WASHINGTON — A new poll shows that Americans support a religious exemption from the Obama administration's contraception mandate, with support increasing dramatically alongside church attendance.

A Rasmussen national phone survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Dec. 2-3 revealed that by a 5% margin, Americans favor the option for churches, religious organizations and business owners to be able to “opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives.”

46% of potential voters favor a religious exemption from the federal contraception mandate, while 41% favor the mandate even if providing such coverage “violates deeply held beliefs” of a particular church, religious organization or business owner.

12% of respondents said they are undecided on the issue.

The results showed that favor of opting-out of the mandate increased dramatically among those who attend church nearly every week, with 71% in favor of an exemption if complying violates religious beliefs.

Of those who “rarely or never” attend religious services, 58% opposed a religious exemption.

The contraception mandate — announced in January by the Department of Health and Human Services — requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if they have religious objections to doing so.

It requires that most businesses with 50 or more employees provide the coverage as “preventive care” for women. Violators face fines of $100 per employee per day.

The Obama administration proposed an exemption in February, but the requirements are so narrow that it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist to inculcate religious values, while serving and employing primarily members of their own faith. 

The limited scope of the exemption has sparked outcry as most religious groups and even some churches would fail to qualify for it.

Over 40 lawsuits have been filed against the HHS mandate, representing over 110 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs include Catholic dioceses, the University of Notre Dame and the EWTN Global Catholic Network as well as Protestant organizations like the Virginia-based Liberty University and the Bible publisher Tyndale House Publishers.

They say the mandate violates their religious freedom protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The Christian-owned retailer Hobby Lobby is the largest private business to challenge the mandate on the grounds its owners object to providing abortion-causing drugs in their employee insurance plans.

The company is appealing a Nov. 20 federal court’s refusal of a request for a legal injunction against the mandate. The employer of over 13,000 full-time employees could face $1.3 million in daily fines if it does not comply.

On Nov. 28, the first private business to challenge the mandate, O’Brien’s Industrial Holdings, LLC in Missouri, was granted an injunction by a federal appeals court from the mandate. Owner Frank O’Brien said the mandate violates his religious freedom by forcing him to provide insurance coverage for morally objectionable drugs and procedures.