The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, issued an order to stay the mandate until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a petition for cert to be filed with the High Court by Liberty Counsel, on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals.
The mandate went into effect last year on August 1 and the very minimal religious protections were set to go into effect August 1, but they will be implemented and enforcement will take place starting on January 1.
Liberty Counsel’s challenge to ObamaCare is the most comprehensive case pending, challenging (1) the employer mandate; (2) the abortion mandate for religious employers; (3) the abortion mandate for individuals; and (4) the entire law because tax bills must originate in the House. The case is Liberty University v. Lew (formerly called Liberty University v. Geithner).
“I am pleased that the court of appeals stayed the mandate pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. Staying a mandate is not the usual course of action, but in this case, the likelihood that the Supreme Court has an interest in hearing this challenge is high,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
In the cert petition due in early October, Liberty Counsel will argue that the employer mandate violates the Commerce Clause. As Congress lacks authority to force individuals to buy an unwanted product, so Congress cannot force employers to buy an unwanted product. And, unlike the individual mandate, which the High Court ruled was a tax, the employer mandate exceeds Congress’s taxing powers because the penalties go beyond reasonable taxing limits and are punitive. The case also challenges the employer and individual mandate provisions as violations of religious free exercise because they force employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs and many individuals to fund abortion.
Liberty Counsel’s case is the only one in the country that challenges the entire employer mandate. “If we are successful in striking down the employer mandate, it will benefit both religious and nonreligious employers,” Staver said.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono legal assistance and representation on these and related topics.
Last month, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevents the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, which does not want to be compelled to pay for birth control or drugs that may cause abortions.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
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Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
The most recent polling data from December 2012 shows Americans support a religious exemption to the mandate.