Press Release

Nun’s Network to court: Feds have changed their tune EWTN asks federal court to reconsider in light of new government confessions

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON, D.C.– The world’s largest religious media network asked a federal court today to protect it from having to choose between violating its faith or paying massive fines.

The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) filed a petition today asking the court to rehear its case in light of new admissions the government made at the Supreme Court in its lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor. In February, a U.S. Court of Appeals lifted its earlier ruling temporarily protecting EWTN and issued a splintered decision against the network. The new decision allowed the government to force EWTN to violate core Catholic teachings by providing services, such as the week after pill, on their employee health plan even though these services can easily be provided by the government.

“The government should have remembered their Mark Twain: telling the truth is easier to remember,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for Becket, which represents EWTN. “But after years of an at-best distant acquaintance with the truth, the government is getting its stories mixed up. Until recently, the government swore that it didn’t need ministries to do anything but get out of the way. That claim was always ‘rubbish on stilts,’ as one judge put it. And in the crucible of the Supreme Court, the government finally slipped, confessing that its scheme depends on being able to hijack ministries’ health plans.”

EWTN was founded in 1981 by Mother Angelica, a cloistered nun who passed away in March 2016. EWTN began as a small television network in a garage on monastery grounds, and its sole purpose has always been sharing its Catholic faith. Today, EWTN is now the largest religious media organization in the world, reaching into over 265 million television homes in 144 different countries. Yet the government continues insist it can force EWTN to violate the very teachings that drive its mission.

EWTN’s rehearing request shows that the fractured February opinion was built on a foundation that the government has now undermined. Most significantly, the government argued, and the panel accepted, that EWTN simply had to “opt out” of providing services and the government would take it from there. But after a historic Supreme Court order called the government’s bluff, the government admitted that its scheme makes contraceptive coverage “part” of EWTN’s health plan and that it never had any other “mechanism” for making the scheme work another way.

“The government admitted what we have said from the beginning,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN. “Once you get past the bureaucratic smokescreen, this really comes down to one issue: the government wants to hijack our health plan. EWTN cannot let them do it.”

Becket is defending EWTN in its fight against the government’s HHS Mandate, which is forcing the network to include services such as the week-after pill in its health care plan. Becket continues to lead the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate, winning a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. It currently represents the Little Sisters of the Poor,  Houston Baptist and East Texas Baptist Universities, along with many other religious ministries. Kyle Duncan of Schaerr | Duncan LLP also represents EWTN.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


Becket   is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians  (read more).