- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2014

The conservative Media Research Center has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration seeking an exemption from Obamacare’s contraception, sterilization and abortion-pill mandate.

The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, comes after the center self-certified with the Labor Department as a religious organization, which would ordinarily exempt it from the mandate. When attorneys for the center, which tracks the news media for liberal political bias, asked federal officials for assurance of that status, however, they were denied.

“The problem is there’s no guidance anywhere and there’s no way for you to get an actual determination of that,” said Media Research Center attorney David Warrington. “So if you self-certify, and then three years down the road the government decides that you are wrong, they could come back to you seeking these fines from Day One.”

The fine for failing to provide coverage under the Affordable Care Act is $100 per day per employee. Given that the center has 65 employees and 125 people on its insurance coverage plan, that would amount to $12,500 per day, or $4.5 million per year, said Mr. Warrington.

“Those are fines that are just crippling to an organization of the Media Research Center’s size,” said Mr. Warrington. “So absent the government being able to give us some assurance that we’ve complied with the law and won’t be subject to these fines, we had no other choice but to file this lawsuit and seek a court to determine this issue.”

A hearing on the motion in Media Research Center v. Sebelius is scheduled for June 6 before the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Lawsuits challenging Obamacare are thick on the ground, but the Media Research Center case is different in that it deals with non-profits entities. The high profile Hobby Lobby lawsuit — which is now awaiting a decision before the Supreme Court — centers on whether for-profit companies should be able to escape the health care law’s abortion and contraception mandates based on the owners’ religious convictions.

Under the Affordable Care Act, nonprofit “religious organizations” and other “eligible organizations” can claim an exemption from the requirement to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

The center decided to self-certify as an “eligible organization” based on its mission, which is in part to “expose and critique media bias against traditional American Judeo-Christian religious beliefs.”

“This lawsuit is about religious freedom and the conscience rights of individuals to operate their enterprises free from government coercion, reprisal, or punishment,” Media Research Center founder and President L. Brent Bozell III said in a Thursday statement.

The lawsuit also contends that the health care law violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by requiring the government to determine “who is ‘religious enough’ to qualify for an exemption,” said the center in the statement.

Mr. Bozell and Media Research Center employees “practice and live by Judeo-Christian values, and believe abortion, whether through the actions of an abortionist or a drug, is the taking of innocent human life,” said the statement.

“We do not stop being religious, moral people the moment we walk out of our houses of worship,” said Mr. Bozell.

Mr. Warrington said the Affordable Care Act has put federal officials in an untenable position by foisting on them the responsibility to determine which organizations are sufficiently religious to warrant an exemption.



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