(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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Which religion is that Mr. Romney? Mormonism? The so called Christians that hate everyone? The boys club in the Catholic Church harassing hardworking nuns and protecting criminal priests? You must have a very poor opinion of the American voters' intelligence. I am a woman, a teacher, a parent and a Catholic by faith. Mr. Obama is working under the principle of justice for all. You and your self serving religious fanatics are harming this country in ways your limited mind cannot understand. Religion is personal, you have no right to make assumptions about other people's religious views. This a democracy, not a theocracy.
Romney has declared a war on truth. Show us your taxes.
This country has problems – but Romney in 2012 will not be one of them!!!!!!!
This is Romney’s second wave on his War against our Women, using the Church as his weapon. He is quick to defend and protect Predator priest raping and destroying our children’s lives and innocence – but women’s rights he feels is fair game.
It's amazing how modern humans continue to believe in childhood tales of fiction. People are so gullible.
I love the MOB
There is no war on religion in this country. Mike Huckaby said it right "Romney is a man without a soul."
Can't wait to see how this one plays in the polls. If it doesn't help, what will Mitt try next? Promise federal laws to require every American who doesn't already own a gun to have one or pay a tax penalty?
There is no 'war on religion!' if anything, there is a backlash against all the right-wing fundies trying to force us all to live by their beliefs. this is not a theocracy. everyone is free to believe and pray as they wish without the government favoring one faith over another. the myth that this is a 'christian' nation goes against everything our Founding Fathers intended for this country. they, themselves said America is in no way founded on the christian faith. if we want to keep this country safe for all religions, we need to fight the 'right' and their religious fanaticism or we will lose our right to believe as we wish.
Romney, is this your last cannon ball in your artillery?
Romney said he was quoting Pope John Paul II when he said "Be not afraid." Actually, JPII was quoting Jesus Christ....
he is putting his strange views out there. why isn't he putting his tax returns out there? he is a greedy crook and makes anti american investments. we already know he hides money in other countries. he avoids paying his fair share of tax. it may be legal, but it is certainly immoral. what a president he would make!
So, if I run a business, Romney and the American Taliban think that I should have the right to impose my religious beliefs on my employees and customers. If I operate a hospital, I should be able to determine what treatment a patient receives based on MY religion, not the patient's religion. And I should be able to force my employees to abide by My religious beliefs if they want to work in my hospital. Their health insurance must follow MY religious beliefs even thought I insist that they pay for it. And Romney doesn't think that's a war on the religious beliefs of my employees and patients??? Please note that, according to Georgetown U., a single student is currently paying over $2000 this year for their health insurance. The idea that it's "FREE" medical services and medications is absurd.
Absolutely IS A WAR ON RELIGION. Do y'all realize several church affiliated hospitals/schools/etc provide insurance THEMSELVES. Regardless, Why should I, as a God fearing person, go against my faith & pay for contraception???????????
It's ok too have your head in the clouds with God, you must remember your feet are on earth.
Really, Romney? War on religion is your campaign this late in the process? LOL
My thanks to the Romney team for taking up this cause, but you have not earned my vote yet. Your tax policies are problematic for anyone interested in the biblically just approach to government action. I'm not sure that gulf can be overcome.
However, it really makes me question the honesty of most Democrats to see the comments by those who support Obama's policy. Even if you have no personal qualms with contraception, the idea that those who oppose it should nonetheless be forced to fund it is indefensible. Do Democrats believe that religious objections to contraception are disingenuous, or do they simply wish to discount our principled opposition? It's obvious to me, but apparently not to many of you, that people should not be forced to pay for others to receive services that violate their religious beliefs. Particularly when there is currently no significant barrier for those who wish to use contraceptives to acquire them (Ortho Tri Cyclen is $9/month at Target), there is no "compelling" reason to implicate those morally opposed to the practice in its funding, simply to help bring costs down.
Under Obama's accommodation, religiously-affiliated organizations that self-insure (which are many) would still be forced to pay explicitly for contraceptive coverage. Private business-owners opposed to contraception would be nonetheless be forced to purchase it for their employees. Furthermore, in the cases where the insurance company is to pay for the coverage instead, there is nothing to prevent the insurance company from rolling the contraceptive costs into the overall prices charged for the coverage.
Look, is this the single most important issue in this campaign? No way. But it is a sign that Democrats feel entirely comfortable. not to say noble, in overwhelming the religious beliefs of individuals under the guise of maintaining a separation between church and state. In truth, this policy causes the state to intrude upon one's religious beliefs. The identification of Obama's position as a "war on religion" is, of course, hyperbolic, but the policy is unmistakably an intrusion on religious freedom.
Romney thinks he'll get a planet when he dies.
We have a war on Islam, isn't that a religion? Is he against that? What is a war on religion and why does it play here?
Go ahead Mitt, open the door on religion. We would love to talk about it. Lets start with your church. Why do so many people say it is a cult? Why do Mormons keep really large storage rooms in their homes, full of canned and dried foods? What do they think is going to happen? Do they know something the rest of us don't know? Why are Mormons so secretive?
Mitt.....seek help. Really. According to FoxNews & the GOTP, Democrats are waging "War on Everything"..."War on Apple Pie", whatever......
desperate times call for desperate action .. the empty GOP/TP suit is willing to double down on the war on women ..Desperate Desperate Desperate .. Shame Shame Shame .. didnt the Bible say thou shalt not bear false witness... of course Romney is a Mormon and Mormons have their own Bible
Why is no one talking about the Republican war on intelligence?
$16.00 dollars for a gallon of gas feels real good
War on religion? Really? Did you know that the founding fathers of this country were at war with religion? They were. The Bill of Rights outlawed religious practices that had been common during the colonial era, like the trying and executing of heretics and witches. These were not only held to be God-given rights, but a religious duty. (Thou shalt no suffer a witch to live. Ex..22-18) The question of individual rights was best summed up by the French when they stated that they end when they start to infringe on someone else's rights. We all have a right to health care, regardless of whether it's against the religion of our employers to provide it to us, just as we have a right to go living even if our employers subscribe to an ancient religion that commands them to kill us. This is the essence of the freedom of religion clauses that appear in all bills of rights adopted by countries that have suffered under Christendom. Freedom of religion guarantees the rights of individuals to believe in whatever god or gods or goddesses they please, but it does not guarantee them the right to inflict their views or their religious practices on anyone else. Amen.