WASHINGTON – President Obama, who rarely speaks of his faith, defended some of his administration’s policies this week by saying they reflect his religious convictions.

Speaking Thursday at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said his efforts to regulate Wall Street financiers, health insurers and “unscrupulous lenders” reflected in part his belief in “God’s command to ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.”‘

“I do so because I genuinely believe (the policies) will make the economy stronger for everybody,” the president said. “But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years.”

He also said that some of his policies stemmed from a “biblical call to care for the least of these: for the poor, for those at the margins of our society. “Caring for the poor and those in need. They are values that have always made this country great … and they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.”

The president, whose administration came under fire last weekend from religious groups, including Roman Catholic bishops, for requiring some faith-based employers to include contraceptives in their insurance plans, didn’t address that conflict in his remarks Thursday. At the White House, Carney said that no individual would be required to use or prescribe contraception.

“This rule does not force anyone with a religious objection, such as a Catholic doctor, to prescribe or provide contraception,” he said.

“It merely requires that insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives to patients who want them.”

Obama, who has proposed a tax on the richest Americans to pay for a payroll tax break for the middle class, suggested religious underpinnings to his call for “shared responsibility,” saying that asking those who have been “extraordinarily blessed” to give up some tax breaks makes economic sense.