Press Release

Court hears Nun’s Network’s religious freedom case HHS mandate forces Catholic network to violate faith or pay crippling fines

Media Contact

Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 media@becketlaw.org

Additional Information

Washington, D.C. – Minutes ago, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the global Catholic television network founded by a cloistered nun, had its religious freedom case heard in court. (see video).

“The government is threatening a religious ministry with millions of dollars in fines for following its faith,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for EWTN. “Eternal Word Television Network spends all day every day expressing its Catholic beliefs worldwide in TV, radio, and print; it hosts daily masses at a shrine on its grounds, which are held by monks that live there. Yet the government says EWTN is not religious enough to have the freedom to practice what it preaches. That’s wrong.”

EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, is challenging the government’s HHS mandate, which is forcing the Catholic network to violate its deeply held religious convictions or pay crippling IRS fines. Last July, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted emergency protection to EWTN. Today, the Court heard oral argument in this case because the government wants to remove that protection.

“From its beginning, EWTN has been dedicated to proclaiming and living out our Catholic faith,” said EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. “We are encouraged by today’s hearing and hopeful that the court will protect EWTN’s religious freedom and allow us to continue to practice what we broadcast to the world every day.”

Almost 34 years ago, Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun, founded a small television network in her monastery garage with a mission to spread the teachings of her Catholic faith. Today, EWTN has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 238 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. EWTN is also a religious shrine and pilgrimage site for millions of Catholics seeking daily Mass and worship. A Catholic network whose sole purpose is to spread the word of God, EWTN must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances.

“Religious ministries have been winning these challenges overwhelmingly. Most courts understand that the government can’t fine you for living your faith,” said Windham.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Emily Hardman at ehardman@becketfund.org or 202.349.7224.

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The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”