The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 18, 2014

Judge opposes Alabama broadcaster on contraception health mandate

MOBILE — A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out a Catholic broadcaster's legal claim that requiring employers to include contraception in their health care coverage is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade issued the order in a lawsuit filed by the Eternal Word Television Network, which has studios in the Birmingham suburb of Irondale.

The broadcasting group said it will appeal, and the state is siding with the media organization.

Dozens of church-related organizations have filed suit over the law across the country, and EWTN chief executive Michael Warsaw said the decision went against rulings made in similar lawsuits filed elsewhere.

"The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling," Warsaw said in a statement.

EWTN contends the government is violating its rights by requiring employers to provide health care coverage that includes contraception. The broadcaster argues that medications resulting in abortion and procedures such as sterilization violate tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.

But the judge sided with the government in tossing out claims that the requirement was unconstitutional and infringes on religious freedom.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this year in a case involving the contraception provisions in the law, but the justices have not ruled.

The network, which has about 350 employees, filed the lawsuit in Mobile after a federal judge in Birmingham dismissed a previous lawsuit filed by the broadcaster over the law. EWTN's programming is available in more than 140 countries and territories.

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