Awaiting Hobby Lobby decision, Catholic Nun’s Network Seeks Emergency Relief from U.S. Supreme Court

Crippling fines would start July 1st

Washington, D.C. Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), founded by a cloistered nun and dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church, filed an emergency appeal today asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the world’s largest religious media network from violating its deeply help religious convictions or paying crippling fines to the IRS starting July 1 (see video).

After the district judge issued a disappointing ruling against the nun’s network last week, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an emergency appeal to the 11th Circuit. Pending that ruling, today the Becket Fund urged the Supreme Court to step in to protect EWTN from being forced to provide contraceptives and potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate its Catholic teachings. Without relief, starting on July 1st the Catholic network faces fines of up to $12 million dollars per year to the IRS. A petition for the Supreme Court to take up the full merits of the case will be filed shortly.

“The government fought the Little Sisters of the Poor all the way to the Supreme Court, and now it is fighting Eternal Word Television Network all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund. “It’s time for the government to stop its war on nuns and protect religious ministries from this unjust mandate. Our laws give EWTN the right to practice what it preaches.”

Thirty-three years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories, according to the organization’s website. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances (see video).

“We did not want to take the government all the way to the Supreme Court, but we were left with no choice,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We should not be forced to choose between violating our faith and paying severe fines to the IRS.”

After their original lawsuit was dismissed in early 2013, EWTN and the Attorney General of the State of Alabama joined the Becket Fund last October in filing a new lawsuit against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. Today, EWTN turned to the Supreme Court hoping to join the 80% of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 19 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. The Becket Fund recently won a 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224.

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