An unnecessary fight came to an end in November, after a federal appeals court gave EWTN Global Catholic Network, which I lead, a final victory in our seven-year fight against the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. Left unchallenged, the mandate would have required us to use our employee health-care plan to provide services such as the week-after pill in violation of our religious beliefs.
EWTN was founded by a nun, Mother Angelica, out of her monastery garage. Today, millions of faithful Catholic viewers turn to us because they know they can trust us to align our programming and operations with the Catholic Church’s teaching. We’re Catholic through and through.
But seven years ago, we had to go to court to defend our right to be who we are. Under the Affordable Care Act, the administration insisted that employers cover a wide range of contraceptives, including the week-after pill, in their employee health-care plans.
Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion is no secret, so it should have come as no surprise that we rejected the mandate.
But despite a huge outcry from people of faith, including EWTN, the federal bureaucracy’s response was to grant a stingy exemption that would only cover churches and religious orders, leaving out religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor — and EWTN.
Even as we informed our viewers about Catholic moral teaching, we were being forced to participate in a government program that explicitly violated these beliefs. The government was telling us that it was fine to broadcast our values, but not to live by them. We could preach, but we couldn’t practice.
What made this assault on American principles and common sense particularly confusing was how gratuitous it all was. There were plenty of other ways for the government to achieve its goal without involving us.
Even the Obama administration admitted, when the question finally landed at the Supreme Court, that there were other ways to ensure women had easy access to these drugs and services, whether through public funding or separate health plans.
The government could have easily avoided costly and time-consuming lawsuits, not to mention violations of religious liberty, by stepping back and making a simple fix. But it didn’t. Instead, it issued “change” after “change” to the rule — 11, in all — that did nothing to solve the problem.
So, for EWTN, this fight was necessary. Which is why we opposed the Obama administration mandate years ago, and then joined the Little Sisters of the Poor in its successful efforts before the Supreme Court. It’s also why we pushed the Trump administration to finish the work and permanently protect EWTN.
Yet when the Trump administration did the right thing by creating a rule that protects religious organizations like us from the mandate, state attorneys general raced into court and received nationwide injunctions, delaying the permanent fix we sought for so long. We couldn’t rest until we obtained a final settlement that would remain durable regardless of which administration was holding the regulatory pen.
Now we have that — and a court order leaving EWTN free to follow its faith.
But the fight remains necessary for other people of faith, who face continuing battles to keep and practice their faith at home and in the public square.
The battles continue with Catholic foster-care agencies in Philadelphia and Michigan trying to serve their communities while remaining true to their faith. Pregnancy centers in places like California are fighting hard to hold on to their free-speech rights. These are battles with real consequences.
Faith is not meant to be easy. It demands everything from you. Or, as Mother Angelica said, “Holiness is not for wimps.” The same is true of religious freedom.
Michael P. Warsaw is chairman and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.