A few days ago, Rick Perry launched a television ad in Iowa based almost entirely on religion. “Some liberals say that faith is a sign of weakness,” he told viewers. “Well, they’re wrong. I think we all need God’s help. America’s greatest leaders have been people of strong faith, strong values.”

The spot didn’t generate much in the way of attention, so the Texas governor decided to escalate matters in his new ad. Take a look:

YouTube video

For those who can’t watch videos from your work computers, Perry, talking to the camera, says, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

I suppose it’s possible a message like this might have something to do with Mitt Romney — by emphasizing he’s “not ashamed,” Perry may be drawing a subtle contrast with Mitt Romney, who tends not to make similar boasts about his Mormonism — but it’s more likely the governor just wants Iowans to think of him as the Culture Warrior in Chief.

And maybe this strategy will pay dividends. Iowa Republicans have developed a reputation for extremism on social issues, so Perry may very well connect with a message like this one.

But that doesn’t make Perry’s tirade any less ridiculous. It also doesn’t change the fact that this bizarre persecution complex is wildly misplaced — there is no “war on religion”; DADT’s end has made America safer and the new policy enjoys broad bipartisan support; millions of children openly celebrate Christmas; voluntary prayer in public schools is already legal; and liberals have no interest in Perry’s religious heritage.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.