- Associated Press - Thursday, June 16, 2011

FREDERICKSBURG, Va.— Virginia’s outspoken, conservative attorney general urged pastors and other church leaders to speak out politically Thursday, telling them that failure to do so concedes the battle over Christian values to “the other side.”

“You can speak to any issue in America from the pulpit, full-throated, ears pinned back,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II told about 250 Fredericksburg-area clergy at a “Christian Citizenship and Godly Government” breakfast.

The event was sponsored by the conservative Virginia Christian Alliance. Donald Blake, the Richmond-based organization’s chairman, said Mr. Cuccinelli was invited to speak because church leaders are looking for assurance that they can talk about political issues without risking their tax-exempt status.

They can do that, Mr. Cuccinelli said, as long as they are careful to avoid explicitly endorsing or advocating the defeat of a candidate on behalf of the church. Pastors can endorse candidates personally as long as they make clear that their church affiliation is given just for identification purposes, he said.

Mr. Cuccinelli said it’s common for Christians to think “politics is dirty” and avoid getting involved. When that happens, he said: “You just left the field to the other side.”

It was clear that the side Mr. Cuccinelli was referencing includes abortion-rights and same-sex marriage supporters. The Republican alluded to those hot-button issues in his speech.

“Pull out a map of Virginia and look where the abortion clinics are,” Mr. Cuccinelli told the crowd, which included a large number of pastors from black churches. “That doesn’t make you mad? You’re a calmer person than I am. It makes me mad.”

He also said “the homosexual agenda” arises during every General Assembly session. But he said that is not the only issue threatening conservative values.

“We have an out-of-wedlock problem,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “I mean, real men actually get married, right?