Should the federal government force the group Priests for Life to pay for contraceptives? Supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement say “yes.” They claim the pro-life group isn’t religious — nor a religious school or a nonprofit publisher that prints Bibles.

Supporters claim that when religious people go to work they stop being religious. They also claim employers who don’t offer contraception coverage are meddling in their employees’ lives. The opposite is true. By paying workers in money, not in benefits the worker can’t even choose, employers are staying out of their employees’ private lives.

Supporters also argue that employers don’t have the right to deny employees access to contraceptives. That’s true but irrelevant. Employers who do not pay for employees’ contraception are not denying access to those items any more than they are denying access to food by not buying their groceries.

Employees like cash compensation for good reason: They can decide for themselves what to buy. It might be contraception; it might be gas for the car.

It’s called freedom, and the government will be taking some away if it succeeds in forcing employers to convert some of your pay to specific health services you might not even want.

Some people think the rule gives employees free services. Not true. Employers pay employees based on market value. If the government forces employers to pay some of that compensation in contraception coverage, employers likely will deduct that amount from the cash pay.

Employees who get health insurance at work aren’t getting it free. They’re taking some of their pay in health insurance.  It’s when the government tries to force certain benefit packages on employees that problems arise — the problems of restricting freedom and harming people. Some employees need the cash .

In 1993, Democrats, Republicans and then-President Bill Clinton got together and overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under it, the federal government can force people, including business owners, to violate their religious beliefs only if the government has a “compelling interest” to do so. Under that law, the government must prove the mandate is necessary to protect constitutional rights though the mandate violates the First Amendment protection of religious freedom.

The government also has to prove the rule is the “least restrictive” way it can  ensure employed people have access to contraceptives. That will be hard because the public already has access to contraception. It’s legal, widely available and cheap .

The requirement is unfair, unconstitutional and unnecessary. It’s also unpopular. A November Rasmussen poll found the public opposed 51 to 38 percent.

The Supreme Court will void the mandate. The administration should withdraw it now.

Amy Ridenour is chairman of the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research.