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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Rejects University’s|Health Care Challenge

(CN) - A federal judge in Lynchburg, Va., rejected a Christian university's challenge to the recently enacted health care reform bill, saying the disputed provisions "are well within Congress' authority" to regulate and do not force the university to support abortion.

Liberty University, the world's largest evangelical Christian university, said the new health care bill would bar it from "providing health care choices for employees that do not conflict with the missions of the University and the core Christian values under which it and its employees order their day-to-day lives."

The university objected to the insurance coverage mandates imposed on employers and individuals, saying they overstep Congress' powers, are unconstitutional and violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Specifically, the university worried that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 doesn't adequately protect against the mandatory insurance payments being used to fund abortions.

But U.S. District Judge Norman Moon said this fear was unfounded, as the law "contains strict safeguards at multiple levels to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services beyond those in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered."

"Moreover, the Act specifically allows plans in the exchanges to decline to cover all abortion services whatsoever, including excepted abortion services," Moon added (original emphasis).

He also rejected the university's claims that the mandates violate the First Amendment's protections on free speech, religious exercise and free association, the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause, and the principles of state sovereignty outlined in the 10th Amendment.

Moon said the health care law, signed into law in March, doesn't force the university and its employees to "yoke" themselves with their ideological opponents.

"No impairment of their ability to associate with others to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment appears to be challenged," the judge wrote. "As defendants correctly point out, the requirement to purchase health insurance does not prevent plaintiffs from expressing their views about anything and does not require them to endorse a view with which they disagree."

He granted the government's motion to dismiss.

Moon is one of at least four federal judges to address challenges to the newly enacted health care reform bill. A federal judge in Michigan upheld the insurance requirement as constitutional, while judges in Florida and Richmond, Va., have allowed similar lawsuits to proceed.

The Supreme Court last month turned down an early health care appeal -- the first to reach the nation's highest court.

Liberty University was founded in 1971 by evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell.

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