This is extremely interesting - teabag candidate for Delaware's senate seat, Christine O'Donnell, demonstrated her ignorance of the Constitution at a debate with Democratic candidate Chris Coons with one of the most idiotic comments to come out of a candidate's mouth this election season.
Ben Evans wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.I find it funny that their audience was a group of legal scholars and law students - I assume that after the debate O'Donnell lost that particular voting bloc, although I would imagine she will remain strong with the rest of the teabag right - while they profess to be defenders of the Constitution they also seem to share the same understanding of the document that O'Donnell has...
The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.
Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.
When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.
"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.
Update - After taking some time to read the transcript of the debate, I thought of some additional things I would like to comment on - above was only a brief look at just one comment she had made and I thought it would be important to look at some of the various other comments made by O'Donnell and Coons that may have been overshadowed by the one comment.
First, back to the 1st Ammendment question, O'Donnell's camp, as well as the right-wing, were quick to defend the Delaware puritan by claiming she was correct in questioning Coons and then focused on one of Coons' supposed gaffes - when asked by O'Donnell to name the five freedoms of the 1st Amendment, Coons made a comment asking the moderators to be the ones to ask the questions.
Frugal Cafe's Vickie McClure Davidson did an excellent job rounding up conservative comments from around the web, with many chiding Coons for his perceived ignorance of the rest of the 1st Ammendment - the right solidified by claiming O'Donnell was merely questioning where the actual words "separation of church and state" appear in the Constitution - they do not. The phrase originates from a letter penned by founding father Thomas Jefferson, but the Constitution is pretty clear in what it means.
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" pressed O'Donnell. Coons rseponded with the following (the portion of the debate the right focused on): "I think the very first provision of the First Amendment is that a government shall make no establishment of religion, and before we get into a further debate about exactly which of us knows the Constitution better, how about we get the panel asking our questions today?"
It is quite possible that O'Donnell wasn't ignorant to the contents of the 1st Amendment - many right-wing loons honestly believe the establishment clause doesn't apply to things like public schools funding creationism, even though doing so would mean the federal government endorses one religion over another, therefor violating the Constitution (O'Donnell has made other comments regarding subjects like this that I will mention in a bit). My problem with O'Donnell's response is that she didn't articulate what she meant, leaving it up to her handlers to do after the debate. O'Donnell did not ask Coons where that phrase appeared - she asked him where the Constitution creates a secular government, and Coons responded by summarizing the relevant portion - as a deflection technique, O'Donnell quickly tried to redirect the heat by questioning Coons about the five freedoms, which Coons may or may not have known, but it doesn't matter because O'Donnell already screwed up, and considering she got the entire audience laughing at her mistake, I would say Coons was correct to not say anymore.
Whats funny is that it is not Christine O'Donnell who is explaining what she meant - its everyone else, and they seem to get it wrong. Here was Rush Limbaugh's interpretation of the 1st Amendment:
That's not in the Constitution. "Separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution, and the fact that people laughed about this is what's really scary. Most of the Framers and the congressmen who were first elected to the House and Senate prayed every day and went to church in Congress on Sundays, and in fact the House is opened every day with a prayer! Apparently back in the day, the Founders didn't know that there was separation of church and state. All the Founders said was that the state shall not establish an official religion. It does not say that people in government shall not practice or cannot practice a religion. The Senate opens with a prayer every day, as does the House. The House has a chaplain, for crying out loud!I highlighted Rush's comments because I would like to compare them to O'Donnell's past comments, like when she appeared on Hannity and Colms ten years ago claiming homosexuals "[get] away with blasphemy."
So this story was purposely written to make it look like Christine O'Donnell does not know what's in the First Amendment, when she was right. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the words "separation of church and state," and nowhere in the Constitution will you find anything written to convey the meaning that religion is not permitted to be part of government. All it says is that the government shall "establish" one. The United States government cannot proclaim, "This is a Christian nation." It cannot proclaim, "This is a Jewish state," cannot proclaim the official religion of our country is Islam. They cannot do it. But we can have Islamists in government, we can have Christians in government, we can have Jews in government, and they can pray while serving! This has been one of the tricks of the left for as long as I've been alive.
To get God out of our culture, to get God out of the schools, to get God out of everyday life. It's to try to say that the Constitution prohibits God, that's what they want the interpretation of the First Amendment to be. The Constitution does not prohibit God. I mean, for crying out loud, look at the Declaration, acknowledged as one of our founding documents. We are all "endowed by our Creator." The reason for this phrase in the First Amendment was where were these people fleeing? England! The Church of England. Henry VIII established a religion so he could get divorced. Pure and simple, he wanted to get a divorce. Religion said, "No." "Okay, I'm going to make my own religion. Screw you! I'm gonna behead somebody. Screw you!" They were fleeing religious persecution. The scary thing is that a bunch of dummkopf, dingleberry law students and audience at a law school laughed at the correct portrayal of what's in the Constitution.
O'Donnell had also said this: "When you go into the voting booth, ask God which candidate will further the kingdom of God."
Sounds as if she would want to make America a Christian nation with Christian laws, legislating morality.
O'Donnell had also spoke out against evolution, claiming there is probably much more evidence supporting the idea that God created earth in six days, as detailed in the Bible in Genesis. Here is how O'Donnell rationalizes the teaching of creationism in public schools:
Well, I think definitely. However, you need to weigh them side by side - creationism and evolution side by side. When they're together then it is not the establishment of religion. And another thing that we're overlooking is that evolution is also based on a set of belief systems, i.e., a religion and that's secular humanism. So if you're going to say that you can't have religion in school, you can't have secular humanism in schools either, and if you're- and that's just impossible.She still doesn't see the problem of teaching a religious doctrine - creationism - in public schools. How would a Hindu, Budhist, or Atheist feel about having to weigh the merits of creationism with the merits of evolution?
O'Donnell had made previous comments discussing things like creationism in her debates with Coons. Now taking into consideration O'Donnell's history, can you still say O'Donnell was the correct in questioning Coons?