Two prominent international Catholic organizations are filing lawsuits against the Obama administration for its mandate requiring them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs because that requirement violates the groups’ religious beliefs.
The Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN, is based in Irondale, Ala., and announced it filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., against the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other government agencies seeking to halt the imposition that employers pay for such contraceptives – no matter their religious objections.
The case asks the court for a declaratory judgment that the mandate is unconstitutional.
Also, Priests for Life, based in Staten Island, N.Y, announced it will sue the Obama administration.
Both EWTN and Priests for Life believe the Obama administration is violating universal human rights, not just the rights of Catholics. In fact, the word “catholic” means “universal.” And both organizations realize the Obama mandates ultimately force their donors to pay for unethical and deadly procedures.
Michael Warsaw, EWTN president and CEO said, “We had no other option but to take this to the courts. 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.”
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said, “It’s unthinkable that President Obama would force Americans of any faith to violate their consciences. Yet here he is, arrogantly imposing these regulations that clearly discriminate against Catholics and all Christians, as well as people of any faith who believe in the sanctity of innocent human life. This has clearly become a human rights case – and is no longer just a partisan political football.”
“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,” said Warsaw.
He added, “This mandate 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. We serve others not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic.”
EWTN’s lawsuit was filed by Mark Rienzi, Kyle Duncan, and Erik Kniffin from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty based in Washington, D.C.
Prior to the January 2012 HHS mandates, the Becket Fund filed similar lawsuits on behalf of Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Belmont, N.C., and Colorado Christian University, an interdenominational Christian liberal arts university near Denver.
Rienzi, who focuses his practice at the Becket Fund on violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, free speech and the free exercise of religion, said, “The mandate has been sharply criticized from across the political spectrum, and from religious leaders of a variety of faiths.”
Priests for Life announced they have retained civil rights attorney Charles LiMandri of San Diego, Calif., to represent them in their lawsuit against President Obama.
LiMandri’s prior cases include defending the Mount Soledad Cross war memorial; the rights of San Diego firefighters who were forced to participate in a “vulgar gay pride” parade against their will; and he was general counsel for the National Organization for Marriage-California during the Proposition 8 Campaign to save traditional marriage.
“This is the first time in history any administration has used brute force to compel someone to violate his conscience or moral convictions,” said LiMandri. “It’s unheard of.
“It’s also antithetical to the core American principles of religious liberty and freedom from invasions of privacy. We intend to fight the ill-conceived HHS edict and challenge it on constitutional grounds. This case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And we’ll be happy to take it there if need be.”