The president of the world's largest religious media network has explained his reasons for suing the U.S. government, in a Feb. 21 New York Times editorial about the federal contraception mandate.
“Our donors send us money to spread Catholic teachings, not to subvert them,” wrote Michael Warsaw, president and CEO of the Eternal Word Television Network, in his essay “Contraception, Against Conscience.”
The Obama administration's mandate, finalized on Feb. 10, “makes it impossible for us to live up to that core mission, giving us the choice of either compromising our beliefs or being crushed by fines.”
“That ultimatum is unfair, unconstitutional and repugnant – which is why we have no choice but to fight it in court.”
On Feb. 9, EWTN sued Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, challenging her department's rule requiring many religious institutions to offer contraception and sterilization in their health plans.
That rule was made final on Feb. 10, although the administration also said it would modify the mandate in response to the outcry from organizations like the media network. The planned revision would still require religious employers' insurance providers to offer the controversial services without a co-pay.
In his editorial, Warsaw acknowledged the attempt at “accommodation,” but explained that it “would do nothing to solve the problem.”
“First, EWTN self-insures, so we are the insurer” – being forced to cover the drugs and devices directly, rather than through an outside contract.
“Second, even if we had an outside insurer, we would still be in the untenable position of facilitating access to drugs that go against our beliefs.”
These drugs, he noted, “include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and Ella that can destroy human embryos,” causing an early abortion.
“And if we refused to comply with the directive, we could be hit with annual fines starting at around $600,000.”
While he stressed the mandate's endangerment of religious freedom, Warsaw noted that the rule also threatens “the financial viability of any organization that disagrees with the administration’s politics.”
Such groups “could be forced to stop offering health insurance and be saddled with fines … They’ll lose employees who can’t afford to work for employers who offer no health insurance. They’ll lose donors who are scared off by the penalties.”
“The end result: organizations that agree with the administration or are willing to compromise their beliefs will thrive. Organizations that don’t will shrink or die.”
Supporters of the contraception mandate have accused EWTN, and other religious employers, of trying to impose their beliefs on employees who may not share them.
But Warsaw explained that the network is doing no such thing. “Our 350 employees, many of whom are not Catholic, freely choose to work here and can purchase and use contraception if they want to.”
The network, he said, is “simply choosing not to participate in the use of these drugs.”
“Instead, it is the government – which does not accept EWTN’s religious choice and can punish that choice by imposing fines – that is coercing us. But under the Constitution and federal religious liberties law, we cannot be forced to give up our beliefs as the price of participation in the public square.”
On this basis, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed suit on the network's behalf, “seeking to overturn this illegal mandate.”