Supreme Court asks DoJ to weigh in on reviving healthcare suit

The Supreme Court is weighing whether it should revive a religious university's lawsuit over President Obama's healthcare reform law.

Liberty University is trying to revive its lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in that case after its landmark healthcare ruling this summer, but Liberty says its case presents different issues and should get a new hearing in a lower court.

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The Supreme Court asked the Justice Department on Monday to respond to Liberty's request for a new hearing.

The court rarely grants rehearings, especially on issues it has already decided, and its rules say rehearings are only allowed when circumstances have changed significantly since an appeal was denied.

But Liberty says it meets that requirement.


Liberty's case moved through lower courts alongside the cases filed by state attorneys general — including the one that ultimately ended up before the Supreme Court.

When Liberty's case got to a federal appeals court, that court said it could not rule in the case. Liberty, like the states, challenged the law's individual mandate. The appeals court said it could not rule on the issue because of the Anti-Injunction Act, which prevents people from suing the government over a tax they haven't yet had to pay.

But the Supreme Court, when hearing the states' healthcare suit, specifically said the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply to the individual mandate. Therefore, Liberty says, the appeals court was simply wrong — it declined to issue a ruling for reasons the Supreme Court explicitly rejected in a separate case.

The Supreme Court gave the Obama administration 30 days to weigh in on whether Liberty's suit should be revived.

Liberty says its case should have another shot in the courts because it's challenging the mandate on different grounds.

Although Liberty raised the same objections as the states, its lawsuit also argues that the healthcare law violates its religious freedom by requiring it to purchase a healthcare policy that could, indirectly, contribute to the funding of abortion.

Liberty's initial complaint said because university employees would have to comply with the individual mandate and the university would have to to comply with the employer mandate, they "cannot protect their sincerely held religious beliefs against facilitating, subsidizing, easing, funding, or supporting abortions."

Liberty is also participating in a separate round of lawsuits over healthcare law's policy requiring many employers to provide contraception in their employees' healthcare plans. The administration has not yet determined how the policy would affect self-insured religious institutions like Liberty.