Alabama AG joins contraception mandate lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and an Alabama-based television network have filed a suit challenging a mandate in the new health care law.

The Eternal Word Television Network says it shouldn't be forced to include contraception in employees' health insurance plans.

EWTN has 350 employees. The company provides Catholic programming world-wide. Other religious organizations were provided exemptions to the mandate, however EWTN was not one of them.

"Essentially what the government is saying in the final rules, we are deciding EWTN is not religious enough to qualify as an exemption to these rules," said Chairman and CEO of EWTN Michael Warsaw.

If EWTN does not comply by next July, it would have to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines.

Strange calls the mandate "unconscionable." He says it does not comply with the law.

"Our problem is it's a restriction on your first amendment religious freedom," said Strange. "That is our first freedom -- Freedom of religion. The administration wants to keep your faith within the confines of an hour on Sunday. But people in Alabama and around the country want to take their religion out to their workplace and living out their moral religious beliefs."

The Diocese in Birmingham also released a statement in support of the state of Alabama and the network. In it Bishop Robert Baker said:

EWTN Global Catholic Network and the State of Alabama filed suit today against the Obama administration. The suit opposes the implementation of the contraception and sterilization mandate under the Affordable Care Act. I support the complaint as a necessary challenge to a regulation that fails to protect the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of American citizens who believe that the mandate is morally wrong. While I strongly support universal access to health care, such access is threatened by the continued failure to protect the right of conscience. Those who help provide health care, and those who need such care for themselves and their families, should not be forced to choose between preserving their religious and moral integrity and participating in our health care system.

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