(CNN) - After weeks of attacking President Barack Obama's economic record, Mitt Romney took a sharply different tack Thursday in his latest television ad, going after the president for policies the Republican challenger amounts to a "war on religion."
In the spot, which also features footage from Romney's trip in July to Poland, an announcer says Obama's heath care law forces religious institutions to "go against their faith."
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"Who shares your values?" the announcer asks. "President Obama used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith. Mitt Romney believes that's wrong."
In a press release that accompanied the ad, the campaign justifies the "war on religion" claim using an editorial published in the San Antonio Express News in February, as a political firestorm waged over a controversial federal rule requiring employers cover contraception in their health insurance plans.
The rule in question mandated all employers, including religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and colleges, provide free contraception to employees through health insurance plans. Churches were exempted from the law.
After uproar from conservatives and religious groups, Obama announced an accommodation to the rule on February 10. Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions.
A poll taken in March by the Public Religion Research Institute showed a majority of Americans - 54% - said religiously affiliated colleges and universities should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception.
Romney's thirty-second ad, titled "Be Not Afraid," does not directly reference the contraception rule, or the subsequent accommodation from the Obama adminstration.
After the "war on religion" segment, the ad uses a clip of Romney speaking in Poland.
"In 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire: 'Be not afraid,'" Romney is showed saying.
"When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?" the announcer asks.
Romney's speech in Warsaw marked his last public remarks on a week long, three-country foreign swing in July that was meant to bolster his foreign policy credentials. The trip also brought the candidate to London and Israel - two stops marred by stumbles, including a suggestion that the organizers of the London Olympics were ill prepared to host the 2012 Games. In Israel, his remarks in support of the Jewish state provoked an angry response from Palestinian leaders. But his stop in Poland was largely free of any major gaffe from the candidate.
In Thursday's ad, Romney is shown meeting with Lech Walesa, the shipyard worker who went on to inspire the Solidarity trade union and the eventual fall of the Iron Curtain. When Romney was in Poland, Walesa effectively endorsed him for president.
Romney's ad Thursday could be seen as a direct appeal to Catholic voters, who according to national exit polls went for Obama over Sen. John McCain in 2008 54%-45%. Organizations of Catholic bishops have led the charge against the contraception provision in Obama's heath care law.
Obama, who was campaigning in Colorado Wednesday, also subtly harkened back to February's debate over contraception. He was introduced by Georgetown University Law Center graduate Sandra Fluke, who was at the center of the controversy earlier this year after testifying to Congress about the importance of providing birth control to employees of religiously affiliated institutions.
Responding to the Romney ad, an Obama spokeswoman defended the president's contraception stance.
“President Obama believes that, in 2012, women should have access to free contraception as part of their health insurance, and he has done so in a way that respects religious liberty," Lis Smith wrote. "Churches are completely exempt and religiously affiliated organizations that object to providing the service will never have to pay for contraception. Mitt Romney apparently disagrees with this approach and it’s no surprise why. He has pledged to ‘get rid of’ of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and would take women’s health back to the 1950’s. Women can’t afford his extreme policies."
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Religious nut cases like Mitt Romney are such wonderful people aren't they? They to regulate our freedoms based on their views of God and what they think God wants. Long live the Taliban mentality in the USA....vote Romney.
The GOP are in the business of getting us involved in wars that we need not fight! Come on Mr. Romney, lets get back to your taxes. Where are they? Show at least 7 years; that's a good number....
Mitt wants to turn America, into a country like Iran. A religious Theocracy is what Republicans want. Be afraid people, they will work hard to get rid of freedom of religion.
Christians are not being allowed to dictate insurance policy, public school curriculum and control public discourse. The First Amendment gives them the right to tell us what to do. Quit stopping them.
A few years ago, Target stores told their employees that during the holidays they could greet customers with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", whichever they were comfortable with. The Taliban, sorry I meant fundamentalist Christians were outraged at the "attack" on religion. According to them, if a Jewish employee saw a Buddhist monk in a saffron robe enter the store they should be required to say "Merry Christmas" or else get fired for it. That is called freedom of religion.
