On Monday, the Supreme Court amended an oversight and gave Liberty University a chance to argue two claims that were not considered in June when the justices upheld President Obama’s healthcare law. The lawyers for Liberty University make two claims in their argument. First, they state that it is unconstitutional for the government to require large employers to provide health insurance to their full-time workers or pay a tax. Secondly they say the “forced funding of abortion” under the federal law violates the school’s right to religious liberty. Administration officials say the law does not require funding of abortions, and district judges have also rejected the claim. This will be the second shot Liberty has been given to make their case. In June, shortly after the 5-4 decision, Liberty joined several other organizations and institutions that appealed that charged the law as unconstitutional. Those appeals, including Liberty’s, were turned down by the Justices. That makes this second attempt even more important to the University. Many experts though do not believe this new challenge will go far. Washington and Lee professor Timothy Jost, a health law expert was quoted saying “It’s a frivolous argument. Congress had regulated wages and benefits issues under the Commerce Clause for decades,” More crucial that that though, are the arguments the university makes under “religious freedom,” as well as the non-existent forced abortion funding they mention.
The religious liberty argument received a great deal of media attention last year when high-profile members of the catholic church openly opposed the contraception clause in the Affordable Care Act. From the beginning, the Obama administration excluded churches and other places of worship from the law. After the Catholics showed their opposition to it, the administration went a step further and made it so insurance companies, and not the employers, would be footing the bill for employee’s contraception. Although that satisfied many critics, some were still not happy, as Liberty University is demonstrating. There is a big problem with their argument though. They cite “religious liberty” as the reason for their lawsuit. There does not seem to be any infringement of liberty however. Everyone can still pray the way they want to, and the employees and employers can still attend their place of worship. The only issue they have a problem with is having to cover some of their employees contraception coverage. The argument is that it violates their beliefs, but the law does not force the employers to use contraception, it merely has them cover their employees like every other business now does. Another fact to remember is that although the employers are the same religion, that cannot be said for their employees. They likely do not subscribe to the same beliefs either.
The other claim that Liberty’s lawyers make is over the “forced funding of abortion” under the new law. The problem with that argument is that there is no forced funding of abortion under the law. Back when the contraception section was being challenged, many employers mentioned coverage of “abortion pills” along with traditional contraception. What they were calling abortion pills was actually the morning-after pill which by design cannot cause an abortion. In fact, if there is already a fertilized egg, the pill will not work. What the pill does is act as emergency contraception, preventing the egg from being fertilized. The medication was consistently misrepresented as abortion pills and many employers began to believe that was what they were paying for. The University has a right to challenge the government and should exercise that right when necessary, but if one argument is made disingenuously, and the second one is made under false information, it does not seem feasible that their lawsuit will succeed.