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Va. Candidate McDonnell Says Views Changed Since He Wrote Thesis

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McDonnell said that he was seeking a faith-based institution that explored the Christian origins of Western law and that he and his wife wanted to return to Virginia, where they grew up. The school expected students to take their faith seriously; they were admitted only after signing a statement affirming that Jesus Christ was their savior. The school also produced a number of politically active conservatives. Its Web site used to say that 150 of its graduates worked in President George W. Bush's administration. Regent's motto: Christian leadership to change the world.

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The combination of faith and public service was on McDonnell's mind, too. His 1989 thesis -- "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade" -- was on the subject he wanted to explore at Regent: the link between Christianity and U.S. law. The document was written to fulfill the requirements of the two degrees he was seeking at Regent, a master of arts in public policy and a juris doctor in law.

The thesis wasn't so much a case against government as a blueprint to change what he saw as a liberal model into one that actively promoted conservative, faith-based principles through tax policy, the public schools, welfare reform and other avenues.

"Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state," he wrote. "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."

He argued for covenant marriage, a legally distinct type of marriage intended to make it more difficult to obtain a divorce. He advocated character education programs in public schools to teach "traditional Judeo-Christian values" and other principles that he thought many youths were not learning in their homes. He called for less government encroachment on parental authority, for example, redefining child abuse to "exclude parental spanking." He lamented the "purging of religious influence" from public schools. And he criticized federal tax credits for child care expenditures because they encouraged women to enter the workforce.

"Further expenditures would be used to subsidize a dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching status-quo of nonparental primary nurture of children," he wrote.

He went on to say feminism is among the "real enemies of the traditional family."

McDonnell said in his statement that he is "fully supportive of the tremendous contributions women make in the workplace. My wife and daughters work. My campaign manager in 2005 was a working mother. I appointed 5 women to my senior staff as Attorney General."

Maureen McDonnell held a variety of positions with the federal government before the couple started a family, according to the campaign, and she has since run a series of small businesses out of the home. McDonnell's daughter Jeanine served in the Army in Iraq and is now a civilian contract employee; his daughter Cailin is coordinating youth outreach for the Republican Party of Virginia's election efforts this year. Neither daughter is married or has children.

McDonnell's thesis also spends a good deal of time on the importance of tax policy to the health of families. He called for the repeal of the estate tax and for the adoption of a modified flat tax to replace the graduated income tax. Awarding deductions and distributions based on need "is socialist," McDonnell wrote.

His advocacy of abortion restrictions is well known; he sponsored or co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation on the topic, including a ban on late-term abortions, a requirement that minors receive parental consent before having an abortion and a mandated 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. He and like-minded colleagues succeeded in repealing Virginia's estate tax and reforming welfare law, as well as restricting access to abortion.

He also sponsored bills on four occasions to establish covenant marriage in Virginia. All four were unsuccessful. Under McDonnell's proposals, couples choosing to enter covenant marriage would have been required to obtain premarital counseling and sign a declaration of intent acknowledging that marriage is a lifelong commitment. In addition, the time of separation necessary for couples with children to obtain a no-fault divorce would have been extended from one to two years.

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