WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit claiming that President Barack Obama's requirement that all Americans have health insurance violates the religious freedom of those who rely on God to protect them.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, on behalf of five Americans who can afford health insurance but have chosen for years not to buy it.
The case was one of several lawsuits filed against Obama's requirement that Americans either buy health insurance or pay a penalty, beginning in 2014. Kessler is the third Democratic-appointed judge to dismiss a challenge, while two Republican-appointed judges have ruled part or all of the law unconstitutional. Kessler wrote that the Supreme Court will need to settle the constitutional issues.
Three of the plaintiffs are Christians who said they want to refuse all medical services for the rest of their lives because they believe God will heal their afflictions. They say being forced to buy insurance would conflict with their faith because they believe doing so would indicate they need "a backup plan and (are) not really sure whether God will, in fact, provide," the lawsuit said.
The two others have a holistic approach to medical care and prefer to pay for their health services out of pocket, in part because insurance often doesn't cover their chosen methods of healing.
The lawsuit argued that Congress does not have the power under the Constitution to require health care purchases and that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
Kessler rejected both arguments and ruled that Congress has the right to regulate health care spending under the Commerce Clause and that the individual mandate must be viewed not as a stand-alone reform but as an essential part of the law Obama signed 11 months ago aimed at reducing overall costs. She also said that anyone who objects to having health care for religious reasons can choose to pay the penalty instead — as the lawsuit said all five plaintiffs plan to do.