- (Photo: EWTN)
A Catholic television network has decided to sue the federal government over the Department of Health and Human Services' controversial new rules on contraception coverage.
Eternal Word Television Network, whose station brings programming to more than 145 million homes globally, announced their suit on Thursday, Feb. 9.
EWTN President & CEO Michael P. Warsaw told The Christian Post that they are being helped in their lawsuit by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
"It was the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty that first offered its services to EWTN should the Network have wanted to take action against the HHS mandate," said Warsaw.
"Once the HHS rules were promulgated on January 20, 2012, EWTN formally retained the Becket Fund as its counsel and moved forward with the suit."
The day after EWTN filed suit against the government regarding the contraception, President Barack Obama announced that the rule would be modified in response to the outcry by religious groups.
Despite this, Warsaw said that with the president's announcement, "there is actually more uncertainty about the rules and their application to EWTN."
According to Obama's announcement on Friday, religious nonprofits and employers will still have to cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization, but now they have the option to opt out of directly providing those services and instead have the organization's insurance company provide the coverage.
While the proposal was presented as a compromise on women's access to health care and religious liberty, evangelicals and other religious leaders remained unconvinced that their freedom is being protected.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the revised mandate "does nothing to change the fundamentally anti-religious, anti-conscience and anti-life contraceptive mandate."
Though Obama repeated in his Friday announcement that employers who object to the mandate "will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services" under the tweaked plan, Perkins said the new proposal "still requires religious entities that are not exempt as a church to subsidize and pay insurance companies so they can give free birth control to their employees."
Warsaw also pointed out that while some religious institutions "seem to be accommodated under the revised policy, we believe that these accommodations may not actually cover EWTN."
EWTN, he explained, has a "a self-funded health plan to our employees" and this type of insurance was not discussed by Obama in his recent announcement.
"While the administration has alluded to further discussions about self-funded plans, there is currently no indication of an exemption or other accommodation for EWTN and other self-funded institutions," said Warsaw.
The tweaked health care mandate comes weeks after the Jan. 20 announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services that religious charities would not be exempted from having to provide contraception services in their employee health insurance plans. Many religious organizations have denounced the Obama administration's rules as an attack on religious liberty and continue to do so following the new proposal.
Catholic organizations like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have been joined by conservative Protestants like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Missouri Lutheran Synod in voicing their opposition.
Warsaw observed, "One of the wonderful things that has come from all of this has been the fact that it has brought together people of all faith groups and across all lines of religious expression."
"That's a wonderful thing and it's a great sign of how God can bring good things out of bad situations."