- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2012

The legal fight against Obamacare lives on. On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated an appellate court ruling that had favored the health care takeover and granted opponents a second chance to make their case that the law is unconstitutional. In June, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. upheld Obamacare by declaring the individual mandate to be lawful as a tax, but the high court never considered whether the employer mandate is constitutional. Obamacare is especially vulnerable on this front because First Amendment considerations are in play.

Liberty University will have a chance to argue this before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. As a private institution, Liberty has a problem with the federal government ordering it to provide health insurance. As a Christian institution, Liberty is especially offended by being forced to underwrite the cost of abortions, something that is contrary to the school’s fundamental beliefs and mission. It’s the equivalent of having the federal government order the Arbor Day Foundation to bankroll logging operations or Greenpeace to pay for the construction of nuclear power plants.

The nonprofit group Liberty Counsel is handling the courtroom battle. Founder Mathew Staver believes victory is a realistic possibility. “We’re hoping that ultimately this brings Obamacare down,” Mr. Staver told The Washington Times. “I think we have a good chance at the employer mandate in general because I think it exceeds Congress’ authority, and I don’t think it’s a tax. Even if it were to be held constitutional, as the individual mandate was, I think we also have a very strong argument, both on the employer mandate and the individual mandate, that they both collide with the free exercise of religion and the Religious Restoration Act.”

Atheists frequently cite the Constitution’s free exercise of religion clause as an excuse to eliminate prayer from schools and banish Nativity scenes from the public square. They essentially argue that the First Amendment is a guarantee of freedom from ever having to see or hear anything religious. Liberty’s cause is far more compelling. It is fully consistent with American values that the highest law of the land should protect individuals from having their government compel them to act directly against their core beliefs.

Last week, a federal court in Oklahoma turned down a similar lawsuit against Obamacare brought by the arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby, which is owned by a Christian family. The judge ruled that a secular institution can’t claim constitutional rights under the free-exercise clause. Liberty University, by contrast, is a religiously oriented institution. The school deserves to have its day in court, and the 4th Circuit and Chief Justice Roberts deserve a chance at redemption.

The Washington Times