A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed Liberty University's lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's new federal health care law, declaring that a provision requiring most individuals to obtain insurance is constitutional.
University law school dean Mathew Staver said in a telephone interview that he will promptly appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon in Lynchburg is the second court decision upholding the law, following one in Michigan in October. Officials from several states have filed another lawsuit in Florida, and a separate challenge by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is pending in federal court in Richmond.
Principals on both sides expect the issue to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"In the weeks ahead, there will be additional court cases examining this matter and the health reform law," Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the president for special projects, wrote in a White House blog post. "We can't predict the outcome of each case, but we are confident that we will ultimately prevail in court and continue to deliver the benefits of reform to the American people."
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson has said he expects to rule in Cuccinelli's lawsuit by the end of the year.
Liberty claimed in its suit that the requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty is not a proper exercise of congressional authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. The university argued that a decision not to buy insurance is not economic activity that can be regulated by Congress.
Moon disagreed, writing in his 53-page opinion that "there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals' decisions about how and when to pay for health care are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate health care market."
Staver said he was not discouraged.
"The court's ruling on the Commerce Clause, while wrong, puts us on the fast track to the federal court of appeals," he said.
The conservative Christian university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell also claimed the law violates its religious rights by forcing it to subsidize coverage for abortions, but again the judge disagreed. Moon said the law includes provisions that allow policyholders to avoid subsidizing abortion coverage.
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