Mitt Romney makes an appeal to the Catholic vote with his latest ad, moving away from the economy to talk about health care and contraception.
President Obama has touted newly expanded contraception coverage in ads aimed at women. Now Romney is using the expanded coverage to say the president declared a “war on religion.”
The presumptive Republican nominee’s ad features both former Polish president Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II — a clear play for the Catholic (and Polish) vote.
“Who shares your values?” the narrator asks. “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.”
The reference is to a Health and Human Services regulation that requires insurers to cover contraception without out-of-pocket costs. Churches, synagogues and mosques are exempt. In a compromise designed to quell criticism, church-affiliated employers (such as universities) do not have to directly provide contraception coverage. Women who work for those institutions will get contraception coverage directly from insurance companies, at no extra cost. But that compromise did not satisfy Catholic critics.
In a a clip from Romney’s speech in Poland last month, the candidate quotes the last pope saying, “Be not afraid.”
The narrator concludes, “When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?”
During the Republican primary, when the Health and Human Services Department mandated that most insurance cover contraception without a co-pay, charges of a war on religion were commonplace.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich accused both Obama and Romney of attacking religion. (As Massachusetts governor, Romney signed a law in 2005 to expand Medicaid coverage of the emergency contraceptive Plan B.) Texas Gov. Rick Perry used the ”war on religion” line in an ad that was widely mocked.
Romney was a bit more subtle. He said in February that Obama’s administration “fought against religion” and had a “secular agenda.” In April he said, “I think there is in this country a war against religion.”
But making that accusation directly against the White House incumbent goes further toward making religion an issue in the race.
Christen Varley, executive director of the social conservative advocacy group Conscience Cause, called the ad “a critical moment in the presidential campaign” that sends a message that “religious freedom and freedom of conscience are an issue in the November elections.”