April 2011 Church & State | People & Events

A federal court in Washington, D.C., has dismissed a challenge to the new national healthcare law brought by a legal group founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson.The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed suit against the law shortly after it was signed by President Barack Obama in March of 2010. The ACLJ contended that a provision requiring every American to buy health insurance violates the religious freedom of people who believe God will protect them.The Religious Right legal group filed suit on behalf of five plaintiffs, three of whom argued that they don’t need health insurance because they believe God will heal them.U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler found the argument unpersuasive. In her 64-page ruling in Mead v. Holder, Kessler rejected the ACLJ’s contention that Congress exceeded its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance.The ACLJ asserted in court that the requirement to buy health insurance violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that protects religious liberty by mandating that government place no “substantial burdens” on religious freedom.Kessler determined that a requirement to buy health insurance did not substantially burden the religious liberty rights of the plaintiffs. She also noted that people who refuse to buy health insurance eventually need some type of medical care, straining the system for those who have paid into it.“Plaintiffs routinely contribute to other forms of insurance, such as Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment taxes, which present the same conflict with their belief that God will provide for their medical and financial needs,” she wrote.The ACLJ’s lawsuit against the healthcare law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, is one of several similar cases pending in the courts.ACLJ attorney Edward White III said the group plans to appeal the ruling.