A television network founded by a nun with a dream that has grown into an international Catholic media giant is under attack because of Obamacare. The Eternal Word Television Network is suing the Obama administration over the Obamacare mandate that requires coverage of contraceptives for employees. A federal appeals court heard oral arguments for EWTN v. Burwell Wednesday.
Mother Mary Angelica founded EWTN out of a garage in 1981, with the hopes of creating a catholic network that could help people grow in their faith. Now it is the largest Catholic media organization in the world, reaching 230 million homes in 144 countries.
The religious nonprofit cites its religious beliefs and says it is being forced to choose between serving God and paying a hefty fine. If it loses, it will have to pay $13 million.
Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel representing EWTN, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the judges Tuesday seemed to see recent Supreme Court precedent in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell as protecting religious liberty broadly. The Supreme Court ruled that the government could not force Hobby Lobby to pay for insurance that provided contraceptive coverage against its religious beliefs.
The EWTN case is very similar, though EWTN is a nonprofit.
Blomberg said the government could set a dangerous precedent in this case. He told TheDCNF that a win would bolster the government’s practice of arbitrarily deciding which groups are religious enough to receive a religious exemption without providing any evidence.
“The government is assuming that EWTN employees aren’t religious enough to receive the religious exemption that other religious groups have received,” Blomberg said.
In the case of EWTN, he says the government has failed to produce any evidence that EWTN is not religious enough to receive an exemption or that there is a pressing government interest for forcing EWTN to provide the contraceptive coverage.
“Here we have government guessing about people’s religious beliefs and handing out religious exemptions based on its own guesswork,” Blomberg said.
He said the other dangerous precedent this case could set is that the government could force religious groups to accept “accommodations” to the rule that still violate their beliefs:
The government is going to play a game of degrees where it says, ‘First I’m going to make you do something extremely bad, and then we’ll come up with a fake accommodation that still makes religious believers violate their faith.’”
The government is arguing that EWTN will not have to directly pay for contraceptive care because a third party will technically pay for it. But EWTN says this would still force it to provide the coverage on the healthcare plan, and thus compromise its beliefs.
“Being a woman in this business is not easy,” Angelica said in a video pleading EWTN’s case. “Being a nun is even worse.”
EWTN is now run by lay Catholics. Blomberg said a decision should come down by May.
This report, by Casey Harpe, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.