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              Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sits on a panel to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act enrollment, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

State of Alabama joins Catholic organization in suit against Obamacare contraception mandate

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

The State of Alabama has joined the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in a renewed effort to challenge the Obamacare contraception mandate.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and the Alabama-headquartered Catholic media company filed a lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, charging that the Department of Health and Human Services’ “accommodation” for religious employers to provide contraception coverage to their employee through a third party for free still violates the companies’ beliefs.

“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,” Strange said in a statement, noting that there is no such thing as “free” goods from an insurance company — the cost will be added elsewhere.

The lawsuit charges that, in addition to violating EWTN’s religious freedoms, the requirement that all employers offer contraception coverage violates the laws of the State of Alabama.

“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,” the lawsuit reads.

“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,” it continues.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm, is representing EWTN. Their initial lawsuit was dismissed in March. Monday’s lawsuit represents the organization’s renewed effort to take on the mandate.

“The government has decided that EWTN is apparently not religious enough to be exempt from the rule,” EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said in a statement. “It has still placed us in a situation where we are forced to offer contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs as part of our employee health plan or to offer our employees and their families no insurance at all. Neither of these options are acceptable. The mission of EWTN is not negotiable.”

The suit asks the court to find the mandate in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act. It also requests that the court issue a permanent injunction to block the government from enforcing the mandate on EWTN or any other organization with religious objections.

According to the Becket Fund, over 200 plaintiffs have filed 75 suits against the HHS mandate.

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