State of Alabama Joins EWTN Lawsuit Against HHS Mandate
Cites Citizens’ Conscience Protections Under State Constitution
Irondale, AL (EWTN) – The Attorney General of the State of Alabama filed documents today in US District Court in Birmingham, Alabama to join EWTN Global Catholic Network as a plaintiff in its lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate. EWTN filed its lawsuit on February 9, asking the federal courts to overturn the new rules which require most U.S. employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans even if it violates their conscience.
“We are grateful to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange for taking such a strong stand on this issue,” said EWTN President and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw. “This suit demonstrates that the Alabama motto, ‘We dare to defend our rights,’ is no mere slogan. The state could simply have chosen to file a brief advising the court of the impact of the case on its citizens. Instead, it is intervening in the suit as a co-plaintiff with EWTN. The Attorney General of Alabama is saying, in effect, that this unjust, unconstitutional mandate hurts not only EWTN, but the entire community.”
According to the state’s motion to intervene, filed March 22, Alabama law does not mandate that insurers must provide contraception or sterilization coverage or that any employer or person in the state is required to purchase such coverage. The documents note that Alabama citizens enjoy the freedom to contract for an insurance plan or with a religious-affiliated insurer that does not cover these services. In contrast, the federal regulation would mandate the type of health insurance Alabama could offer on its state-run health insurance exchange, and, if allowed to stand, would preempt Alabama law guaranteeing its citizens’ right of conscience.
In addition, the state asserts the regulation would force conscientious objectors to opt-out of their private health plans having the unfortunate result of increasing the number of people requiring healthcare from Medicaid and other state-supported programs.
The Attorney General also notes that he has statutory responsibilities to ensure that Alabama charitable institutions adhere to their purposes and bylaws. The federal regulation would take such control away from the state by interfering with the mission of religious not-for-profits like EWTN.
Warsaw says this last point is particularly important. “When the federal government uses its power to coerce a faith-based organization to act contrary to its deeply held values, it destroys that organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission. Ultimately, as is the case with the HHS mandate, if that organization is unwilling to compromise its beliefs, it is destroyed by fines and crushing government penalties; it ceases to exist. In joining EWTN’s lawsuit, Attorney General Strange shows that he understands this is unacceptable. I am very grateful that he has chosen to use the state’s power to intervene for the common good.”
In commenting on the state’s action, Attorney General Luther Strange stated, “The freedom of religion, and to believe as one sees fit, is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution. The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience.
“The issue is simple: Either Alabamians and Americans around the country will be allowed to exercise their religious freedom to say ‘no’ to something they disagree with, or they won’t. We hope the Obama Administration will listen, and adopt a position that supports our first freedom rather than undermines it.”EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 30th year, is available in over 200 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website www.ewtn.com, electronic and print news services, and publishing arm, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world.
Editors: To view the complaint, please go to http://www.ago.alabama.gov/Update-193.
Media Advisory: For further information on the complaint, please join the press call at 11:30 a.m. ET, Thursday, March 22 with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, EWTN General Counsel John Manos, and Becket Fund General Counsel Kyle Duncan. Call (800) 704-9804, and use participant code 743216.