A majority of U.S. Catholics support President Obama's decision to require religious institutions to include birth control in health insurance plans, according to two new polls.

A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., found that support among Catholics (58 percent) is higher than that of the American public overall (55 percent).

Likewise, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood found that Obama's position enjoys support from 56 percent of American voters. Of the Catholics polled, 53 percent agreed with the president.

Meanwhile, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to decry the president's decision, saying that it violates religious freedom.

"Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs," said a statement on the group's website.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been attacking the president's decision at every turn, too.

"Remarkably, under this president's administration, there is an assault on religion -- an assault on the conviction and religious beliefs of members of our society," said Romney, who has faced hurdles as a candidate because of his Mormon faith.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, both Catholics, have not only criticized the president's position -- they've also attacked Romney's record on the issue. They claim he took a stance similar to Obama's while governor of Massachusetts.

Santorum defied logic this week by claiming that Obama, a Christian, is hostile to Christians, particularly Catholics.

"I'm not going to stand for it," Santorum said.

Maybe so, but the majority of Catholics don't share Santorum's views.


Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer.