IRONDALE, Alabama, FEB. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other government agencies, seeking to stop the imposition of a mandate that will force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs in employee health care plans.
EWTN is the first Catholic organization to file suit since the final HHS rules were published by the Obama administration on Jan. 20.
“We had no other option but to take this to the courts,” said EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw in a statement. “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 lawsuit was filed on EWTN’s behalf by Mark Rienzi, Kyle Duncan and Erik Kniffin from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“We are taking this action to defend not only ourselves but also to protect other institutions — Catholic and non-Catholic, religious and secular — from having this mandate imposed upon them,” Warsaw continued. “The government is forcing EWTN, first, to inform its employees about how to get contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs, a concept known as forced speech. To make the matter worse, the government then will force EWTN to use its donors’ funds to pay for these same morally objectionable procedures or to pay for the huge fines it will levy against us if we fail to provide health care insurance. There is no question that this mandate violates our First Amendment rights. This is a moment when EWTN, as a Catholic organization, has to step up and say that enough is enough. Our hope is that our lawsuit does just that.”
The Becket Fund previously filed similar lawsuits on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a small Catholic liberal arts college in Belmont, North Carolina, and Colorado Christian University, an interdenominational Christian liberal arts university near Denver. Both suits were filed prior to the HHS rules being finalized in January.