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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)

On October 28, 2013, a nonprofit Catholic media network filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of ... read more >
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 Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the Administrative Procedure 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 which, they alleged, violated the First Amendment.

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 Procedure 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. On May 16, 2016, in Zubik, 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, 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 Zubik. The court also enjoined enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against the plaintiffs pending further order of the court.

On July 29, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the appeal 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 requested a materially identical order to the remand order given in Zubik. 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 not to 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 violated 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, the plaintiff filed an unopposed motion to lift the stay, vacate the lower court’s ruling, and remand the case given concessions made by the government 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 November 29, 2018, the ruling of the District Court was vacated. With the challenged rules no longer in effect, the plaintiff filed an unopposed motion to dismiss on January 9, 2019, which the court granted the next day. The case is now closed.

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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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Abortion
Contraception
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 Not sought
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
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 CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
S.D. Ala.
03/20/2019
1:13-cv-521
FA-AL-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ala.
10/28/2013
Complaint [ECF# 1] (2013 WL 5785974)
FA-AL-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
S.D. Ala.
06/17/2014
Order [ECF# 61] (26 F.Supp.3d 1228)
FA-AL-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Bloomberg Law
S.D. Ala.
06/17/2014
Order [ECF# 62] (2014 WL 2738546)
FA-AL-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Bloomberg Law
S.D. Ala.
06/18/2014
Order [ECF# 65]
FA-AL-0003-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: Bloomberg Law
S.D. Ala.
06/18/2014
Final Judgment [ECF# 66]
FA-AL-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: Bloomberg Law
U.S. Court of Appeals
06/30/2014
Order
FA-AL-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
02/18/2016
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 75] (818 F.3d 1122)
FA-AL-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/16/2017
Status Report [Ct. of App. ECF# BL-171]
FA-AL-0003-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/19/2018
Appellant's Unopposed Motion to Remand and Vacate [Ct. of App. ECF# 201]
FA-AL-0003-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cassady, William E. (S.D. Ala.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000
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
FA-AL-0003-0002
Pryor, Jill Anne (Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0007
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0007
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
FA-AL-0003-0011
Rienzi, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0011
Verm, Diana Marie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0011
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
FA-AL-0003-9000
Collette, Matthew M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0009
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000
Nemeroff, Patrick George (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0009
Salzman, Joshua Marc (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-0009
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000
Lee, Jennifer (New York) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000
Marshall, Randall C (Florida) show/hide docs
FA-AL-0003-9000

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