Virginia Attorney General Tells Pastors to Get More Involved in Politics

Late last week the Virginia Christian Alliance (VCA) and Fredericksburg Christian Schools (FCS) got their own special tutorial on pastors injecting themselves into politics, in Fredericksburg, by the state’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. According to the Washington Post, Cuccinelli provided “guidance on how ministers can be involved in politics without jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of their churches.” The Post reported he has long advocated that Christian conservatives be involved in politics to promote “godly” government.

Cuccinelli is not giving out non-partisan legal advice to a full spectrum of the state’s religious groups. VCA’s website reported on the event, warning that “Virginia Pastors are Losing the Culture Wars.” VCA’s website lists its heroes, several of whom have Christian Reconstructionist ties, including David Barton, the late D. James Kennedy, Ken Ham, Roy Moore, and Pat Robertson.

The other event sponsor, Fredericksburg Christian Schools, (FCS) claims that parents bear the God-ordained responsibility for education and the schools and churches are to assist them in that role. Conspicuously absent from the list of institutions legitimately involved in education is the state, indicating that FCS embraces the prevalent view in “Christian education” circles that public schools are unbiblical.

At the VCA/FCS-sponsored event, Cuccinelli told pastors that they could personally endorse candidates, hand out voter guides, and speak to any political issue they choose. Then he told them that when they failed to engage in politics “the other side wins.” Rob Boston over at Americans United for the Separation of Church and state accused Cuccinelli of “polluting the pulpit” and asked a great question: “Since when is it the attorney general’s job to urge churches to dive into politics?” Boston also pointed out that Cuccinelli has given suspect interpretations of federal regulations in the past and at this event.

But it really doesn’t seem like the host organizations needed any encouragement. VCA exists to promote “a Biblical point of view” on issues including “Creationism, Sanctity of Life and Sexual Purity. Our Nation under God, and God Ordained Families.” They are already active in opposition to abortion, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, opposition to same sex marriage, and support for government-led prayer.

The Attorney General is using his position to shore up right wing constituent groups and in the process encouraging what may well be an unconstitutional blending of church and state.

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.