De Regier

Plumbing the depths of the Christian Taliban

Religious fanatics are threatening to take away our peace and our freedom. They hate our open society and want to send us back to the Stone Age, where we'd be forced to live strictly by the rules of an outdated religious text. Even as I write this, they are planning to take us over, and if they get their way, they'll execute many of us for violating their archaic moral code. They'll rule those left behind with a bloody iron fist.

I am, of course, talking about the Christian extremists.

The underbelly of the Christian Right is as scary as anything that ever dwelled in a Tora Bora cave. If September 11 taught us anything, it should have been to distrust religious fundamentalists of any kind, to leave them stranded on the banks of the political mainstream where they belong. But that basic lesson obviously didn't sink in with the Florida governor or his brother, King George. Jeb has been catering to evangelical loonies ever since he took office; he routinely appoints way-out-there Christian wackos to key posts and backs the Religious Right on issues like abortion, the death penalty, and education. As for President Bush, I need utter only one word: "Ashcroft." And that's just the beginning.

Between them, the Bush brothers have given us "faith-based initiatives" that siphon tax dollars to churches, public school vouchers for religious schools, antiabortion license plates, and state-funded abstinence training. I've been fairly quiet about these things, but now Jeb has gone too far. It's getting very weird in Tallahassee -- like, Piper Laurie from Carrie weird.

I'm alluding to the governor's recent nomination of Jerry Regier to head the state Department of Children and Families. Regier came from Oklahoma, where he headed the departments of juvenile justice and health for Gov. Frank Keating, a key Bush family political ally. Regier's oft-stated goal in life is to take over our secular, Godless government and help create a Christian nation. He's a key agent in a radical movement that to me sounds a lot like the Taliban, only with a Bible instead of a Qu'ran.

Regier the nominee was quickly swamped in controversy for a 1989 essay titled "The Christian World View of Family" that he cowrote for a way-out-there evangelical group called Coalition on Revival (COR). I don't mind spanking, but Regier writes that it's OK to beat kids until they have bruises and welts. He calls it "Biblical discipline," but we have another name for it in Florida -- criminal child abuse.

In the same essay, he advocates old Christian Right standards like the subjugation of wives and the criminalization of homosexuality, fornication, pornography, and masturbation.

Scared yet?

Sure Regier has tried to back off the controversial paper, saying he didn't really write it and left COR in 1990 because he didn't agree with its extremist views. Call it a youthful indiscretion -- Regier was only 44 years old at the time, after all.

Of course, Regier's real mistake was putting his name on something he truly believes in. Jay Grimstead, COR's leader, says Regier actually cut ties with his group in about 1995, and then only because he'd become a bureaucrat in Oklahoma and couldn't afford to be tied to such radical ideas. It was a divorce of convenience, which is kind of ironic since Regier is a great champion of marriage who oversaw the spending of $10 million in public money, some of it going to churches, to support an ineffective "marriage initiative" in Oklahoma.

Regier really can't deny that he was born to be wild, at least in the Christian wacko sense. His Mennonite ancestors came to America from Prussia in the 1800s to escape religious persecution, says Rob Regier, a distant cousin of Jerry's who is now in charge of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, an ultraconservative Christian group that rails against gays. "There was a split at one time between conservative and liberal Mennonites," Rob Regier says. "But I know that on the Regier side, it was a very conservative Mennonite upbringing."

The son of an evangelical preacher, Jerry Regier graduated from Grace University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Omaha, Nebraska, that, according to its Website, is dedicated to "building servant leaders for the home, the church, and the world." In a Grace University newsletter from April 2000, Regier is quoted as saying, "Grace gave me the preparation to impact the world through a thorough infusion of Biblical knowledge, which has grounded my work in the political world in Biblical principles.... It prepared me to approach everything I do from a Biblical viewpoint."

And there it is. Regier isn't a public servant-- he's Christ's "servant leader." Along with Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell.

Jerry Regier came to prominence during the Reagan Revolution, working in the White House and forming the fervently antigay Family Research Council in 1981. Five years after that, he became a key figure in Grimstead's Coalition on Revival, serving on its committees and helping to draft mission statements that detail how evangelicals should take over every major institution in America, an undertaking known as the "Great Commission" in evangelical circles.

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