Liberty University–America’s largest Christian university–had its day in court yesterday against Obamacare before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It is the most comprehensive legal challenge currently in the federal courts against President Obama’s signature law.
Mat Staver–who is also dean of Liberty University School of Law–argued the appeal before a three-judge panel in Richmond, VA as chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Christian law firm representing the university. The case is Liberty University v. Lew (formerly Liberty University v. Geithner).
Staver’s lawsuit is the most wide-ranging of all the Obamacare challenges currently in the courts. Liberty University is challenging (1) the employer mandate (applying to every employer with 50+ employees), (2) the HHS Mandate on abortion and birth-control for religious employers, (3) the abortion mandate for individuals, and (4) arguing the entire law should be struck down under the Origination Clause of the Constitution.
That fourth item is an issue because Obamacare’s centerpiece individual mandate escaped being struck down as unconstitutional only by the Supreme Court holding the mandate is a tax in NFIB v. Sebelius (which we have extensively criticized), yet the Constitution requires all laws creating taxes to originate in the House of Representatives. When the Senate proposed the bill that became the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), it made the entire 2,700-page legislation a single amendment to a House bill that was then pending in the Senate, H.R. 3590. The question before the Fourth Circuit will be whether merely having an “H.R.”–for “House Resolution”–at the top of the bill is enough for the Origination Clause, or instead if the Constitution requires that the House–instead of the Senate–be the chamber of Congress that inserts such major tax provisions into legislation.
Says Staver, “While Liberty Counsel joins others in challenging the HHS abortifacient mandate, we also challenge the entirety of the employer mandate for all employers–secular and religious.”
The employer mandate is almost as vast and expansive of a claim of federal power as the infamous individual mandate, which was the heart of the Supreme Court’s 2012 NFIB case. As Staver explains:
“If Liberty University does not provide insurance coverage, it will be fined $2,000 per employee, per year, resulting in millions of dollars of penalties. Even if Liberty provides insurance but refuses to provide any portion of the preventive coverage mandate (including abortion-inducing drugs and IUDs), it will still be penalized $2,000 per year for every one of its ‘full time equivalent’ employees.”
Regarding the HHS Mandate (arising from the preventive coverage mandate in Obamacare referenced above), Staver adds Liberty University could be on the hook for, “…up to $15,000 per employee, per day. The fines could reach tens of millions of dollars. Obamacare coerces the largest Christian university in the world to violate its religious convictions under penalty of enormous fines.”
A decision is expected later this year.
Breitbart News legal columnist Ken Klukowski is on faculty at Liberty University School of Law and filed an amicus brief in this Obamacare challenge.