CHICAGO — A new video aims to sway unaffiliated Catholic voters to Mitt Romney by stressing religious liberty as an election issue.

“We must vote to protect our schools, our hospitals, our charities, our faith,” the ad says. “We won't have social justice unless we defend religious freedom.”

The ad, produced by the Candidate Fund, cites American Catholics’ work in education, health care and work for the poor. It uses images of immigrants, the Catholic Mass, religious teaching sisters and Catholic hospitals to endorse the Republican Romney-Ryan presidential ticket.

The ad was published on YouTube on Oct. 30. It had more than 10,000 views as of Wednesday afternoon.

Joshua Mercer, executive director of the Candidate Fund, explained the motivations behind the ad.

“Before the election of Barack Obama, religious freedom wasn't a partisan issue; it was something everyone believed in and defended,” he said Oct. 31.

Mercer said that President Obama “sought to pander to certain people by gender and religion through this unjust HHS mandate.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that most employers of more than 50 employees provide insurance coverage without a co-pay for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. Despite Catholic and other objections to providing such coverage, the mandate at present does not exempt many Catholic charities, health-care systems and colleges.

Objecting institutions face fines of $100 per employee per day if they do not comply. At least 100 plaintiffs, including several non-Catholic businesses and institutions, have challenged the mandate in 38 federal lawsuits.

While the Obama administration has promised it would revise the mandate’s narrow religious exemption, the details of its proposal have not been released. The Obama campaign has continued to defend the mandate and has used it as a campaign issue, contending that opponents want to limit women’s access to contraceptives.

“Any politician who would attack our soup kitchens, hospitals and schools is morally unworthy of our votes,” Mercer said. “That is why Catholics should vote for Romney-Ryan.”

Mercer said that key states like Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have large Catholic populations. He said the Catholic vote is “the most critical swing demographic.”

The Candidate Fund has spent $290,000 in independent expenditures on behalf of its endorsed candidates in 2012.