WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) -- The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), representing 40 denominations with more than 45,000 congregations, have released a statement urging President Obama to drop the proposed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on contraceptive and abortifacient coverage, even after the administration offered a limited ‘compromise’ slightly expanding religious exemptions to the rule.

“The minor modifications announced today still require many Americans and their religious organizations to either violate faith and conscience or face heavy financial penalties,” wrote the group on Friday. “At the very least he should exempt all religious employers who object on grounds based in religiously informed conscience.”

“This is bad news for all who love religious freedom,” said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “The Obama administration should have done the right thing and dropped the contraception mandate, or at least should have exempted all religious organizations.”

The HHS mandate requires all employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-causing drugs – free of copays – for female employees.

Under the proposed ‘compromise’ offered by the Obama administration, objecting religious organizations are still required to pay for an insurance policy that then triggers coverage for contraception and abortifacients under a second policy. “This is a distinction without a difference, a work-around that doesn't work,” Anderson said.

The NAE also objected to the fact that religious organizations that are organized on a for-profit basis are not granted the accommodation offered to religious non-profits. “[Evangelical] Bible publishers such as Tyndale House would be subject to the rule,” the group complained.

So far, the mandate’s main opponent has been the Catholic Church, whose bishops have helped more than 43 organizations to file a dozen lawsuits challenging the rule.  Those lawsuits, and many others, continue to work their way through the courts.

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“[T]he matter is now ripe for judicial review,” said Anderson.  He said that the NAE has filed several friend-of-the-court briefs in cases related to the contraception mandate, defending the right of employers to exercise their freedom of conscience in health care coverage.

“Early indications are that the administration's rule eventually will be struck down as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” said Anderson. “The administration could save itself much wasted effort and could save scarce taxpayer dollars by simply exempting all organizations that have religious-based conscience objections to the mandate.”

“The desire to provide contraceptives to all Americans should not and cannot override the deep religious convictions of so many Americans.”