Federal Court Rules Against Religious Company On Contraception Coverage

640px-3D_Judges_GavelWhile everyone has been talking about the Hobby Lobby case pending before the Supreme Court, there has been very little, if any, attention being given to another case involving religion and contraception. On Tuesday, a US District Court in Alabama decided that providing contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act is not a violation of religious freedoms as claimed by EWTN.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama ruled late Tuesday afternoon that the federal requirement that health insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage does not violate the religious free exercise rights of Mobile-based Eternal World Television Network (EWTN)—the largest religious media network in the world. (Source)

EWTN is the largest religious media company in the world, and started broadcasting back in 1981. It is Catholic, extremely conservative and has inserted itself into political matters in the past despite being a tax-exempt non-profit religious organization. So it’s no wonder that they took it upon themselves to add their own challenge to the ACA under the guise of “religious freedom,” even though there’s a special exemption for directly covering contraception designed just for non-profit entities like EWTN that cite religious beliefs.

The law provides that non-profit entities which object to providing contraception based on religious beliefs can sign a waiver allowing a third-party to absorb the responsibility for that part of the plan. By doing so, EWTN would no longer be the one providing the contraception. EWTN argued, however, that the action of signing the waiver itself violated EWTN’s religious exercise rights and its right to be free from compelled speech. The Court rejected all of EWTN’s arguments. (Source)

Unlike EWTN, Hobby Lobby is a for-profit entity which is the difference between this case and the one currently before the Supreme Court, where the EWTN case may end up heading as well. Does EWTN have an argument here? Not really. I’m not a legal expert but signing an opt-out waiver which turns over mandated responsibilities for healthcare coverage to a third-party doesn’t strike me as compelled speech. Previous cases before the Supreme Court did not deal with a voluntary opt-out but instead with private citizens refusing to salute the flag or schools receiving federal funding barring military recruiters. In the cases cited, the Supreme Court held that individuals could not be compelled to engage in expression which violated their religious beliefs but in the case of schools refusing to allow military recruiters (Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights), they ruled the following:

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the Solomon Amendment regulated conduct, not speech, and was therefore constitutional. Including military recruiters in receptions and interviews does not necessarily indicate university endorsement of the recruiters, so requiring their inclusion does not constitute compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. (Source)

In other words, the schools weren’t being forced to include recruiters. They were certainly welcome to stop accepting federal funding, at which point the schools could theoretically bar anybody they wanted as they were no longer federally funded. Compelled speech means that you don’t have an alternative and you are being forced to engage in behavior which is in violation of your religious beliefs, which is what EWTN is arguing. But EWTN certainly has an alternative; they can provide contraception coverage in their insurance, or they can use the waiver which releases that responsibility to another entity. Signing away your participation is not compelled speech, it is in fact, your own personal free speech stating that you have a religious objection and you are exercising your 1st Amendment right by opting out.

As I’ve previously stated, cases like Hobby Lobby or EWTN aren’t really about religious objections or compelled speech. They are an attempt to redefine what religious freedom is to allow an employer or religious organization to jam their doctrine down the throats of anyone who works for them, not just in the workplace, but even in their bedroom. These cases are also an end run on the Affordable Care Act to undermine and weaken it in any way possible. EWTN is not being forced to participate in compelled speech, nor are they being forced to provide contraceptive coverage. This is simply another example of an organization claiming persecution when it can’t force their political beliefs on others while trying to undermine a law they don’t like, AND enjoying a tax-exempt status at the same time. EWTN has three choices: they can provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, they can sign the release of responsibility, or they can go ahead and just admit they’re engaging in political action – and start paying taxes like the rest of us.


Facebook comments

  • tariq

    If they insert themselves into political matters then they should not even be exempt, let alone not having to sign a waiver.

    • Stephen Barlow

      EXACTLY!! And they should pay back taxes and fines all the way to day one of their politicking.

  • Stephen Barlow

    The politics of this is as distorted as the politics of censorship in the 20’s, which is STILL affecting the scripts and editing of the natural phenomenon of the human experience. By the hodge podge, subjective censorship of film and visual arts, the producers and directors are forced to limit their portrayal of the fullness of human experience into the regulations that have been ever so slowly amended over the last century to give young viewers a distorted image and concept of the realities of SEX , nudity and adult relationships.

    How many teens learned sexual expression from “Porky’s Revenge” and “Fast Times @ Ridgemont High” and ended up with a life of dysfunctional relationships because of extreme prejudice in censorship.

    HOW is seeing a nipple more horrific for the budding adult than “Risky Business” or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

    The Christian corruption oabout contraception is doing EXACTLY the same thing to modern medicine and intelligent choices for adults to make on their own.

  • Michael Siever

    The reason why the Hobby Lobby case is getting all the attention is because it’s at the Supreme Court level, and the future of the birth control mandate (and possibly the rest of ACA) ae in this case’s hands. If SCOTUS rules that private for-profit businesses can opt out of the birth control mandate, since it violates the owner’s religious beliefs, watch how many business owners claim being forced to provide their employees’ healthcare coverage violates their religious freedom. It would also open a floodgate of cases of people trying to get out of paying taxes for things they believe are a violation of their religious freedoms, such as Quakers and military spending, Jews and pork farming subsidies, Muslims and taxpayer-funder driver’s license offices that sell driver’s licenses to women, Mormons and land leases to beer breweries/whiskey distilleries, Buddhists and anything having to do with China, etc.

  • Paul Shene

    Religion in and of itself should be legally defined as a mental illness and medicated out of existence.

    • Stephen Barlow

      hashahahahahaha !!! medication can’t help these people.

      • Paul Shene

        The electroshock therapy and re-education clinics. Whatever it takes to get these poor people over their delusion of a omnipresent micromanaging deity that watches their every move… severe paranoia resulting of course.

  • Stephen Barlow

    When this comes to the big bench… They are gonna have to uphold a contrary decision OR Revoke Hobby Lobby to justify upholding EWTN.

    Are the Robert Republicans gonna claim they can have it both ways AS THE LAW OFTHE LAND>

    OH… SINCE NO STATE can STOP an abortion prior to 20 weeks gestation, how is the morning after or week after Plan B pill even up for discussion?

    HOBBY LOBBY should NEVER have had a case in the first place. In doing so, they have FORCED the Government to violate the Constitution, by ESTABLISHING hobby Lobby religion as the LAW OF THE LAND above Roe v Wade.

    • Bine646

      You do realize this was brought to the Supreme Court or in your childish mind “the big bench.”

      They made their decision so it seems they did have a case- youll get over it soon

      • Paul Shene

        No. It will guarantee this fight will continue. Religion is the cause of every evil thing in the USA today. And until Atheism is the majority, the USA will never go beyond 3rd world war monger status.

      • Bine646

        Usa was founded by religious individuals- all our founding fathers. They came to escape religious persecution- guess you are going to move huh

      • Paul Shene

        They did not come to establish a new brand of Christianity, and many were agnostic. in 1790, more Americans practiced witchcraft than attended church.

        The Church has historically done more murder through Crusades, Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust (The Vatican supported the Axis in WWII), than ALL the atheist dictators COMBINED.