Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2014 / 16:44 pm
The EWTN Global Catholic Network has filed a motion for emergency relief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for an injunction to bar enforcement of the federal contraception mandate.
Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN, explained that the network has already requested this protection with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, "but that court has yet to respond to our petition."
Without an injunction offering protection from the mandate, EWTN would be forced to comply with its demands starting July 1. As a result, the network filed its motion for emergency relief with the high court June 27.
"We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant EWTN protection from this onerous rule that would force us to provide contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan," Warsaw said.
"As we have said repeatedly, these drugs and procedures are not health care and EWTN should not be forced to provide them or face over $35,000 per day in penalties to the government for refusing to do so."
He explained that in addition to the emergency injunction request, "the Network is also filing a motion asking the Supreme Court to take up the full merits of our case."
"We believe that the issues at stake are deserving of direct consideration by the highest court of the land," he said.
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.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is defending EWTN in court, has observed that more than 80 percent of cases have received rulings protecting religious freedom of those objecting to the mandate.
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.
On June 17, U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN, prompting its appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
EWTN has maintained that as an organization, it was founded to uphold Catholic teaching, which opposes contraception, sterilization and abortion. Warsaw has previously stated that the network "simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices."
"The government fought the Little Sisters of the Poor all the way to the Supreme Court, and now it is fighting Eternal Word Television Network all the way to the Supreme Court," said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund.
"It's time for the government to stop its war on nuns and protect religious ministries from this unjust mandate. Our laws give EWTN the right to practice what it preaches."
The Supreme Court will issue a decision on June 30 involving the mandate as it applies to for-profit businesses owned by individuals with religious objections.
That case, which was filed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, will not necessarily apply to EWTN, Warsaw noted.
"Therefore, we felt it important to move our own case forward now while we await the verdict in the Hobby Lobby case."
"We ask our EWTN Family to continue to keep this matter in prayer."
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.