IRONDALE, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - The Catholic television network EWTN is suing the federal government over the requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ObamaCare.
The act mandates that contraception, abortion and sterilization services have to be included in their health plans.
"We had no other option but to take this to the courts," EWTN President and CEO Michael Warsaw said Thursday. "There is no question that this mandate violates our First Amendment rights. Under the HHS mandate, EWTN is being forced by the government to make a choice, either we provide employees coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and violate our conscience or offer our employees and their families no health insurance coverage at all. Neither of those choices is acceptable."
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against HHS, the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury. Attorneys for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed the suit on behalf of the EWTN.
Becket noted it is the "first and only law firm to legally challenge the Obama Administration's contraceptive mandate. This controversial rule requires religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraceptive drugs-including those that could cause an abortion."
The complaint states, "This is a challenge to regulations issued under the 2010 Affordable Care Act that force the Plaintiff-along with a multitude of other religious organizations-to violate their deepest religious beliefs ...
EWTN's sincere religious beliefs forbid it from participating in, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting contraception, sterilization, or abortion. EWTN is one of many American religious organizations that hold these beliefs ... The Mandate unconstitutionally coerces EWTN to violate its deeply-held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties. The Mandate also forces EWTN to fund government-dictated speech that is directly at odds with its own speech and religious teachings."
According to the announcement by EWTN, "at least one of the mandate's required drugs, the emergency contraceptive "Ella," has the potential to cause an early-stage abortion." Mr. Warsaw said that the rule is "particularly hard on Catholics, because Catholic organizations, such as hospitals, schools, social service agencies, media outlets and others, serve people regardless of their religious beliefs."
The mandate has caused outrage among many religious organizations. The U.S. Catholic bishops, which originally favored Obamacare, now have denounced the mandate. Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish groups have as well.
Along with the religious opposition, politicians from both sides of the aisle are opposing it. A bipartisan letter was sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Feb. 6 signed by over 154 members of Congress asking that she reconsider this action.
Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul, (R-Ky) said in an op-ed for National Review Online that "HHS and the administration have decided that their goal of state-run health care trumps our first liberty. What the president is attempting to do here is something generally witnessed only in totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. I stand firmly with the Catholic bishops in their efforts to assert the religious liberty and freedom of conscience that our forefathers guaranteed us.
"To that end, I will co-sponsor legislation with my Senate colleagues to overturn the administration's edict. I do so to stand with all of my constituents, Catholic and otherwise, against the beliefs and actions of an administration unconcerned with our constitutional rights."
EWTN noted that if the HHS regulation is not repealed the network could be subject to fines of more than $600,000 each year it refuses to provide the mandated services which are antithetical to the organization's religious beliefs.