The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.
“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.
On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review.
The lawsuit initially concerned federal regulations requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that can cause abortions. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption did not apply to many Catholic organizations. Violators faced staggering fines of $100 per employee per day.
The Obama administration has since revised the federal rules to require that insurance providers, not employers themselves, provide the objectionable coverage and pay for it out of the “savings” they enjoy from not paying for children. Critics have dismissed the change as an accounting gimmick.
The change also does not address the concerns of EWTN, which is a self-insured employer.
Government lawyers said that the mandate is in the process of being amended and there is “a significant chance” that these changes will “alleviate altogether” the need for judicial review.
Warsaw was doubtful of this outcome. He said that the government has made “promise after promise to amend its unjust rules.”
“As a result, nearly everyone, including the courts, is left waiting to see what the government might or might not do to address the serious issues of conscience that have been raised since the first set of rules were published over a year ago,” he said.
He said the judge did not rule on the constitutional issues he said were “at the heart” of the lawsuit. EWTN is consulting with its legal team from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about possible options.
EWTN’s lawsuit cited the need to plan for any financial problems as a result of the mandate. It said there is a danger of third-party lawsuits attempting to enforce the mandate because the safe harbor provision it is presently operating under only protects it against lawsuits from the government.
The court said EWTN will not suffer sufficient hardship before the rules are changed to merit further judicial review, but it allowed that the case may be revisited after further developments.
Warsaw voiced gratitude for the prayers and support for EWTN and asked for continued prayers as the network considers its response.
Tags: Contraception mandate