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Court orders new look at health-care challenge

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has revived a Christian college’s challenge to President Obama’s health-care overhaul, with the acquiescence of the Obama administration.

The court on Monday ordered the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to consider the claim by Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that Obama’s health-care law violates the school’s religious freedoms.

A federal district judge rejected Liberty’s claims, and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the lawsuit was premature and never dealt with the substance of the school’s arguments. The Supreme Court upheld the health-care law in June.

The justices used lawsuits filed by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business to uphold the health-care law by a 5-4 vote, then rejected all other pending appeals, including Liberty’s.

The school made a new filing with the court during the summer to argue that its claims should be fully evaluated in light of the high-court decision. The administration said it did not oppose Liberty’s request.

Liberty is challenging both the requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, and a separate provision requiring many employers to offer health insurance to their workers.

The appeals court could ask the government and the college for new legal briefs to assess the effect of the Supreme Court ruling on Liberty’s claims before rendering a decision.

Liberty’s case joins dozens of other pending lawsuits about health reform, many involving the requirement that employer insurance plans cover contraception, which are working their way through the federal court system.

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