Obamacare: Supreme Court orders new look at university’s lawsuit
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered an appeals court to consider the underlying merits of Liberty University’s lawsuit – including whether Obamacare violates religious freedom.
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In a somewhat unusual maneuver, the high court agreed to send one of several cases challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) back to a federal appeals court to consider the underlying merits of the lawsuit – including whether the measure violates religious freedom.
In late June, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the ACA as a valid exercise of Congress’s taxing authority. The ruling forced the dismissal of a handful of other cases challenging the reform law. Among them was an appeal filed on behalf of Liberty University, a small Christian college in Lynchburg, Va.
Unlike the other cases being held pending the high court’s June decision, Liberty University’s case arrived at the Supreme Court after being dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The appeals court had ruled 2 to 1 that the federal Anti-Injunction Act prevented the appellate judges from considering the underlying merits of Liberty University’s lawsuit. So Liberty University never received a ruling at the appeals court on the individual allegations it was making in its complaint.
That’s what the Supreme Court on Monday ordered be done.
Mathew Staver, a lawyer representing Liberty University, had asked the court to reinstate the lawsuit and send it back to the Fourth Circuit to address the merits of the unresolved claims.
The court asked the Obama administration what it thought of the request. Administration lawyers told the court that they did not object. US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli added, however, that his office believed Liberty’s claims were without merit.
It is unclear how the Fourth Circuit will view Liberty’s newly focused case, but the three-judge panel was not particularly friendly to Liberty’s lawsuit the first time around.
The unresolved aspects of the suit involve the ACA’s requirement that companies with 50 or more employees provide a government-approved level of health insurance or pay a penalty.
The suit also alleges that the reform law forces members of Liberty University’s community to jettison their religious beliefs by paying into a required health-care system that they believe supports and funds abortions.
The suit charges that a religious exemption included in the ACA violates the First Amendment prohibition on excessive entanglement of government and religion. The ACA places the government in a position to decide which religions are authentic and deserving of an exemption and which are not, the suit says.