WASHINGTON -- A major Catholic leader warned Thursday that American Christians are facing an assault by the most secular administration in the nation's history.
"Never in the lifetime of any of us here present has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today," Carl Anderson, chairman of Knights of Columbus, told more than 800 Christians gathered at the 8th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
He went on to say the Obama administration realizes it's at war with pro-life forces, even if pro-lifers don't want to face it.
"Last year, the secretary of Health and Human Services told a NARAL luncheon, 'We are in a war,'" Anderson said.
He was making reference to President Obama's new contraception mandate forcing Catholic institutions to provide services that include abortion-inducing drugs.
Anderson said believers will soon have to follow the example of Martin Luther King in disobeying laws they find immoral.
"He cited St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all," Anderson said.
Kelly Damerow, with the Secular Coalition for America, disagreed.
"The right to believe is absolute. The right to act on those beliefs does have some limits," she said.
Secularists like Damerow believe it's religious institutions that are discriminating against employees who may disagree about contraception or abortion.
"For the contraception mandate, we believe that religious organizations should not get specific exemptions to discriminate on the basis of their religious belief," Damerow said.
Anderson insists exemptions for this mandate are extremely narrow. For instance, for a Catholic institution to be exempt, it could only serve fellow Catholics, not the general public.
"So in a country where three-quarters of the population professes to be Christian, the administration insists upon a religious exception that Christ Himself cannot meet," Anderson told CBN News.
He added that the administration is trying to force believers to tolerate what they once wouldn't.
"When you have a government that's willing to do that, you have a government that's willing to manipulate and change the identity of churches," he warned. "And that's exactly what the First Amendment was designed to prevent."