States Stand with Nun’s Network in Defending Religious Liberty

Image: States Stand with Nun’s Network in Defending Religious Liberty

Alabama, Georgia and Florida ask court to protect religious ministries from crippling fines

Washington, D.C. – Today the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida asked a federal appeals court to protect religious freedom for Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). EWTN, founded by a cloistered nun and dedicated to spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church, is seeking protection from the HHS Mandate, which requires it either to violate its deeply held beliefs or to pay crippling fines to the IRS (see video).

The three states filed a friend-of-the-court brief, joining twenty other groups in calling on the federal courts to protect EWTN’s religious freedom.  On June 30, thanks to an emergency appeal from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted EWTN last-minute relief, just hours before the world’s largest religious media network would be forced to violate its deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS. Thanks to the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, EWTN can now freely practice what it preaches while it pursues its appeal. That appeal is expected to be heard by the Eleventh Circuit in the coming months.

“It sets a powerful example when three states stand up to support religious freedom for ministries like EWTN,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund. “These states recognize that they must protect religious freedom for their citizens. It’s time for the federal government to realize the same thing and stop fighting ministries like EWTN and the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

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. 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 are grateful for all the support that we have received in our fight for religious freedom,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We are hopeful that the federal courts will once again protect EWTN’s freedom to share the Catholic faith with the world, free of government fines.”

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. After an unfavorable ruling from the district court, the Eleventh Circuit granted EWTN emergency relief while it pursues its appeal. Eighty percent of legal challenges to the HHS Mandate 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. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling 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 contactEmily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224.

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