Hobby Lobby decision leads to protections for non-profit religious institutions
On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed religious freedom for the Green family, founders and owners of Hobby Lobby stores, two federal courts issued decisions making clear the court’s decision will also reach broadly to protect non-profit religious organizations.
In two more quick wins for religious freedom Eternal Word Television Network and five Catholic institutions in Wyoming were granted last minute relifef from two federal courts of appeals. The rulings came one day before these institutions would be forced to violate their deeply help religious convictions or pay crippling fines to the IRS on July 1. Pending the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty asked the Eleventh Circuit to step in to protect Eternal Word from being forced to provide potentially life-terminating drugs and devices that violate their teachings.
“Thanks to the courts’ decisions, Eternal Word can now freely practice what they preach. The death knell is sounding for the HHS Mandate,” said Lori Windham, Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund and counsel for Eternal Word. “The ruling in Hobby Lobby and then these two rulings in quick succession show that the HHS Mandate is on its last legs when it comes to religious non-profits. The sad part is that it has taken almost three years of litigation to get to a result the Administration should have supported in the first place because it is the right thing to do. Government shouldn’t be in the business of forcing nuns to violate their religious convictions.”
Thirty-three 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, Eternal Word has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to televisions in more than 230 million homes in more than 140 countries and territories. Eternal Word 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, Eternal Word must fight for the right to remain faithful to the very Catholic message it advances.
The five Wyoming Catholic entities are the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Catholic Charities of Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School, and Wyoming Catholic College. They are represented by the Jones Day law firm.
In his concurring opinion in the Eleventh Circuit decision protecting Eternal Word, federal appeals court Judge William Pryor called the Government’s arguments “Rubbish.”
And finally, last night, the Supreme Court entered a temporary injunction protecting Wheaton College while the government responds to Wheaton's application for an injunction pending appeal.
The seven religious institutions that obtained protection today join the 80%+ of HHS legal challenges that have resulted in favorable rulings supporting religious freedom. There are currently 100 lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional HHS mandate.