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Despite a new proposal from the Obama administration last week, a battle over religious freedom and contraception continues as rallies in more than 100 cities across the country will take place today.

The Obama administration released a proposal last week that specifies which faith-based groups could be exempt from or accommodated within the contraception mandate. The 32-page regulatory proposal unveiled March 16 also suggests that third-party administrators could provide contraception coverage for employees of self-insured faith-based groups at no cost. Churches are exempt from the mandate, while insurers of parachurch organizations will be required to provide contraception to employees.

"They've made it very clear that they're not broadening the exemption," said Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. "It's aptly characterized as the Obama administration continuing to throw ideas out there and see which ones stick to the wall."

Lawyers from the Becket Fund and the Alliance Defense Fund plan to speak at some of today's rallies, organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

On February 10, Obama announced a shift in an earlier ruling by having insurance companies provide the birth control coverage through a separate rider at no cost to the employer. Many religious groups suggest that religious organizations would still have to pay insurance companies for coverage that includes services that violate their teaching.

Religious leaders also suggested the February exemption was still too narrow, possibly setting a precedent for the government to be able to compel religious groups to provide something against their conscience. The March proposal suggests that "this religious exemption is intended ...

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March 2012

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