Catholic TV Channel Files New Lawsuit Against HHS, Aided by Ala. Attorney General
An Alabama-based Catholic television station has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over its controversial mandate that requires religious employers to cover contraceptives, including those that can cause early abortion.
Eternal Word Television Network, whose station in Irondale brings programming to more than 145 million homes across the globe, filed the suit on Monday.
Brought before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, EWTN is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and has the aid of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund, told The Christian Post that his organization was happy to have the support of the state of Alabama.
"We welcome Alabama as a crucial ally in protecting EWTN's religious liberty. Having a well-respected partner like the attorney general helps reveal the glaring and growing problems with the HHS Mandate," said Blomberg.
Blomberg also told CP that there were "a number of ways" that the HHS mandate negatively affected EWTN.
"If EWTN violates its religious belief and participates in providing drugs and devices that the Catholic Church has long condemned as immoral, their actions will speak much louder than their broadcasts," said Blomberg.
"The price of knuckling under to the HHS Mandate, then, is not just religious liberty, but EWTN's religious mission and identity."
In Feb. 2012, EWTN filed a lawsuit against HHS over the mandate, which would have compelled the Catholic broadcasting company to provide contraception coverage for its employees.
As a Catholic company founded by nuns, EWTN objects on moral and religious grounds to birth control and abortion.
In late March 2012, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn dismissed this first lawsuit, arguing that since the HHS rules had not at the time been finalized, a proper judgment could not be made.
Last June the White House announced the finalization of the rules regarding the mandate, which included exemptions for churches and religious nonprofit organizations. Critics of the final rules have argued that they still do not provide sufficient exemptions for religious businesses and other for-profits.
With this second lawsuit, EWTN will have the help of Strange, who said in a statement earlier this week that he was "proud" to side with the Catholic station.
"Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions," said Strange.
"Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience."
While many Catholic entities have filed suit against HHS over the mandate, at least one major organization has accepted the final rules.
Catholic Health Association of the United States released a statement in July expressing their support for the new rules and its exemptions.
"We are pleased that our members now have an accommodation that will not require them to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage," reads the statement in part.
"CHA is grateful for the respect and concern demonstrated by all parties in this dialogue. We will work with our members to implement this accommodation."
According to the Becket Fund, there are 75 lawsuits making their way through courts across the country against the HHS mandate.