To me, big government = forcing religion on others. It's funny how Christians think atheism is being forced on them yet seem completely unaware of what it's like to be a Jew in this Christian-dominated nation. I support small government and atheistic government because they're the same thing to me.
We should declare war on all imaginary beliefs.
i can't believe Mitt. is having this contraceptive debate, i smell desperation.
The Ten Commandments... good rules to live by IF everyone does.
This perceived "War on Religion" by Romney the chronic liar, is another way to keep those tax record away where he should be telling the truth. This man doesn't know truth... only lies, greed and collusion.
...isnt there something in the bible about removing the plank from your own eye before trying to take the splinter out of somebody elses?
Please stop throwing stones. What does romney beilieve? Not in the Holy Trinity or the Bible being the Word of God Christians need to look into Mormon beliefs they may be shocked.
I used to love the song 'Be not afraid', However the mormon bishop now has dragged that to the depths. No body is forcing anyone to do anything. It is still a chioce. If you have a convictions against it then don't use it very simple. The bishops of the church are scared and for a couple of good reasons. They have been caught scewing up childrens lives. The interesting thin here is that Catholics all over the country of all national origins will be bullied into voting for a person who under the church's decritpion is a vitual anti-christ. Thats what sad and when they cross the line like that with political adventurism in the US they can bring on there own nighmare that being paying taxes like every man and women in the country. How can they reconcile the fact they are pushing people to vote for an anti-christ? Yup its good ole Mitt.
So, under Obamacare Muslims can be exempted because of their beliefs, but not so for Christians. Hmmm.
Why is it that not permitting someone else's religion to dictate to me what I, a consenting adult, can or cannot do, is considered an attack not on religious oppression, but on religious freedom?
Yes, Mitt – drag out ANYTHING but a clear DETAILED plan about your vision for America's future. Keep going after issues which are scare points that your election team have given you to lip-synch... Rush Limbaugh will provide the requisite backup Greek chorus.
What a lost cause this Romney is. Out of touch with the middle class and the poor, out of touch with healthcare costs and why we need Obamacare, out of touch with religion and the role it should play in people's lives, won't release his tax returns.... How pathetic can one person be anyway?
What the Christian Right doesn't seem to understand (because they are too busy forcing their own religion down everyone's throats) is that religious freedom does NOT mean you only have the right to be a Christian in America. It means you have the right to practice the religion you choose for YOURSELF. Christians constantly insist on pressing their religious beliefs on all citizens (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) in the political landscape. The two are *supposed* to be mutually exclusive. When Christians start keeping their religion to themselves and out of the government, we atheists will be more than happy to degrade our "war" on their beliefs. I don't personally care if someone thinks the Easter Bunny is real. When that person starts insisting that I believe as they believe, and creates laws and doctrine based on their belief's moronic dogma, then I have a problem and I am left with no choice but to wage war to protect my own interests and beliefs.
Atheists did not start this "war". Those who practice religion and force their beliefs on everyone else did.
I'd much rather we talk about the female employees of these religious organizations thaat will be denied part of their health care. Many of these organizations are hosoitals.During a nursing shortage these organizations will find it very difficult to staff younger nurses that are of childbearing age, as a result patients will suffer with substandard care.The "War on Religion" has devided the churches.We now have a Christian right and a Christian left. The left is watching as Right's denomination's dewindle, and have decided to be politically correct and live in the year 2012.
"we should be talking about the economy....except abortion, guns and religion" Flip you are so totally lost and disprganized, you don't know what you are talking about on any given day
And to Decrepite Old Fossilized Texan, anyone that doesn't want their leaders using their religious beliefs as absolute dogma in their decisions is the smart one. If you want religion so much, go to Iran
No disrespect Texan, but you're way off on that remark. It's the Evangelicals who will cause the most harm in my opinion, but it's also apparent to me that Mr. Romney is grasping at straws.
Except that the 86% who are religious believe in about 38 different gods and each one has a 'divine creed' that differs from the others. Good luck with that.