RICHMOND — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of the contraceptive coverage requirement in Obamacare to Liberty University on Wednesday, only to reverse itself later that evening.
The Virginia-based university had sued the Obama administration last year, seeking to strike down the whole of Obamacare by asserting that Congress has no authority to force Americans to purchase an unwanted product. Liberty’s lawsuit is the only legal challenge of its kind tackling both the employer abortion pill mandate and the insurance mandate in its totality.
“If we win on the employer mandate, then the mandate would be gone for religious and non-religious employers,” Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the university, told reporters.
However, last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Liberty University’s arguments in challenging Obamacare, upholding the requirement as being rational.
“The employer mandate is no monster,” it wrote. “Rather, it is simply another example of Congress’s longstanding authority to regulate employee compensation offered and paid for by employers in interstate commerce.”
Therefore, Liberty Counsel vowed to take the matter to the United States Supreme Court. On Wednesday morning, the Fourth Circuit granted the university a stay against the Obamacare mandate until the case was heard by the nation’s highest court, but issued a separate order later in the day denying the stay.
“Denying a stay while awaiting a petition for cert is not unusual, but it is unusual that conflicting orders are sent on the subject,” Staver wrote in a news release on Thursday. “The conflicting orders from the court of appeals do not have any relevant bearing on this case. We are preparing the petition to ask the Supreme Court to review the case.”
Liberty University plans to file its petition in October.
While the Obamacare employer mandate went into effect on August 1, the battle over its requirements continues in courts across the nation. As previously reported, although its case is far from over, the popular arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby recently won a preliminary injunction against the mandate. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had agreed that Hobby Lobby was indeed affected adversely by the requirement, and remanded the case back to the district court for a final decision regarding the issuance of an injunction.
“[Hobby Lobby has] established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm,” the court ruled.
“A religious individual may enter the for-profit realm intending to demonstrate to the marketplace that a corporation can succeed financially while adhering to religious values,” the justices wrote. “As a court, we do not see how we can distinguish this form of evangelism from any other.”
In issuing the injunction, some viewed the win as a breakthrough for religious-owned businesses nationwide.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” stated Kyle Duncan of The Beckett Fund. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
Photo: E. Overby