The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in a challenge to Obamacare that the law does not violate the Free Exercise Clause even though it violates personal religious beliefs by forcing employers to subsidize abortificients and requiring employees to pay for insurance that includes abortion services.
The the decision is a misinterpretation of the Constitution, charges a petition by the non-profit legal group Liberty Counsel submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court today.
The group, which is representing Liberty University and other plaintiffs, brought the case when Obamacare was signed into law in 2010.
Some of the issues the case raises were submitted earlier to the Supreme Court in a case that was rejected when the justices ruled on Obamacare in another case, brought by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The Liberty case is now back before the court, because the previous ruling failed to resolve some of the questions being raised on behalf of the school.
Liberty Counsel said its challenge to Obamacare is the most comprehensive case pending. The case argues that the entire employer mandate is unconstitutional because Congress lacks authority to force employers to buy or provide government-mandated health insurance. It also contends that the contraception-abortifacient mandate forcing employers to provide free abortion-inducing drugs or devices violates the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause. It further asserts that the individual mandate forcing individuals to fund abortion violates the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause.
“Under the Employer Mandate, employers are compelled to purchase an unwanted government-defined insurance product at a government-defined price,” the petition says. “If they fail to do so, then they face fines that can be as high as $15,000 per employer per day and penalties of $2,000 per employee per year, even if they provide health insurance which does not include abortion-inducing drugs or devices.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, noted that the petition explains that the Supreme Court “has already found that the government cannot force individuals to purchase an unwanted product under the individual mandate.”
“It is only logical that government also lacks authority to force employers to purchase an unwanted product,” he said.
The petition says the insurance mandates “also require that insurance policies provide coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of the fact that providing such coverage violates religious beliefs of individuals and employers.”
“If individuals and employers refuse to provide the free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, then they will be saddled with government penalties. In essence, it is akin to the old adage ‘your money or your life,’ only it is ‘your money or your religious beliefs.'”
The petition continues: “The Fourth Circuit’s ruling contradicts this court’s precedents and creates an inter-circuit conflict with the Tenth, Seventh and Eighth circuits. This court should accept plenary review to resolve the conflicts presented by this case, including whether the employer mandate is supported by the Taxing and Spending Clause or the Commerce Clause, and whether the individual and employer mandates violate religious free exercise.”
An appellate court agreed the plaintiffs have legal standing but found a stunning reason for their decision to turn down Liberty’s case: “Plaintiffs present no plausible claim that the act (requiring the involuntary funding of abortion) substantially burdens their free exercise of religion, by forcing them to facilitate or support abortion or otherwise.”
There have been dozens of lawsuits against the government over the abortion mandate and multiple decisions by federal judges that the government cannot enforce the provisions until the full legal argument is played out. Several courts have concluded that the demand violates religious rights.
Liberty Counsel also explained: “Unlike the individual mandate, the employer mandate exceeds Congress’ enumerated powers because it would impose a heavy burden upon employers. The penalties, which can be up to $15,000 per day per employee, are so punitive that they will not be upheld under the Taxing and Spending Clause. This refusal will result in millions of dollars in fines annually. These excessive fines constitute an impermissible penalty.”
On the first trip to the Supreme Court, the justices determined Obamacare was a tax, including its abortion-funding mechanisms.
Added Staver: “Liberty University cannot, as a matter of religious conviction, provide any coverage, direct or indirect, for abortion-inducing drugs or IUDs. This refusal will result in millions of dollars in fines annually. The act coerces Liberty to violate its religious convictions under penalty of enormous fines.”
Liberty Counsel also has argued that because Obamacare was classified as a tax, it violates the Origination Clause of the Constitution, which requires all tax laws to originate in the House.
Obamacare originated as House Resolution 3590, the Service Members Home Ownership Act. But after passing the House, Senate President Harry Reid simply removed its contents and title, replacing it with a new title and more than 2,000 pages.
“H.R. 3590 was not originally a bill for raising revenue,” Staver said. “This is the first time that the gut-and-amend practice has been used by the Senate to impose new taxes. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Origination Clause because they wanted to keep the power to tax as close to the people as possible. Even after the 17th Amendment passed, allowing for the direct election of senators, the Origination Clause was preserved to keep the ‘power of the purse’ closer to the people, through their elected representatives.
“Obamacare cannot originate in the Senate and is therefore invalid.”
Staver earlier explained that the Supreme Court has at least an interest in some of the remaining questions, since it ordered the 4th Circuit to reconsider the case.