Supreme Court opens door to a new Obamacare challenge by the Christian college Liberty University

November 27, 2012

The Supreme Court has ordered a federal court of appeals to consider a Christian college's claim that its religious freedom is threatened by forced funding of abortion under the health care reform law.

"I am very pleased with the High Court's ruling," said Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law and founder of the nonprofit litigation group Liberty Counsel, which is representing the university.

The ruling "breathes new life into our challenge" to the Affordable Care Act, Staver said, asserting that mandated abortion funding under the law "collides with religious freedom and the rights of conscience."

On Nov. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Liberty Counsel's petition to have its case reheard by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., allowing the possibility for the Supreme Court to ultimately hear the case within the next year.

The lawsuit, initially filed in 2010 on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals, challenged both the mandate requiring individuals to obtain health insurance and a regulation requiring employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

In addition to challenging the authority of Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act, Liberty University argued that the law's insurance exchange policies are unconstitutional because they "do not protect against payment for elective abortion coverage."

The university charges that the law includes forced funding of abortion despite religious objections and therefore violates the First Amendment's free exercise of religion protection and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As a Christian institution, Liberty University is morally opposed to abortion and does not cover it in its health care plan, the lawsuit explained.

It observed that under the health care reform law, states that provide for abortion coverage in health plans must segregate funds in order to ensure that no federal money received by a health care exchange can go towards abortions, with a few exceptions. This is in keeping with a law that prohibits the federal funding of most abortions.

The health care law has also raised considerable concern about freedom of religion due to its "preventive services mandate," which requires employers including religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations to offer coverage of contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs.    

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