By Ernest Ohlhoff, director
Editor’s note. The following is based on material provided by EWTN. EWTN Global Catholic Network is available in over 225 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories, making it the largest religious media network in the world.
Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama issued an order March 25 dismissing EWTN’s lawsuit challenging the government mandate that requires employers to purchase health plans that will pay for drugs and procedures to which they are opposed on moral and religious grounds.
EWTN filed its lawsuit February 9, 2012 and was joined six weeks later by the Attorney General of the State of Alabama who filed a motion to join EWTN as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Judge Blackburn’s decision essentially dismissed that motion as well.
“While we are extremely disappointed that Judge Blackburn did not rule on the constitutional issues that were at the heart of the EWTN lawsuit, we are not surprised by the decision,” said EWTN President & Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw. “In every lawsuit filed against the mandate, the government has made promise after promise to amend its unjust rules. As a result, nearly everyone, including the courts, is left waiting to see what the government might or might not do to address the serious issues of conscience that have been raised since the first set of rules were published over a year ago.
It’s not as though Judge Blackburn’s order didn’t find the “real prospect of harm from a concrete regulatory mandate.” She did, which gave the Network adequate legal standing to file the lawsuit. However, because the government has promised to yet further amend the mandate’s rules, Judge Blackburn’s opinion held that the moving target of the mandate was not yet “ripe” for review. Blackburn’s opinion concluded that “in this case, common sense weighs in favor of withholding judicial review until the new regulations are created and finalized. At that point, if EWTN still has objections, it may then file suit.”
To which Warsaw responded, “EWTN cannot and will not compromise on our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” adding, “We are consulting with our legal team at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about our available options as we go forward.”