Can Congress use its power under the interstate commerce clause to force you to buy something? A federal judge says yes, dismissing a case brought by Liberty University, the institution founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

You can read the 54-page opinion of Judge Norman K. Moon, issued on November 30, on the NY Time website (PDF file).

On its Facebook page, the Freedom Center of Missouri offered this commentary, with which I agree without reservation:

A federal judge in Virginia upheld the health insurance mandate contained in the health care reform law as a valid exercise of Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce. Broadening the reasoning in two important precedents, he reasoned that because a decision NOT to engage in certain economic activity can affect the stream of commerce, Congress must have to power to force Americans to purchase services.

When the people of the United States ratified the Constitution, it was with the understanding that the federal government’s powers would be “few and defined.” If Congress has the authority to force an ordinary citizen to purchase something they do not want, what CAN’T Congress force Americans to do? In what sense can Congressional authority be said to be “limited”?

The Reason Foundation has more on its Hit and Run blog, which notes that freedom to NOT buy insurance is one of the casualties of the “war on drugs.” In the Raich decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rationalized federal action against California’s medical marijuana law on — you guessed it, the interstate commerce clause. Moon cited Raich (see page 22 of his ruling), among other cases.

Doubtless this ruling is not the end of the legal challenges to ObamaCare, but it’s not a good sign. The plaintiffs say they will appeal the ruling to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In total, there are some two dozen legal challenges to the law.