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October 28, 2013
For More Information, contact:
Luther Strange
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
Alabama Attorney General
Claire Haynes (334) 242-7351
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(MONTGOMERY) – Attorney General Luther Strange and Eternal Word Television
Network (EWTN), which is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,
today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in their
continuing challenge to the Obamacare HHS mandate that would require not-for-profit
religious organizations to include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in employees’
health insurance plans.

The mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires
religious employers to arrange for health insurance that covers contraception and
sterilization services, and related counseling and education. This mandated coverage also
includes “emergency contraceptives,” such as Plan B. As explained in the lawsuit, EWTN
believes contraception, sterilization and abortion to be “gravely immoral practices,” in large
part because of “the intentional destruction of human life.” The deadline for EWTN to
comply with the mandate is July 1, 2014. If it does not, the world’s largest Catholic media
network, headquartered in Irondale, AL, faces drastic penalties that could exceed $12
million per year. Other religious groups, such as Guidestone Financial Resources, the
insurance entity for the Southern Baptist Convention, have also filed suit against the HHS

Attorney General Strange said, “I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this
unconscionable mandate. Whatever we personally may think about contraception and
abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to
violate their religious convictions.”

The lawsuit alleges that the HHS mandate’s narrow “accommodation” for religious
groups like EWTN is insufficient and does not comply with the law. The HHS mandate
provides that a religious group may require a third party to provide the objectionable
services for free, instead of expressly providing the services itself. EWTN asserts that this
accommodation is nothing but a “fig leaf” that would still force EWTN and other religious
organizations to betray deeply-held religious principles by arranging for the services.

501 Washington Avenue Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 242-7300
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Similarly, Attorney General Strange has referred to the mandate’s accommodation as
a “shell game” and “accounting gimmick.” As Attorney General Strange has explained,
“We all know that insurance companies do not provide anything for free; the employers are
still going to be paying for these services through increased premiums or otherwise even if
the insurance company technically covers those products through a separate ‘free’ policy.
This isn’t just about who ultimately has to pay. It is about the government forcing EWTN to
participate in a scheme that violates its religious beliefs.”

In addition to EWTN’s religious rights, the mandate violates the laws of the State of
Alabama and the rights of its citizens, the lawsuit asserts. “The State of Alabama has a
sovereign prerogative to regulate its insurance market in accordance with its own law and
policy, without being contradicted by unlawful federal regulations.” Furthermore, the
lawsuit states, “Alabama’s government and people have a long tradition of respect for
religious freedom and the right to conscience. For the State’s roughly 200-year history,
Alabama’s Constitution has declared – in every iteration – ‘that the civil rights, privileges,
and capacities of every citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious
principles.” This freedom is underlined by the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment
ratified in 1998. In November of 2012, the people of Alabama specifically added to the state
Constitution an amendment to protect any person or employer from being compelled to
participate in a health care system.

Attorney General Strange said, “The freedom of religion, and to believe as
conscience requires, is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution. The people
of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their
Constitution as well. Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product
that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience.”

Attorney General Strange and the Becket Fund are asking the Court to find that the
mandate is in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth
Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the Administrative Procedure Act, to declare
that the mandate does not preempt or displace Alabama’s own laws, and to issue a
permanent injunction to stop enforcement of the mandate against EWTN and other
religious organizations that object to providing insurance coverage for contraceptives,
abortifacients and sterilization.

Attorney General Strange has been a national leader on this issue in recent years. In
2012, he moved to intervene in a previous lawsuit filed by EWTN to seek relief from a
previous version of the HHS mandate, which was dismissed when the current version of
the HHS mandate was set to take effect. Attorney General Strange also led a group of 13
Attorneys General last spring in an effort to convince HHS to adopt broader religious
exemptions to the HHS mandate. In addition, he and other Attorneys General litigated
broader issues of Obamacare in the U.S. Supreme Court.