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Judge rules against EWTN in HHS mandate case

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By Ben Johnson

IRONDALE, AL – A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the network founded by Mother Angelica must comply with the HHS mandate, despite its deep-seated religious objections, because the ObamaCare provision does not violate the First Amendment.

"EWTN doesn't have to comply with the mandate. All it has to do is sign a form certifying its opposition to the use of contraceptives and then deliver that form to its third-party administrator."

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled in Mobile that the Obama administration may compel the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) to comply with a provision furnishing female employees with contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, because the network does not directly supply the services.

“The mandate, as it was enacted, does not violate the Constitution,” she ruled. 

"EWTN doesn't have to comply with the mandate. All it has to do is sign a form certifying its opposition to the use of contraceptives and then deliver that form to its third-party administrator," she continued.

The Obama administration's health care “accommodation” requires employers to certify their religious objections, but their insurance company must then offer female employees birth control pills for “free.” Critics say the move is nothing more than an accounting gimmick, but Judge Granade found the distinction compelling.

"Thanks to the accommodation that allows religious nonprofits to opt out of the mandate, EWTN is free to continue refusing to cover the allegedly abortion-inducing drugs without suffering any discrimination for making that choice,” wrote Judge Granade, who was appointed to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

According to the network's attorney, Lori Windham of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, “This decision is out of step with the overwhelming majority of decisions in similar cases nationwide.”

More than 300 plaintiffs have filed 100 lawsuits against the controversial HHS mandate. Judges have granted injunctions in 40 of the 46 cases led by non-profits to date, a victory rate of more than 80 percent.

“The fact that the court has dismissed the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has raised is very troubling,” Michael P. Warsaw, CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network, said Wednesday morning.

“As an organization that was founded by Mother Angelica to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, we do not believe that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and voluntary sterilization should be defined as health care. We simply cannot facilitate these immoral practices,” Warsaw said.

Like the Little Sisters of the Poor, EWTN contends that it would be complicit in evil if it signed a form allowing its insurance provider to offer abortifacient contraceptives to its employees. Any form of artificial contraception clearly violates Catholic teaching, including the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

“This unjust action is in direct contravention of the fundamental human right to religious freedom and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution,” Deacon Keith Fournier wrote at Catholic Online today.

EWTN promised to make an immediate appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Its lawyers also asked for an injunction against the decision pending that ruling, saying that the Catholic network would be forced to comply with the mandate in two weeks if it were not granted. Newly confirmed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has until tomorrow to file an objection.

The Catholic network's legal battle began when EWTN filed suit on February 9, 2012, shortly after the president unveiled his accommodation. “The mission of EWTN is not negotiable,” Warsaw said at the time. “Betraying God’s love for every human person—even ones who are small and vulnerable—just isn’t something we’ll ever be able to adapt to.”

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, a Bush Sr. appointee, dismissed the case on March 25, 2013 – ironically, the date of the Feast of the Annunciation, a major Christian holiday celebrating the conception of Jesus Christ.

The network filed this lawsuit last October.

The ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is pondering its verdict on Hobby Lobby's case against the HHS mandate, filed on First Amendment grounds. Justices did not issue a ruling this morning. Analysts say that decision will come on Monday at the earliest. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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