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Mother Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)

ATLANTA, Georgia, February 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) must violate its Catholic beliefs and pay for insurance that covers abortifacient drugs and contraceptives.

In its decision, the federal court said, “We accept the plaintiffs’ sincere belief . . . that the accommodation puts them to a choice between honoring their religious beliefs and facing significant penalties. We nonetheless conclude that the accommodation imposes no substantial burden.”

Those government-imposed “significant penalties” could amount to as much as $35,000 every day for EWTN's 350 employees.

However, after ruling, the appellate court suspended any penalties against EWTN until the Supreme Court rules on the mandate later this year.

EWTN had appealed the HHS mandate that requires companies – even religious ones – to pay for insurance that covers abortifacient drugs, sterilization, and contraception for all their employees.

EWTN Chairman Michael P. Warsaw commented, “We are extremely disappointed that the Court has refused to protect our religious freedom… This decision orders EWTN to violate its religious beliefs and comply with the government's HHS mandate or pay massive fines to the IRS.”

The ObamaCare-forced coverage “also threatens the financial viability of any organization that disagrees with the administration’s politics,” Warsaw noted.  “The mandate makes it impossible for us to live up to (our) core mission… That ultimatum is unfair, unconstitutional and repugnant.”

The Becket Fund handled the legal defense for EWTN. “This is wrong,” lead attorney Lori Windham said. “Our government wants to punish EWTN for practicing its faith.”  She said they will continue to pursue this breech of justice all the way to the Supreme Court.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange even joined EWTN's case against the HHS mandate.

The lone dissenter on the three-judge appellate panel, Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, a Nixon appointee and a Ford appointee to the nation’s court of appeals, wrote: “The majority runs roughshod over the sincerely held religious objections of EWTN.”  Tjoflat noted that at its core, “the majority's reasoning takes aim at the heart of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act itself.”

EWTN argued that they should not have to pay for the offending insurance.  “Contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization are not healthcare, and the government should not force EWTN to provide them as part of our employer-sponsored health plan.”

“EWTN cannot comply with the mandate,” Warsaw plainly stated in a New York Times editorial. “We would…be in the untenable position of facilitating access to drugs that go against our beliefs.”

The Catholic TV network asked for the prayers of the faithful “as we consider our response to the Court's decision.”

Hundreds of other Christian organizations and businesses have also legally challenged the HHS mandate.

EWTN has become the largest religious TV network in the world, broadcasting to over 145 countries in indigenous languages.  The network also includes radio broadcasts, wire services, publishing, the largest Catholic website in the United States, and online and print news services, including “The National Catholic Register.”