The leading Catholic media organization in the world, Eternal Word Television Network, is prepared to pay a “financial fine on faith” likely to exceed at least $600,000 per year rather than comply with Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate.
EWTN is suing the federal government over the anti-conscience mandate, which requires religious institutions to provide “preventative” services — including abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization — in its health plans, regardless of the institution’s moral or religious objections.
This global company — comprised of Catholic Television, Catholic Radio and Catholic News Network — faces significant penalties but won’t violate its principles, according to EWTN counsel Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“We are agreeing to violate the mandate as we are preaching it,” Duncan explained. “This is probably the case for other religious broadcasting stations that we don’t represent, but it’s particularly the case with EWTN.”
This non-profit, tax-exempt organization receives no funding from the Catholic Church or from the cable systems and satellite providers that carry it. Since EWTN relies solely on its viewers for funding, the $600,000 minimum fine threatening the organization under Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate may especially impact the network.
“The whole mission of EWTN is to propagate and popularize the Catholic faith,” Duncan said. “Its religious faith is intertwined with its mission. If it had to comply with the mandate, it would essentially be destroying its own ability to comply with its mission. It would be labeling itself as a hypocrite if it said, ‘We exist to promulgate the Catholic faith, and yet, we are acquiescing to practices that violate the Catholic faith.’”
Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, affiliated with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, recognized the influence that television may have in spreading the Catholic faith. She started EWTN in 1981 by converting a garage behind the cloistered monastery where she lived in Hanceville, AL, into a television studio.
Today EWTN is available in upwards of 150 million households in more than 140 countries and territories. It is notable for its holiday-specific programs, coverage of the Vatican, holiday Masses, and World Youth Day, among other noteworthy events in the Catholic Church.
EWTN is more than a news network. Pilgrims travel to its headquarters in Irondale, AL, to worship in the chapel and attend the televised daily Mass. They also visit the famous Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament and the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration, a cloistered community, one hour away in Hanceville.
“EWTN itself is a pilgrimage site for people,” Duncan said. “People go and visit the EWTN studios. EWTN has a chapel in its studio. It is a television radio ministry more than just a broadcaster.”
Now the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate threatens to hinder EWTN’s mission to spread the Catholic faith.
Melanie Wilcox is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.