A fight over twin mandates in the new health-care law is brewing between Liberty University and the Obama administration at a federal appeals court in Richmond.
The college, founded by late pastor Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg, Va., is challenging the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate and a provision tied to the law that requires many employers to provide free contraceptives. On Monday, the university's attorneys accused the government of conflating the two mandates in an attempt to quash its wide-ranging lawsuit against "Obamacare" in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The developments stem from the White House's sudden decision last week to delay by one year, to 2015, the employer mandate that requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health insurance that meet defined standards or pay fines.
In court across the country, the government has argued that plaintiffs who've sued over the health-care law do not have standing to sue over mandates that have not even taken effect.
"This one-year delay only underscores that Liberty University's challenge is unripe," Alisa B. Klein, an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, wrote in court papers filed Wednesday, or one day after the announcement.
Meanwhile, the Department Health and Human Services has green-lighted a rule a that requires most employers to insure contraceptives. It has tried to accommodate religion-based nonprofits by letting them insure contraception through policies they neither manage nor directly pay for, but their offer has been widely rejected by religious objectors.
In a statement Monday, the university said it is litigating "the only pending case in the country that challenges the entire employer mandate and not just the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate."
"That distinction sets this case apart from every other pending case in the country," it said, arguing its suit is far from "moot."
The university criticized the delay in the employer mandate as politically motivated, And it wants to make clear that the contraception mandate is moving full speed ahead.
"Regarding the abortifacient mandate, the Final Rules published by the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services last week made clear the government has no intentions of altering this mandate," the university's attorney, Mathew D. Staver, wrote Friday in response to the Justice Department.
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