Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has found a new ally in its fight against the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate’s coercive requirement that almost all employers, regardless of religious belief, provide and pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.
Earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange moved to join the case to defend the rights of the Alabama-based network. Among other things, the State claims that “the mandate requires Alabama to regulate its health insurance market in a way that violates” various state and federal protections for religious freedom.
Attorney General Strange took to National Review Online last week to further explain his position on the mandate and denounce the rule’s coercive trampling on religious liberty.
The contraception mandate is unconscionable and unconstitutional, but my reasons for joining EWTN’s lawsuit are broader than this single dispute. This latest mandate is the natural consequence of a federal government that has run amok and inserted itself into every corner of our lives. When the federal government took over one-sixth of the country’s economy and unconstitutionally mandated that individuals and businesses buy insurance, there were bound to be some unintended consequences. The contraception mandate is just the down payment on that bill.
To those who attempt to obscure the terms of debate over the mandate, Strange clarifies the true foundation of opposition to the rule:
[T]his debate is not about contraception. … This debate is about first freedoms and religious liberty. It is about whether we, as a society, value the right of conscience and support the freedom of individuals to say “no.” If the federal government can mandate what we have to spend our own money on, then the federal government can make us buy something even if we are morally opposed to paying for it.
EWTN’s lawsuit against HHS is one of seven similar legal complaints that have been filed over the coercive mandate. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is also representing Belmont Abbey College and Ave Maria University, both Catholic institutions, and Colorado Christian University, an interdenominational school. The Alliance Defense Fund has sued HHS on behalf of two Protestant schools, Louisiana College and Geneva College. In an interesting twist on growing number of complaints against the Obama Administration, the American Center for Law and Justice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a private business owner who “does not want to be forced, under penalty of law, to comply with a mandate that violates his deeply held religious beliefs.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and EWTN welcomed Alabama’s intervention in the lawsuit and plan to continue litigating for a greater defense of religious freedom. Of course, as Mark Rienzi, a Becket Fund attorney, points out in a recent commentary, the most efficient restitution of religious freedom for employers like EWTN could reside in the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the underlying health care statute. Whatever the decision from the Court, however, Congress can and should repeal Obamacare to eliminate the law’s disrespect for both religious freedom and freedom in general.