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Thursday, July 11, 2013
A federal appeals court in Richmond rejected Liberty University's challenge to the Obamacare federal health care law Thursday, but it left a door open for the school to appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although it was the third time courts have ruled against its claim, LU isn't giving up, said Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which is handling the university's challenge of the law.
"The next step for us is the Supreme Court, and we could have a decision as early as June 2014," said Staver, who also is dean of LU's law school.
Thursday's 3-0 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Liberty's argument that Obamacare violates the Constitution by forcing large employers to provide health insurance for full-time workers, while also forcing taxpayers and employers to subsidize abortions.
The appeals court panel said the law does not violate religious views on abortion because insurance plans are available that cover pregnancy terminations only in cases of rape, incest and threat to the mother's life.
However, the court also ruled Congress was right when it required employers to provide coverage to full-time workers.
That part of the ruling offers a doorway to a Supreme Court appeal, because it confronts the actual merits of the case for the first time, Staver said.
"The last time, the court dodged the merits and this time they reached them, although they reached the wrong conclusion," he said.
LU's case is not affected by the White House decision last week to postpone the employer mandate for a year, until January 2015, Staver said.
The Obama administration was trying to nullify other pending legal challenges against the healthcare law, Staver said, but LU's case remains viable because it is the only one challenging the full scope of the employer mandate.
LU's religious objection will be argued as well, Staver said.
The mandate would require all businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to provide healthcare coverage or pay fines of $2,000 per employee.
Staver said for Liberty University, the fines ultimately could total $15,000 per day, per employee.
In 2011, the 4th Circuit dismissed Liberty's case, saying it lacked jurisdiction to sue.
The Supreme Court, in upholding most of the health care law last year, asked the 4th Circuit to revisit the LU case, and the Obama administration did not oppose the reconsideration.
The case is Liberty University Inc et al v. Lew et al, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-2347.
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