(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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I would like to see a stepped up War on Religion..take the gloves off...see how their imaginary friends stack up aganst a coulple of A-10 Warthogs.
Is contraception still evil if welfare moms use it to prevent having more children? I'm getting the feeling that conservatives prefer not to cough up more tax money for welfare but this seems to be a contradiction...
Mitt and GOP would rather declare war on women, the poor and the middle class.
Romney must be desperate to play the religion card. Given that Romney is 9 points behind Obama in the FOX News poll–yes, Republicans, Romney can't even beat Obama in a FOX News poll– he has good reason to be desperate.
This kind of talk causes the mentally I'll to walk into a church and open fire. Way to spread the hate Mitt!
Hmmm. If they don't want free birth control there will be more abortions. Good job Mitt Wit!
Does Mr. Romney mean because of the religion, for whatever reason he might have meant, people cannot have healthcare?
Religion is your freedom, but if legislature is passed against one of your "beliefs"...tough luck. This is a Democracy, where legislature is built off a majority vote; not a Theocracy where religion determines our legislature. Comply with the rules or face the consequences; otherwise, move to Saudia Arabia or Iran or some other place I am sure you would fashion living in reeeeal well...
Its not a war on religion or women or anything else. These religious organizations are employers. They employ people of other religions. Seems to me that forcing someone of one religion to follow the beliefs of another, who just happens to be your employer, is more of a war on religion. No one is being forced to perform actions that violate their beliefs.
You mean the same Health Care plan he signed into law as Governor, without so much as a single protest or complaint?
Romney is right an attack on any right can lead to more obstructions to our rights plus planned parenthood is just wrong
I will do everything in my power as an individual to eradicate religion – it is irrational, evil and wasteful – for the rest of my life I will oppose Christians and all other religions and do my my best to make sure they don't enter into the population at large. All religions are bad and I wouldn't mind it if it was illegal for Christianity to be practiced in this country – it would be better place!
This country was founded by religious people
btw, the percentage is much higher than Romney states. to think this country is 84% religious is absurd.
How is offering contracetive coverage a war on religion??? No one is forcing usage!!!
When did gay marriage become something that is a war on religion? No one is saying YOU have to participate in it. So NO ONE is taking away YOUR rights. Don't hear anyone talking about males in Utah marrying multiple underage women and failing to be prosecuted. So there, all the religious freedom you could want.
A war on religion is something we need. We need it BADLY. Of course polls show it is happening all by itself.
War on religion? Damn, that's desperate. Next they will whine that some people don't say "Merry Christmas".
Religion is used once again as a scare tactic. God gave people a choice as we are not enslaved to Love God it is chosen by the people whereas Religion wants to enslave us all to one's ideas. Keep Religion and Government Separate. The Health Care Law is a very good Law it offers a way toward equality for all. Republicans have used every tactic to end it. I ask Why? Is it for Money or for the Insurance Companies? Life needs to be protected and the Health Care Law is one way to do so. Our relationship with God is not under attack how can it be ever. We are prone to suffer from evil and it includes actions from politicians who say they are of God but nothing separates you from God except your choice. I am voting for Obama.
Romney's clueless. He's been told multiple times that the only way he can win is by focusing on the economy. Instead of that, he's still sticking to the social issues that matter so much to the GOP voters whose votes he can count on, instead of the independent voters he needs to win. Besides, his own religion is kinda weird.
Just more and more ranting and raving
Good. It's time to quit pandering to "religion" and to do what is right.
Whoever thought that after almost 40 years, women would still be fighting for freedom in their health choices?
"We" ain't a sharp species. We kill each other over arguments about what happens when you
die, then fail to see the freaking irony in that.
What many people don't realize about how this is not a war on religion is that if there was a 'if your religion doesn't believe in it you don't have to allow your employees access to an insurance that covers it' loophole to this, that could then be extended to any medical procedure. There are plenty of religions that don't believe in such things as surgery, tranfusions, psychiatric care or even medical intervention at all. If all it took for an employer to stop providing any medical insurance was to convert to one of those religions, how many could honestly say they wouldn't put that past their bosses? Too many already go out of their way to have as few full time benefits-eligible employees as possible, opening a full exemption door would be disastrous.