New Hope for Religion-Freedom Fighters

Article excerpt

Liberty University's legal complaint that the national health care law violates its religious freedom appeared all but dead. But then the Supreme Court revived the hopes of the private Christian school: The justices directed an appeals court to reconsider the university's challenge.

Liberty has religious objections to the requirement under the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as ObamaCare) that the Lynchburg, Va., university cover abortion drugs at no cost to employees.

That requirement is part of the "preventive services" mandate issued by the Department of Health & Human Services in implementing ObamaCare. This HHS requirement of free coverage of abortion- inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures applies to nearly all employers, regardless of religious or moral objection. It exempts only formal houses of worship.

As Liberty's case heads back to the lower court, other federal courts have agreed that the HHS rule may impose an impermissible burden on Americans who run their businesses consistent with deeply held religious principles. The courts directed the government to temporarily refrain from enforcing huge fines and penalties for noncompliance before their cases are fully heard.

In all, 110 plaintiffs have gone to court in 40 lawsuits across the country to challenge this anti-conscience rule.

Wait, didn't the Supreme Court decide in June to uphold ObamaCare as a valid exercise of Congress' taxing power? Yes, but the high court did not confront the critical question of whether it tramples on religious freedom. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion acknowledged that penalties for non-compliance may be struck down if they violate "other requirements in the Constitution," such as the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. …