Regent University Thesis Becomes Hot Issue In Va. Governor’s Race

A 20-year-old thesis a candidate for governor of Virginia penned while attending TV preacher Pat Robertson’s RegentUniversity has become an issue in the race.


Robert F. McDonnell, a member of the House of Delegates and former attorney general, submitted the thesis at age 34 while working on a master’s degree at the school. Two years later, he was elected to the state assembly.


In the thesis, which was obtained by The Washington Post from Regent, McDonnell asserted that women who have jobs outside the home are “detrimental” to families, blasted feminism and insisted that government should foster policies favoring married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” He labeled a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing unmarried couples to access contraception as “illogical.”


In the 93-page document, McDonnell outlined a 15-point action plan that he said Republicans should enact. As a legislator, he pursued at least 10 of them, including school voucher subsidies, abortion restrictions and covenant marriage.


McDonnell, who has been running as a centrist, told The Post his views have changed over the years.


“Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and attorney general and the specific plans I have laid out for our future – not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven’t thought about in years,” he said. “Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older.”


McDonnell now says he believes the government should not discriminate against gays or attempt to ban contraceptives. He also said he has no plans to push vouchers in Virginia and that he supports working women.


State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, McDonnell’s opponent, sought to make hay with the issue. Several of Deeds’ supporters argued that McDonnell’s views haven’t really changed.


“There is just a massive effort under way to rebrand Bob McDonnell, and his whole legislative career speaks otherwise,” Barnie K. Day, a former state delegate, told The Post. “The voters have a right to know who these candidates really are.”


McDonnell wrote the thesis, titled “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade,” while pursuing a law degree and a master’s in public policy at Regent.


In the document, McDonnell argued that public schools should teach “traditional Judeo-Christian values” and advocated tightening divorce laws. He also wrote, “Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state. Historically, the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment were intended to prevent government encroachment upon the free church, not eliminate the impact of religion on society.”