On March 23, 2010, a private Christian university and individual citizens filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, and the Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") violated their constitutional freedoms by requiring them to provide or purchase health insurance coverage. Claiming that providing or purchasing health insurance would contravene their Christian faith, violate their freedom of association, and compel speech contrary to their beliefs, the plaintiffs sought an exemption from the ACA for themselves and other institutions and individuals with similar religious objections.
On August 13, 2010, the defendant federal departments moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. First, the defendants argued that the Anti-Injunction Act barred a pre-enforcement challenge to the ACA because the law's key provisions would not take effect until 2014. Second, the defendants asserted that the ACA's provisions were authorized by Congress's enumerated powers. Third, the defendants argued that the ACA did not violate the plaintiffs' freedoms of speech, association, or religion.
On November 30, 2010, the District Court (Judge Norman K. Moon) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. Judge Moon found that, while the plaintiffs had standing to sue and were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, the ACA was authorized by Congress's enumerated powers and did not violate the plaintiffs' constitutional freedoms. Liberty University v. Geithner, 753 F. Supp. 2d 611 (W.D. Va. 2010).
The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Appeal No. 10-2347). On September 8, 2011, the Fourth Circuit panel (Judge Motz, with Judge Wynn concurring) vacated the original dismissal and sent the case back to the District Court for dismissal on different grounds: the panel reasoned that the Anti-Injunction Act prevented the court from having jurisdiction over a pre-enforcement challenge to the ACA. Judge Davis dissented, arguing that, while the Anti-Injunction Act did not bar the plaintiffs' claims, the ACA was valid legislation under Congress's commerce authority and thus that the District Court's dismissal for failure to state a claim was proper. 671 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2011).
The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari on October 12, 2011 (S.Ct. Case No. 11-438). On June 29, 2012, one day after deciding similar questions in NFIB v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court denied the cert petition. Liberty University v. Geithner, 133 S. Ct. 60 (2012). The plaintiffs petitioned for rehearing, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in NFIB invalidated the Fourth Circuit's finding that the Anti-Injunction Act barred their claims. In a single order on November 26, 2012, the Supreme Court granted the petition for rehearing, granted the cert petition, and entered a judgment vacating the Fourth Circuit's judgment and sending the case back to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of NFIB. Liberty University v. Geithner, 133 S. Ct. 679 (2012).
Fourth Circuit Judges Motz, Davis, and Wynn heard a second round of arguments in the case on May 16, 2013. On July 11, 2013, the Fourth Circuit (Judges Motz, Davis, and Wynn) affirmed the judgment of the District Court, holding that the ACA was a valid exercise of Congress's commerce authority and dismissing the case for failure to state a claim. Liberty University v. Lew, 733 F.3d. 72 (4th Cir.). The Fourth Circuit further found the plaintiffs' speech, association, and religious freedom claims meritless.
On September 10, 2013, the plaintiff filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. On December 2, 2013, the Supreme Court denied the petition. Hannah Swanson - 08/01/2013
Mallory Jones - 04/04/2014