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Obamacare Headed Back to Fourth Circuit for Religious Challenge

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 02, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We should've known that the decision upholding Obamacare by the nation's highest court wouldn't be the end of the battle. Back in 2011, Liberty University, a Christian college located in Lynchburg, Virginia, challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on religious freedom and equal protection grounds.

The Fourth Circuit dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because the federal tax Anti-Injunction Act banned lawsuits seeking to halt a tax.

SCOTUS would later rule that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply to the law, as Congress labeled the payment a "penalty" rather than a "tax" for AIA purposes (and yet, the individual mandate was valid under Congress' power to tax). This ruling allowed the Supreme Court to review the PPACA and the individual mandate.

Of course, this ruling also conflicts with the Fourth Circuit's justification for dismissing Liberty's challenge to the law. Though Liberty's case was not directly on appeal when SCOTUS heard a bundle of challenges to the PPACA, SCOTUS's conflicting opinion did give Liberty grounds to seek a rehearing, reports Reuters.

On Wednesday, the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli stated that though Liberty's First Amendment and equal protection arguments lacked merit, the government would not oppose a rehearing in light of SCOTUS's decision on the applicability of the AIA to the PPACA. (This is beginning to sound a lot like Sesame Street).

For the record, Liberty previously argued that PPACA violated the First Amendment's ban on establishing or impeding the free exercise of religion because the insurance mandated by the PPACA could provide funding for abortions. They also pressed equal protection arguments based on the religious exception in the law, which allows certain religious organizations to opt out of the PPACA, while others are not exempted.

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