Supreme Court revives challenge to ObamaCare on religious-liberty grounds

posted at 10:31 am on November 26, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

A decision by the Supreme Court this morning opens up a potential new avenue of attack against ObamaCare on the grounds of religious liberty — and not just the HHS contraception mandate.  The court overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Liberty University over the health-system overhaul, in a move that was not opposed by the Obama administration in court:

The Supreme Court has revived a Christian college’s challenge to President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, with the acquiescence of the Obama administration.

The court on Monday ordered the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to consider the claim by Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that Obama’s health care law violates the school’s religious freedoms. …

The school made a new filing with the court over the summer to argue that its claims should be fully evaluated in light of the high court decision. The administration said it did not oppose Liberty’s request.

Liberty is challenging both the requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, and a separate provision requiring many employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

The appeals court could ask the government and the college for new legal briefs to assess the effect of the Supreme Court ruling on Liberty’s claims before rendering a decision.

Why didn’t the White House oppose LU’s motion?  The timing issue is now largely moot, thanks to that 5-4 decision that upheld the individual mandate as a tax.  The lawsuit would have been refiled shortly in any case, which would have only provided a slight delay to the inevitable.

This lawsuit differs from the previous cases used by the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the law.  None of the earlier plaintiffs brought up the religious-liberty issue, in large part because HHS hadn’t formulated its arrogant posture that the government can define religious expression.  With the HHS contraception mandate now in place, the violation of the First Amendment has now become concrete, and the courts will soon have to decide just how to square the language that that clearly stipulates that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” with the HHS regulation that attempts to restrict religious exercise to only within the walls of a church, synagogue, or temple.

Getting that addressed sooner is a victory in the short run for everyone.  Let’s hope that the appeals courts and the Supreme Court recognize the violation sooner rather than later, too, before the Obama administration forces religious organizations to close doors on hospitals, clinics, charities, and schools.


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