Ala. Judge Dismisses Catholic TV Network's HHS Mandate Lawsuit
Earlier this week, an Alabama federal judge dismissed the lawsuit of a major Catholic television network regarding the Obama administration's contraception mandate, determining that the rules of the mandate have not been finalized yet, and therefore the court could not make a proper judgment on the case.
Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., ruled Monday that although the Eternal World Television Network [EWTN] has standing it its lawsuit because there exists a "real prospect of harm from a concrete regulatory mandate," she determined that she could not review the lawsuit because the Obama administration has promised to amend the mandate, and therefore it is not yet "ripe" for review.
"In this case, common sense weighs in favor of withholding judicial review until the new regulations are created and finalized. At that point, if EWTN still has objections, it may then file suit," Blackburn wrote in her opinion, according to AL.com.
The EWTN filed suit with the Department of Health & Human Services in February 2012, arguing that due to the religious convictions on which the network is founded, it cannot be required to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients for its employees, as the Health and Human Services Mandate requires.
"While we are extremely disappointed that Judge Blackburn did not rule on the constitutional issues that were at the heart of the EWTN lawsuit, we are not surprised by the decision," Michael P. Warsaw, president and chief executive officer of EWTN Global Catholic Network, said in a statement on the network's official website.
"In every lawsuit filed against the mandate, the government has made promise after promise to amend its unjust rules. As a result, nearly everyone, including the courts, is left waiting to see what the government might or might not do to address the serious issues of conscience that have been raised since the first set of rules were published over a year ago," Warsaw continued.
"Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues," Warsaw added, saying that it is currently consulting with its legal team at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about future legal options.
Judge Blackburn also dismissed the motion of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who joined the EWTN federal lawsuit in March 2012, arguing at the time that the HHS Mandate was an "attack on religious liberty."
"Government should not punish religious organizations that serve the general public," Strange said in a conference call to AL.com in March 2012.
"This attack on religious liberty is extremely troubling to me," he added.
According to The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which serves as legal counsel for many of these HHS Mandate lawsuits, there are 50 cases regarding the HHS Mandate, some filed by major companies such as Hobby Lobby, and others filed by major universities, including Wheaton College and East Texas Baptist University.
Recently, the founder of Domino's Pizza, Thomas Monaghan, received an injunction from having to provide the abortion pill to his employees.
In his decision, Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division wrote that "the harm of delaying the implementation of a statute that may later be deemed constitutional is outweighed by the risk of substantially burdening the free exercise of religion."
Most opponents of the HHS Mandate contend that their ultimate goal is to have the entirety of the HHS Mandate ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates First Amendment religious freedom rights.