Opponents of President Obama’s health care law will get another crack at legally challenging the legislation, as the U.S. Supreme Court ordered on Monday that a federal appeals court must rehear a suit brought by the Christian college Liberty University.
When Obama signed the national health care legislation into law in March 2010, Liberty University launched a multi-leveled suit against the federal government. This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled that the law’s individual mandate was constitutional, but did not address two other issues raised by the suit. Specifically, Liberty had challenged the constitutionality of the law’s requirement that employers with over 50 employees either offer acceptable health insurance or pay a penalty and also argued that the law forces the funding of abortion, thus violating the First Amendment’s clause barring Congress from interfering with the free exercise of religion.
When Liberty had argued its case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond last year, the judges essentially punted. They determined that a statute called the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars challenges to a tax until somebody has paid it, prevented the court from considering the suit at that time. But as part of its June ruling on the health care law, the Supreme Court said that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply in this case. (This confused many, because justices also separately ruled that the individual mandate was a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power.)
Given that the Supreme Court ruled that the AIA did not apply, Liberty filed a petition for their case to be reheard by the Fourth Circuit, so that the merits of its challenges to the employer mandate and abortion funding could be considered. And that’s what the justices granted today.
Read Liberty’s statement on the news and petition here.