Just when it seemed Rick Perry’s flagging presidential campaign couldn’t get any more desperate, his latest Iowa TV ad disproved that belief.

The Texas governor’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination went up with an ad showing Perry ambling up a small hill while bragging on his religion, slamming gays, and accusing President Barack Obama of a “war on religion.”

Here’s the transcript:

Neighborhood Wine Web Ad (300 x 250 px)

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’m Rick Perry, and I approve this message.

politifact_photos_PerryIn terms of fourth-quarter Hail Mary passes, Perry’s latest deserves the full prayer: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

And probably repeated several times.

The Marlboro Man look-alike’s latest ad marks a new high — or low, depending on how you rank it — in the Perry campaign’s cynicism about the brainpower of Iowa’s Republican voters.  Yet in that cynicism, Perry’s team in 31 seconds managed to slam gays in uniform, grind it in that Perry’s a Christian, call attention to the 1960s-era U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings that prayers in school for specific religions are unconstitutional, and to allege that Obama is anti-religion.

W. Gardner Selby, who runs Politifact for the Austin American-Statesman, wrote Sunday that an investigation of Perry’s claim about praying in school and celebrating Christmas revealed it was false. Selby said a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency told him that state law says school boards shall provide a minute of silence daily so “each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”

“Can kids pray and openly celebrate Christmas in schools?” Selby asks. “Absolutely, we conclude, though public school officials are barred from advancing a religion or making children pray or celebrate solely the Christian aspects of Christmas. Perry’s statement shakes out as false.”

At least a few folks around the country apparently agreed.

Perry’s War on Religion ad, unveiled  on Dec. 7, went viral on YouTube, drawing almost 5 million hits by Sunday afternoon. In that time, it racked up 18,573 “likes” and the most “dislikes” ever for a video on YouTube,  617,342. To save you from doing the math, that’s more than 33 times as many “dislikes.” It also generated an immediate flurry of parody ads on the internet, including one substituting Lord Voldemort’s face for the governor’s.

One of the cleverest versions re-mixed Perry’s own words, in his own voice: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m gay, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this Christian. As president, I’ll fight against the military, faith, religion, Christmas, pray in school. Our kids can’t openly celebrate Obama’s war on Rick Perry.”

Another one ended with this: “Rick Perry may believe in God. But I’ve seen his poll numbers. And God does not believe in Rick Perry.”

It’s a good thing for Perry that evangelical Christians make up a significant portion of Iowa’s Republican caucus attendees. If the Iowa GOP had a significant number of Muslims and gays, Iowans and the rest of us might see Perry on his knees facing east toward Mecca five times a day and barnstorming for same-sex marriage.

Veteran Texas political journalist Dave McNeely can be reached at