WASHINGTON, February 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A large group of U.S. Congressmen has sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blasting the administration’s “unprecedented overreach” against the religious freedom of countless Christian schools, hospitals, and charities by forcing them to pay for all contraception, including abortifacients, and sterilizations.

Led by Congressman Steve Scalise, 154 U.S. Congressmen and Senators on Monday voiced their “strong opposition” to the birth control mandate that has sparked an unprecedented wave of outrage among Catholic and Christian communities nationwide.

The group notes in their letter that federal health officials received “over 200,000 comments on the rule” objecting to the exceedingly narrow religious exemption that effectively extends only to houses of worship. Religious critics of the mandate have noted that the narrowness of its religious exemption is unprecedented in federal law.

While ostensibly only pertaining to birth control, they noted, the order amounts to an abortion mandate, as it extends to drugs that can induce abortion such as Plan B and Ella, a sister drug to RU-486.

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“This radical mandate by the Obama Administration is an attack on the religious freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Bill of Rights,” said Rep. Scalise in a press release Monday.  “This is an offensive example of Obamacare’s violation of the conscience rights of American employers just so this Administration can force their radical agenda on hard working taxpayers.”

Scalise is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1179, a bill by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) to reverse the contraceptive mandate. 

The White House last week dismissed concern over the birth control mandate, which has been criticized by all but eight Catholic bishops heading dioceses in the U.S.

Obama press secretary Jay Carney said he “[didn’t] believe there are any constitutional rights issues” with the mandate, and said the exemption did not signal a change in the administration’s policy on conscience protections