- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Media attacks on Jerry Regier, a former Oklahoma state official named last week to head Florida's beleaguered child-welfare agency, are politically motivated and intended to embarrass Gov. Jeb Bush, conservatives say.

"This is just the politics of personal destruction, moving from Washington to Tallahassee," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, founded by Mr. Regier in 1981.

"It certainly fits the pattern" of Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush, said Towson Fraser, press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida.

Mr. Regier, who once made headlines in Oklahoma for his work to end corruption in that state's health department, was praised and welcomed Thursday when Mr. Bush chose him as the next secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The tone changed the next day when a Miami Herald article accused Mr. Regier of writing a fundamentalist Christian statement that said it was OK for parents to spank their children until they bruised, denounced women in the workplace and assigned husbands the "final say in any family dispute."

The story, which noted that Mr. Regier "was on his way back to Oklahoma City Thursday night and could not be reached for comment," quoted several Democrats critical of Mr. Regier, including one Oklahoma lawmaker who warned: "He'll turn that agency into a theocracy."

After the story broke, Mr. Regier issued a statement through Mr. Bush's office denying that he had written the paper, "The Christian World View of The Family," which was first published in 1989 by the Coalition on Revival, an evangelical group in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"Contrary to the newspaper article, I was not a co-author of this paper and did not exercise editorial control over its content," Mr. Regier said. "Rather, as a family advocate, I was asked to serve as a co-chairman of the group that released the paper." He said he "severed" his relationship with the coalition "approximately one year after the release of this paper."

There is a lot in the paper "with which I do not agree," Mr. Regier added in his statement. "In my 20 years of service in the area of children and families, I have never been soft on child abuse or wavered in the protection of children, so it is not my position that corporal punishment should result in welts or bruises."

As for excluding women from the workplace, he said: "My own wife of 34 years is a registered nurse and I am extremely supportive of her career."

Mr. Regier, who must be confirmed by the Senate, is still on track to head the Florida agency, an aide in the governor's office said yesterday. "He's been appointed," he said.

However, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill McBride and Janet Reno have denounced the appointment; Bob Poe, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, has asked Mr. Regier to step aside; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at a rally on Saturday that the decision had created a "sense of national outrage."

The Miami Herald has continued to pound the story: A political writer for the paper described the Regier appointment as "a fiasco," and columnist Jim DeFede imagined that Mr. Regier would spend his first day on the job firing a mother for working, dismissing a man with a Jewish name and saying his renouncement of the fundamentalist paper was just a lie to the press because "It's OK to lie to the devil."

Others who know Mr. Regier say he is likely to do a "brilliant" job in cleaning up Florida's child welfare system, which has made headlines all year for "losing" children in its custody.

"I'm very excited about [Mr. Regier] coming here because of his interest in marriage He's done a brilliant job in Oklahoma, and I have every reason to believe he's going to do a brilliant job in Florida, regardless of what things some people want to stir up," said Richard Albertson, who was appointed by the governor to lead the Florida Commission on Responsible Fatherhood.

Mr. Albertson, who also leads a Christian ministry in Tallahassee, said he had never heard of the Coalition on Revival but viewed the outcry over its paper and Mr. Regier as "a way to get at Governor Bush" during the summer doldrums of an election year.

"I think Democrats are going to try [to derail him], but I don't honestly think it's got much traction, other than it's a slow news time. I think there's not much there," Mr. Albertson said.

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