Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
The Attorney General of the State of Alabama filed documents today in US District Court in Birmingham to join EWTN Global Catholic Network as a plaintiff in its lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate. EWTN filed its lawsuit on February 9, asking the federal courts to overturn the new rules which require most U.S. employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans even if it violates their conscience.
“The freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience.”
“The healthcare law signed by President Obama two years ago is taking effect now, and the consequences are dire. The law forces the States to be used as instruments in carrying out the federal government’s unconstitutional policies,” Strange said. “Under the law, States have no discretion. States instead must immediately begin regulating their insurance markets and enforcing federal provisions such as the contraception mandate, without regard to their citizens’ religious beliefs or conscientious objections.”
According to the state’s motion to intervene, filed March 22, Alabama law does not mandate that insurers must provide contraception or sterilization coverage or that any employer or person in the state is required to purchase such coverage. The documents note that Alabama citizens enjoy the freedom to contract for an insurance plan or with a religious-affiliated insurer that does not cover these services. In contrast, the federal regulation would mandate the type of health insurance Alabama could offer on its state-run health insurance exchange, and, if allowed to stand, would preempt Alabama law guaranteeing its citizens’ right of conscience.
In addition, the state asserts the regulation would force conscientious objectors to opt-out of their private health plans having the unfortunate result of increasing the number of people requiring healthcare from Medicaid and other state-supported programs.
The Attorney General also notes that he has statutory responsibilities to ensure that Alabama charitable institutions adhere to their purposes and bylaws. The federal regulation would take such control away from the state by interfering with the mission of religious not-for-profits like EWTN.
“We are grateful to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for taking such a strong stand on this issue,” said EWTN President and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw. “This suit demonstrates that the Alabama motto, ‘We dare to defend our rights,’ is no mere slogan. The state could simply have chosen to file a brief advising the court of the impact of the case on its citizens. Instead, it is intervening in the suit as a co-plaintiff with EWTN. The Attorney General of Alabama is saying, in effect, that this unjust, unconstitutional mandate hurts not only EWTN, but the entire community.”
“We welcome Alabama as a crucial ally in this fight,“ said Kyle Duncan, the Becket Fund’s General Counsel and lead attorney for EWTN. “Their participation reveals another glaring problem with the mandate: not only does the mandate threaten religious freedom, but it also impairs Alabama’s ability to protect its own citizens’ rights.”
The Register’s complete story is available here.
Attorney General Luther Strange and representatives of the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. today.