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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 noted that they had always ensured that their self-insured health plan did not cover services inconsistent with their religious beliefs and contended that compliance with the contraception coverage requirement was a substantial burden on their religious exercise. Plaintiffs further claimed that, though they were eligible for the accommodation to the mandate available to nonprofits, they remained burdened by the mandate.

On June 17, 2014, Judge Callie V. S. Granade 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. Judge Grande also granted the defendants' motion to dismissed all the remaining Constitutional Claims. She denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims related to violations of the Administrative Procedures Act. 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 plaintiffs' 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 did not substantially burden the plaintiffs' religious exercise. The court further held that the government had a compelling interest in ensuring contraception coverage, and the mandate was 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.

On June 7, 2016, the parties moved jointly for an extension of their time to file supplemental briefs. The order was granted on June 13, 2016. This gave the plaintiffs an additional 60 days to file their supplemental brief.

On July 29, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the appeal proceedings in order to have more time to finish the research necessary for their supplemental brief and they proposed submitting status reports every 60 days or until a resolution between the parties was found. This motion was granted on August 10, 2016.

Also on August 10, 2016, the defendants filed an order for a materially identical order to the remand order given in Zubik v. Burwell. The order was granted on October 3, 2016. The order stipulated that the Government could still ensure that women covered by the plaintiff’s health plans obtained without cost the full range of FDA approved contraceptives and the government could rely on this order to facilitate this process. It also required the plaintiffs to not be penalized for failure to provide the relevant notice.

The parties continued to file status reports until October of 2017. In October of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order related to the Affordable Care Act. On October 6, 2017 new regulations were passed that would affect this case and the department of Health and Human Services conceded that requiring certain objecting entities to follow the requirements in the Affordable Care Act does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because the enforcement did not serve a compelling government interest and was not narrowly tailored. In response to this development, on October 16, 2017, the plaintiffs requested a stay while the parties discussed a resolution.

On October 19, 2018, Appellants filed an unopposed motion to lift the stay, and remand and vacate the lower court’s ruling given concessions made by the governments and new interpretations of the Affordable Care Act promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The government had issued interim final rules that acknowledged that its interests would be satisfied as long as women had access to a plan with some contraceptive coverage, including that of a family member in addition to their earlier concessions.

On January 10, 2019 the ruling of the District Court was vacated.

Richard Jolly - 03/26/2014
Kate Craddock - 10/23/2016
Taylor Brook - 02/01/2018
Dan Toubman - 04/05/2020

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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.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2014 - n/a
Filed 10/28/2013
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
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.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
1:13-cv-521 (S.D. Ala.)
FA-AL-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/20/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1] (2013 WL 5785974)
FA-AL-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/28/2013
Source: Westlaw
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 [Ct. of App. ECF# 75] (818 F.3d 1122)
FA-AL-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/18/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Status Report [Ct. of App. ECF# BL-171]
FA-AL-0003-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/16/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appellant's Unopposed Motion to Remand and Vacate [Ct. of App. ECF# 201]
FA-AL-0003-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cassady, William E. (S.D. Ala.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Granade, Callie V. (S.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
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) show/hide docs
Pryor, Jill Anne (Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Blomberg, Daniel Howard (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-0011 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Brasher, Andrew Lynn (Alabama) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Duncan, Stuart Kyle (Louisiana) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Parker, William G. Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Rassbach, Eric C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Rienzi, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Verm, Diana Marie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Windham, Lori H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0001 | FA-AL-0003-0011 | FA-AL-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Collette, Matthew M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Nemeroff, Patrick George (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Salzman, Joshua Marc (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York) show/hide docs
Lee, Jennifer (New York) show/hide docs
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Marshall, Randall C (Florida) show/hide docs

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