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Case Name Eternal World Television Network v. Sebelius FA-AL-0003
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00521-CG-C ( S.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
This case is a revival of a dismissed claim from the Northern District of Alabama. (FA-AL-0002)

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This case is a revival of a dismissed claim from the Northern District of Alabama. (FA-AL-0002)

On October 28, 2013, a nonprofit Catholic media network filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama against the Federal Government under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). Plaintiffs, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") extending universal contraception coverage to employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Specifically, plaintiffs note that they have always ensured that their self-insured health plan does not cover services inconsistent with its religious beliefs and contend that compliance with the contraception coverage requirement is a substantial burden on their religious exercise. Plaintiffs further claim that though they are eligible for the accommodation to the mandate available to nonprofits, they remain burdened by the mandate.

On June 17, 2014, the District Court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the counts related to RFRA, the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause on substantial burden to religious exercise and establishment of religion, and compelled speech. The Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims related to violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, and granted the motion to dismiss on the remaining constitutional claims. On June 18, 2014, the District Court stayed the remaining claims, all related to the Administrative Procedure Act, pending the appeal of partial summary judgment. On June 18, 2014, the plaintiffs appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. On June 30, 2014, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Eleventh Circuit granted the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction pending appeal.

The Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument in this case on February 4, 2015, and on February 18, 2016, Judge Jill Pryor ruled that the contraception regulation does not substantially burden the plaintiffs' religious exercise. The court further held that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring contraception coverage, and the mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

However, the court stayed its ruling pending a Supreme Court decision in Zubik v. Burwell [II]. On May 16, 2016 in Zubik [II], the Court issued a per curiam order remanding all seven cases to their respective courts of appeals, ordering the lower courts to give the parties time to come to agreement on an approach that that "accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'" 136 S.Ct 1557, 1560. The Court took no position on the merits of the case. Following the ruling in Zubik [II], on May 31, 2016, the Eleventh Circuit vacated their prior decision against the plaintiffs, and ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing addressing the Supreme Court's concerns in the Zubik cases. The court also enjoined enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against the plaintiffs pending further order of the court. This case is ongoing.

Richard Jolly - 03/26/2014
Kate Craddock - 10/23/2016

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Hospital/Health Department
Religion discrimination
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government non-profit
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Labor
United States Department of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is a Catholic media network based in Irondale, Alabama. Plaintiff opposes providing coverage for contraception due to its religious beliefs.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2014 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing FA-AL-0002 : Eternal World Television Network v. Sebelius (N.D. Ala.)
FA-GA-0001 : Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta v. Sebelius (N.D. Ga.)
1:13-cv-521 (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/31/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint (2013 WL 5785974)
FA-AL-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/28/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (26 F.Supp.3d 1228) (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/17/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order (2014 WL 2738546) (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/17/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Final Judgment (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/18/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
FA-AL-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (813 F.3d 1122)
FA-AL-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/18/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cassady, William E. (S.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
Granade, Callie V. (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-0003 | FA-AL-0003-0004 | FA-AL-0003-0005 | FA-AL-0003-0006 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Pryor, William Holcombe Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
Pryor, Jill Anne (Eleventh Circuit)
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit, M.D. Fla.)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blomberg, Daniel Howard (District of Columbia)
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Brasher, Andrew L. (Alabama)
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Duncan, Stuart Kyle (Louisiana)
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Parker, William G. Jr. (Alabama)
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Windham, Lori H. (District of Columbia)
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York)
Lee, Jennifer (New York)
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia)
Marshall, Randall C (Florida)

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