Affront to Freedom


Nat. Cath. Register

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ABSTRACTAffront to Freedom | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  June 15, 2014 Sign-up for our E-letter!   Donate News Blogs Radio Events Resources Advertise Store Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Archives Jobs Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Jeanette DeMelo Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Joan Frawley Desmond Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Policies & Guidelines Graphic Art Specifications Editorial Calendar & Due Dates Order Web Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News Affront to Freedom (2875) COMMENTARY Tweet by THE EDITORS 06/19/2014 Comments (14) – Shutterstock On June 17, U.S. district court Judge Callie Granade of Mobile, Ala., struck a blow against the free-exercise rights of faithful Catholics when she issued an opinion that denied EWTN Global Catholic Network protection from the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate. Granade’s decision reflects a misunderstanding of EWTN’s primary objection to the mandate, which requires the Catholic media network to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in its employee health plan. But this ruling also highlights the broad confusion in the courts and our culture regarding the meaning and purpose of conscience rights and the proper interpretation of laws enacted to protect religious freedom. “The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling,” said Michael Warsaw, chairman and CEO of EWTN, a global religious media network that includes the National Catholic Register. “As an organization that was founded to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization should be defined as health care. We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices.” EWTN immediately filed an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking a temporary injunction until a higher court resolves its legal challenge. Without a reprieve from the 11th Circuit, EWTN will be forced to comply with the mandate by a July 1 deadline — or face crippling fines. EWTN filed its original lawsuit in February 2012, but it was dismissed on technical grounds. The current lawsuit was filed in October 2013, and the state of Alabama, through Attorney General Luther Strange, joined EWTN as a co-plaintiff. Granade’s June 17 ruling plainly states why EWTN filed the lawsuit against the mandate: “EWTN does not believe it can comply with the mandate without violating its religious beliefs.” But the judge concluded that EWTN’s objections have been properly addressed by the Obama administration’s “accommodation” for religious nonprofits that oppose the mandate and were not exempted by the government. The judge reached that conclusion through a misreading of EWTN’s specific religious objections — and then applied her own assessment of the soundness of that position. This approach highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of what the accommodation actually demands of EWTN, but it also shows that the judge goes too far in issuing an evaluation of the religious foundations of the plaintiff’s argument. According to Granade, the accommodation allows EWTN to “opt out of the mandate by signing a short form objecting to the use of contraceptives and delivering that form to an appropriate third-party administrator — who would then be responsible for ensuring that the objecting organization’s employees would receive contraceptive coverage at no cost to the organization.” The court stated that EWTN primarily objects to a third-party administrator taking up the responsibility of providing the mandated services. In fact, EWTN objects to its forced complicity in what the third-party administrator will be doing. Further, as a self-insured employer, EWTN directly funds the third-party administrator that manages its health plan. Thus, EWTN cannot just “opt out” of its responsibility for compliance with the mandate. But there is a second problem: Even if the Catholic network successfully located a third-party administrator (TPA) to provide the services — and even if that TPA agreed to cover all the costs associated with the mandate’s provisions without any reimbursement from EWTN (an unlikely possibility) — EWTN’s signature on the form still triggers the coverage of the services. “There is a very obvious error” in the June 17 ruling, stated Lori Windham, general counsel for the Becke.......