The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is deeply disappointed by a White House decision, announced today, that employers with religious objections to contraception will be forced to pay for services and procedures they believe are morally wrong. The unprecedented policy, reaffirming an earlier announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has been strongly criticized by a wide range of religious freedom advocates, including the NAE.

“Freedom of conscience is a sacred gift from God, not a grant from the state,” said Galen Carey, NAE Vice President for Government Relations. “No government has the right to compel its citizens to violate their conscience. The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.”

The HHS policy includes a thin exemption for religious organizations that focus only on religious services to their own members. The exemption leaves the vast majority of religious employers who serve the entire community unprotected. If this narrow definition of “religious employer” is adopted in other areas of law, it may lead to further erosion of the conscience protections Americans have historically held.

The NAE calls on Congress to enact legislation restoring conscience protections for all Americans.