ministries have been winning these challenges overwhelmingly. Most courts understand that the government can’t fine you for living out your faith. EWTN is asking for nothing more than the most basic religious freedom: the freedom to practice what it preaches.”

Chairman Warsaw said, “Contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization are not health care, and the government should not force EWTN to provide them.”  “As we have said repeatedly throughout this process, 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.”

Warsaw said, “The government should not be allowed to hijack EWTN’s health plan for its own purposes. We are confident that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will recognize that the government should not be able to force us to act contrary to our beliefs.”

Judge Granade has recently drawn public criticism for her controversial decision striking down Alabama’s defense of marriage amendment.

Original reporting by the “National Catholic Register” which is owned by EWTN Global Catholic Network contributed to this report.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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