(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."
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
"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."
– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
Keep playing the poor folks afflicted with The Christian Persecution Complex.
I'm worried about keeping my home, my job, being able to feed my family in this tanked economy... I'm glad there is a candidate out there who truly understands the issues important to Americans...
Oh, ffs, this is the stupidest thing I've seen this week. Rmoney will say anything, no matter how ridiculous, if it will get reactionary right regressives a little hot under the collar, and this "war on religion" garbage is calculated to appeal to the most anti-rational, impervious-to-facts, blindly obstinate members of that base, lest they actually look at Rmoney's history and see that he's not really very conservative at all. The only video footage the Obama campaign should have to use in their ads is that of Rmoney clearly and sincerely stating his positions on a wide range of issues – positions which directly contradict his positions on those same issues today. He's not, as far as I can tell, held very many principles firmly for very long at all. I can only suppose political expediency feels more familiar to him than standing firm on a tested and true principle. I wouldn't trust Rmoney any further than I could throw him.
If this is such a war on religion, how come my Honey, who is a nurse at a Catholic hospital, was able to get a vasectomy a few years ago using his employer provided insurance, and the female nurses are already able to get their birth control using that same insurance. They have to go to outside providers for these services, but the insurance still covers it and has for years. How hypocritical that the church is making a huge issue about something they already do!! Maybe it is the free part that has the church's panties in a twist.
Looking at today's poll results, you have to figure Romney has to pull out all the stops from a to z. He now has to pick Ryan to stop a revolt in his Party and the Dems are licking there chops for a shot at Ryan, lol.
Religion is for weak-minded fools.
i guess when one has earned international acclaim as "mitt the twit," the need to pander and lie is job #1for the upper class members of the Very Silly Party. epic fail!
Ah, the decision between 2 evils. Thankfully, I would never vote for either one so I don't have to make the same weak decision the rest of you face.
Lulz, that saw never gets old, does it?
"zomg zomg, there's a WAR on us not dominating everyone with our beliefs!!!!"
i think romney,s coming apart,he,s use to getting his own way
Sounds like Romney, the Republicans, and their big money supporters, are getting more desperate by the day. And even though Obama has no war on religion, he should. The religious nuts in this country are getting crazier by the way. We need to eliminate this dangerous vermin from society.
There is no "war on religion" If anything. there's a GOP war on everyone who doesn't believe the way they do.
What else can you expect from those that follow religions that did not originate in America, but come from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean sea.
our government forced mormons to "go against their faith" by outlawing polygamy and we're all better off for it. freedom of religion doesn't mean that you can negatively impact society. sorry willard.
Health Care coverage is not stopping anyone from practicing their religion! If you do not believe in birth control, don't use it. noone is making you. But you CANNOT force your religious beliefs onto employees in businesses that are not churches and that hire and treat people of different faiths.
It's simple. If you want to be able to force your religious beliefs on your EMPLOYEES, you DON'T TAKE FEDERAL MONEY!
If you take Federal money, you CAN NOT force your religious beliefs on your employees.
Unless you want to take Federal funds, AND impose your religion on your employees.
Most Christians know that the Pope was quoting Jesus when he said "be not afraid". Just saying....
Come on, when Jesus kicked the money lenders out of the temple, they didn't run outside and start yelling that there was a war on religion. Or did they?
That's it. I'm declaring war on religion. No more imaginary friends.
What??? A GOP candidate pandering to the religious? What a shocker!
Let's be honest here. No matter what religion, women are using contraseption because they know they can't afford to have more children to feed, clothe, educate and shelter. But then Mr. Romney wouldn't know or understand the stress of not having enough to provide for more children. How about all the added insurance cost due to those who smoke or drink alcohol to excess causing them to need expensive medical treatment? Is it because it involves men too? Just wondering!
Yeah... like Wheaton College in Illinois that wanted an excemption from the rules to provide contraception because it was against their beliefs only to find out when they filed that they were already providing emergency contraception for their employees. So they rushed to take the coverage away and then filed a suit against the Obama administration because the healthcare was making them do something against their beliefs.... LOL!!!!!!
It's important to note nobody would be FORCED to accept contraceptive methods – it would result from their request. Also important to note many employees of religious organizations do not practice the religion of that organization. This is a "war of religion" how? This is 2012 and we're talikng about "the evils of contraception"? Are Republicans a branch of the Taliban?
Romney can't complete a single sentence without telling a lie.
The only people guilty of a war on religion are the christian right who want to force their beliefs on everyone else in this land where our Founding Fathers declared freedom to worship as you please. Romney's grasping at straws by trying to appeal more to his idiotic base.
I just want Mitt to show me his taxes for the last 10 years. He does that – then I will give consideration to review his portfolio and determine if he is worthy of my vote. Until then, he does not and will not have my vote. Why this is an issue for partisians is beyond reason.