(Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a Tea Party Rally in Columbus, Ohio February 18, 2012. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has challenged President Barack Obama’s Christian beliefs, saying White House policies were motivated by a “different theology.” A devout Roman Catholic who has risen to the top of Republican polls in recent days, Santorum said the Obama administration had failed to prevent gas prices rising and was using “political science” in the debate about climate change.

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel on Saturday.

When asked about the statement at a news conference later, Santorum said, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.” But he did not back down from the assertion that Obama’s values run against those of Christianity. “He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I’m not going to,” Santorum told reporters.

A social conservative, Santorum is increasingly seen as a champion for evangelical Christians in fights with Democrats over contraception and gay marriage.