Liberty University announced Thursday that it will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act's, or "Obamacare's," employer mandate. A decision early Thursday by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Liberty's suit provided the opportunity for the petition.
"I am glad the court reached the merits on the employer mandate, even though the court got it wrong, because this clears the way for the case to now go to the Supreme Court," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents Liberty University in the case, said in a statement provided to The Christian Post.
The employer mandate is constitutional, the Fourth Circuit ruled, because the Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate commerce among the states.
"We find that the employer mandate is no monster," Judges Diana Gribbon Motz, Andre M. Davis and James A. Wynn Jr. wrote, according to Politico. "Rather, it is simply another example of Congress's longstanding authority to regulate employee compensation offered and paid for by employers in interstate commerce."
The White House announced last week that the employer mandate will be delayed for a year, rather than go into effect on Oct. 1 as planned. The employer mandate and the individual mandate are key components of the ACA because they help to keep the costs of health insurance lower by getting more people to purchase health insurance.
The Fourth Circuit rejected Liberty's case in 2011 because it said that it could not rule until the mandate went into effect. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was not permitted under the Commerce Clause, but it did permit it under Congress' taxing authority. The Supreme Court also ordered the Fourth Circuit at that time to hear Liberty's case.
Staver argued that the Supreme Court's rejection of the argument that the Commerce Clause gave Congress the authority to pass an individual mandate to purchase health insurance meant that the Clause also does not give Congress the authority to require that employers pay for health insurance for their employees.
"The Supreme Court concluded that the individual mandate cannot be upheld under the Commerce Clause because Congress cannot force people to buy an unwanted product. But this court of appeals has now decided that Congress can force employers to buy an unwanted product. As Congress cannot force individuals to buy an unwanted product, neither can it force employers to do so. I look forward to having this matter before the Supreme Court," concluded Staver.
Liberty also sued the government for requiring that employers cover birth control – contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients – in their employee's health insurance plans. The Fourth Circuit did not rule on the merits of that suit but rejected the challenge on a technicality. Liberty said it may file a separate suit against the birth control mandate.