Court Says Health Care Law Won’t Interfere with Religious Beliefs

February 23, 2011 ( – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a group of individuals who claim the mandate in the new health reform law to purchase health insurance interferes with their religious beliefs.

Legal Times reports that Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the complaint saying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will not impose a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religious beliefs. The judge said it’s unclear how the law “puts substantial pressure on plaintiffs to modify their behavior and to violate their beliefs, as it permits them to pay a shared responsibility payment in lieu of actually obtaining health insurance.”  

According to the court opinion, three of the plaintiffs believe that God will provide for their physical, spiritual, and financial well-being, and that “[b]eing forced to buy health insurance conflicts with [their] religious faith because [they] believe[] that [they] would be indicating that [they] need[] a backup plan and [are] not really sure whether God will, in fact, provide for [their] needs.” The other two plaintiffs do not wish to purchase health insurance because it is contrary to their beliefs in a holistic approach to medicine, and they specifically objects on the ground that health insurance would not cover many of the medical services and health products she currently pays for out of pocket.  

The plaintiffs also allege that anticipating the penalties they will have to pay for not purchasing health insurance has compelled them to “adjust their fiscal affairs” in the present. 

Kessler called the individual mandate a “critical element in Congress’s comprehensive plan to reduce the spiraling health care costs that this country has experienced and is expected to experience in the future.” She said the individual mandate provision “serves a compelling public interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.” The government “has a compelling interest in safeguarding the public health by regulating the health care and insurance markets.”  

According to Legal Times, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said the ruling disappointed them and they are planning an appeal.