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Posted at 6:46 PM ET, 11/30/2010

Federal judge dismisses Liberty University suit against health-care law

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

A federal judge in Virginia ruled Tuesday that the new health-care overhaul law is constitutional, dismissing a lawsuit filed by Liberty University in Lynchburg that had challenged the statute.

The case is one of more than 15 suits filed across the country against the nation's sweeping health-care overhaul, part of a complicated legal landscape surrounding that statute that most experts believe will ultimately be concluded in the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is separate from another suit filed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia by Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II. A different federal judge sitting in Richmond has already declined to dismiss that suit and is weighing whether to find the law constitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and sits in Lynchburg, ruled that the law falls within Congress' constitutional ability to regulate interstate trade.

In a 54-page opinion, Moon wrote that individuals who choose to go without insurance are nevertheless engaged in economic activity that can be regulated by Congress. That's because they will inevitably need health services when they are injured or get sick, and the costs of that care will be borne by the rest of the health-care system.

Moon also rejected arguments from the Christian university that the law violates its religious rights because some money collected for insurance under the law's regulatory scheme might be used for abortion, which the school opposes.

He wrote that the claim was not plausible because the school had failed to establish how any of the law's required payments, fees or fines might be used to fund abortion.

Obama administration officials applauded the ruling and said they are confident that the law will ultimately be upheld. Liberty University leaders said they will immediately appeal, and think that the law will eventually be struck down.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 30, 2010; 6:46 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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