EWTN Case Against HHS Mandate Likely on Hold Until Supreme Court Decision

Media network continues to oppose federal mandate as it awaits SCOTUS decision on case of Little Sisters of the Poor.

(photo: EWTN)

IRONDALE, Ala. — With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear all cases against the federal contraception mandate that have received an appellate ruling, EWTN’s case will likely be put on hold until a final decision is reached.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the HHS contraceptive-mandate cases, including the one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, is wonderful news,” said Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.  

“In our own challenge to the mandate, EWTN has been waiting for the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to issue a decision, following oral arguments before that court in February 2015,” he explained. “Today’s action by the Supreme Court may mean the EWTN case will be put on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Founded by Franciscan nun Mother Mary Angelica, 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, including Catholic News Agency and the Register.

EWTN initially filed a lawsuit against the regulation in 2012. However, that suit was dismissed on technical grounds in March 2013. The current lawsuit was filed in October 2013.

In June 2014, U.S. district court Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, Ala., ruled against EWTN, and the network filed an appeal. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals then issued a temporary injunction protecting EWTN from the mandate while the case continued in the court system, protecting the network from penalties of up to $35,000 per day during that time.

The Feb. 4 oral arguments were heard by appellate court Judges Jill Pryor, Gerald Bard Tjoflat and R. Lanier Anderson.

EWTN made the argument that the government is being arbitrary in its granting of religious exemptions to the mandate.

“What the government is saying is that EWTN isn’t religious enough; it’s not entitled to the same religious freedom as the Catholic Church which it serves,” Lori Windham, the lead attorney for EWTN in the case, argued before the court. Windham serves as senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not health care, and participating in providing them to our employees violates our Catholic beliefs,” Warsaw said. “When EWTN launched its first lawsuit against the mandate in 2012, we made it clear that we cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues.”

“We are extremely encouraged by the fact that the Supreme Court has chosen to weigh in on this unprecedented government violation of religious liberty,” he continued. “We ask our EWTN family to continue to keep this matter in their prayers.”

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