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by Debra Mullins

The Thomas More Law Center considers its legal work to be a form of ministry

(May 14, 2010) — Just moments after Mr. Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into law on March 23, 2010, The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern Michigan on behalf of itself and four individuals who reside in Southwestern Michigan. All of the Plaintiffs named in the complaint are seeking relief from the federal mandate requiring the purchase of individual health care insurance beginning in 2014, from the monetary penalties that will be imposed for failure to do so, and from the use of public funds to pay for abortions due to their religious beliefs.

The individual Plaintiffs do not currently maintain private health insurance and petitioned the Court to declare the PPACA unconstitutional, and requested an injunction to prevent the federal government from enacting the new law. The complaint may be the first in the nation filed by private entities.

As previously reported at The Post and Email, as many as twenty states have joined the multi-state lawsuit filed by and through Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Florida.

The defendants named in the TMLC complaint are Mr. Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The argument put forth in the complaint is that the PPACA is unconstitutional because:

  1. it exceeds government power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause;
  2. it usurps the power reserved for the people and the states under the Tenth Amendment;
  3. it is a violation of the First Amendment to exercise the right to religious freedom by forcing Americans to contribute to the funding of abortions; and,
  4. the PPACA is a violation of the Due Process guaranty under the Fifth Amendment.

In a March 23, 2010 press release, TMLC President and Chief Counsel Richard Thompson stated: “This Act is a product of political corruption and the exercise of unconstitutional power.  Our Founding Fathers envisioned a limited form of government. The purpose of our Constitution and this lawsuit is to insure it stays that way.”

On April 6, 2010, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Brief in Support Of. The brief, in part contends:

The act violates the Commerce Clause because the individual mandate is a regulation of legal residence or mere “existence” and not a class of constitutionally-permissible regulated commercial activity.

The Act regulates all legal U.S. residents who have chosen not to engage in the commercial activity of purchasing health insurance.

Plaintiffs are legal U.S. residents who have chosen not to enter into the commercial activity of purchasing health insurance and as such are subject to a penalty and irreparable harm.

The Commerce Clause authorizes the federal government to regulate economic activity that affects interstate commerce.

The Act does not regulate economic activity, but rather the choice not to engage in commercial or economic activity by penalizing the inactivity.

The brief also includes as an exhibit an August 1994 Congressional Budget Office memorandum titled “The Budgetary Treatment of an Individual Mandate to Buy Health Insurance. ” The CBO noted, “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.” (emphasis added)

After the PPACA was signed into law, Department of Justice spokesperson Charles Miller told the media, “The Department of Justice defends statutes that have been passed by Congress and signed by the President and are therefore the law of the United States. Accordingly, we will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the health care reform statute, along with any other claims, in any litigation that is brought against the United States.  We are confident that this statute is constitutional and we will prevail when we defend it in court.”

The Department of Justice (DoJ) filed the Defendant’s Response to the Motion for Injunction on May 11, 2010. DoJ officials responded, “Congress determined that the health care system in the United States is in crisis, spawning public expense and private tragedy. After decades of failed attempts, Congress enacted comprehensive health care reform to deal with this overwhelming national problem. The minimum coverage provision is vital to that comprehensive scheme. Enjoining it would thwart this reform and reignite the crisis that the elected branches of government acted to forestall.”

The argument against the injunction in part states:

  1. the Plaintiffs lack standing because the minimum coverage provision does not inflict actual and imminent injury;
  2. the Plaintiffs cannot show injury in fact;
  3. the Plaintiffs have not shown they are likely to suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied;
  4. the minimum coverage provision is a valid use of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce; and,
  5. the minimum coverage provision is constitutional as an exercise of the power to tax and spend to provide for the general welfare of persons residing within the U.S.

A status conference is scheduled for June 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM. The Honorable Judge George Caram Steeh, a 1998 Clinton Administration appointee, will preside.

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