The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a nonprofit group that focuses on constitutional law, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, alleging that the health reform law passed in March also violates the U.S. Constitution.
“This is an unprecedented assault on the constitutional freedoms of Americans,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, in a statement. “The Constitution specifically grants the federal government, including Congress, limited powers. It’s clear that this individual insurance mandate goes well beyond those enumerated powers and represents the ultimate power play – Congress and the federal government acting as if they possess a police power to pass and enforce any law that they deem advisable.”
Sekulow added, “This flawed provision is not only unconstitutional but unenforceable as well.”
The suit asks the court to declare the individual mandate provision unconstitutional, rule that the rights of three of the plaintiffs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated and issue a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the individual mandate provision.
The complaint argues that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, along with the imposition of shared responsibility payments for failing to buy and maintain qualifying health insurance, “exceeds the power of Congress” and is “unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.”
The suit was filed on behalf of Susan Seven-Sky from New York, Peggy Lee Mead of North Carolina, and three Texas residents: Charles “Eddie” Lee, Kenneth Ruffo and Gina Rodriguez.
Individual mandate ‘substantially burdens’ religion
For Seven-Sky, Mead and Lee, the suit alleges the mandate violates their religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The suit argues that the requirement to purchase health insurance, under the threat of significant financial penalties, “substantially burdens the exercise of their religion.”
The suit argues: “They are forced to either join a health insurance system that contradicts the tenets of their faith or pay substantial penalties for following the tenets of their faith.”
While the religious argument is a new one, several other claims mirror those filed in a separate suit by Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.
“Mandating that individuals purchase health insurance is an unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of congressional power, as Congress has never before required individuals to involuntarily buy a good or service under the guise of its Commerce Clause authority,” the ACLJ complaint states.
The ACLJ suit makes another argument similar to Cuccinelli’s case.
“If Congress succeeds in asserting this unprecedented claim of authority, it would set a sweepingly broad standard unsupported by the Constitution that would allow Congress to dictate to individuals that they must, or must not, buy countless other goods or services in the marketplace,” the ACLJ suit states. “To interpret the Commerce Clause to afford Congress such vast, all-encompassing authority over the daily lives of Americans would eviscerate the idea of a federal government of limited powers.”
Defendants named in the ACLJ suit are U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as well as the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its secretary, Timothy Geithner.