Is Barack Obama a Muslim in disguise? Republican Rick Santorum alleges the U.S. president’s faith is “not a theology based on the Bible.” Obama’s camp reacts indignantly and speaks of the “latest low” in the Republican primary campaign. The devout churchgoer Santorum is only partly leading it.

An election campaign in America is always also a cultural struggle - and sometimes the antecedent to religious war. Rick Santorum, the conservative Catholic hopeful for the Republican presidential candidacy, has now reminded his nation of that.

Barack Obama’s policies, warned Santorum over the weekend, pursue the uncanny: “It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible -- a different theology."

Santorum, a devout churchgoer and father of seven children, unleashed an intense echo with his speculative religious research. Ultimately, his defense, made to a circle of Tea Party supporters, sounded as if he wanted to rekindle the crude old rumors that with Obama, a Muslim in disguise had moved into the White House.

“[This is the] latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, searing pessimism and negativity,” came from the campaign headquarters in Chicago. So Santorum regretted it. At least a little.

There are “different stripes of Christianity," he commented, and he by no means wanted to say that the black man in the White House is a non-believer. “The president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.” But then Santorum adds more fuel to the fire.

“He’s Imposing His Values on the Church”

The Republican referred to the most recent controversy about Obama’s health care reform, requiring church-related hospitals or day care centers to provide its employees with an insurance policy that includes no-cost access to contraceptives. With that, Santorum railed, Obama was violating the constitutionally guaranteed right of religious freedom. “He’s imposing his values on the church and I think that’s wrong.”

In fact, Santorum mixes faith and religion into his political message more often than his Republican rivals. With that, the 53-year-old ex-Senator from Pennsylvania is targeting a constituency in Michigan and Ohio – two large states with upcoming primaries – who could decide the primaries: conservative workers without a college education and at best an average income.

These blue-collar workers harbor a deep mistrust of perceived arrogant graduates of elite universities like Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, Santorum’s strongest opponent for the candidacy of the right. Catholic Santorum is courting their votes with God and profession of faith.

Sometimes Santorum gets tangled up in his words in the process. Last week he warned that Obama’s anti-church course was leading America down the path of the French Revolution – “What’s left … became the guillotine.”