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An uncomfortable backdrop lay behind President Obama's address to the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, as religious groups have generated increasing concern over his administration's mandate to cover contraceptives under the 2010 health care law. Evangelicals have been joining Catholics in voicing growing concerns over the requirement to cover certain contraceptives such as Plan B (or "the morning-after pill"), as well as the Obama administration's narrow religious exemption of churches.

The President said Thursday that the administration is "linking arms with faith-based groups across the country" but did not address faith-based groups' response to his administration's policy. The night before, director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz defended the mandate, noting that most Catholic women have used contraception, 28 states already require contraception coverage, and comparing the cost of contraceptives to unintended pregnancy.

Several Christian college presidents took their concerns this week to their legislators in Washington, D.C., during the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities' (CCCU) annual presidents gathering, said Shapri LoMaglio, who heads government relations for the CCCU. Christian college administrators have long held concerns over whether they would be able to apply for federal funding if they hire within a specific religious tradition and employees agree to specific standards of sexual conduct, but concern about the mandate runs even deeper since groups cannot opt out.

"This is not an option where you can choose to not participate in this program or take a certain grant. There's no discretion, which is why people are so stunned," LoMaglio said. "It's saying, 'If you exist, you ...

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February 2012

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