This morning, it came to light that Christine O’Donnell may have said something truly outragingly outrageously outrageous at a debate in front of law students in Delware. Naturally, because the media recognizes that she lacks the mental capacity necessary to adopt a liberal outlook or send donation checks to NPR, her observations on the contents of the Constitution sent shockwaves roiling through the lefty blogosphere. How dare she suggest that the Constitution doesn’t actually say there’s a Separation of Church and State!
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.
Does anyone actually read the Constitution anymore? Do we just assume we sort of know what it’s talking about because we’ve seen three episodes of Schoolhouse Rock and a very special episode of Real World: DC where they visited the National Archives and then passed out drunk on the Capitol steps? In this case, both answers are off base, but at least Christine’s seems to indicate a general understanding of applied civics. Chris Coons, as we’ll find out in a second, first heard the word “Constitution” three days ago from his debate prep team.
Look, I was once a law student. I can’t promise that law school attracts the brightest crayons in the drawer, but unless they also missed some sixth grade level social studies, they should know that no where in the Constitution does it explicitly call for a separation of church and state. In subsequent case law, the Supreme Court has found time and again that no such distinct separation exists, and the intermingling of religion and government is, while subject to strict oversight and tight standards, possible, if not increasingly complex. The founders were big fans of secularism, no doubt, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” appears in Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, and we’ve come to have a fairly modern understanding of the role each plays in each and each plays alone. In other words, the “separation” is actually more of a legal concept than it has ever been an explicit maxim.
More succinctly put, a cursory Google search of the founding document for the words “separation of church and state” reveals nothing more than Chris Coons’ preening sense of cultural elitism.
Obviously the problem comes in when Christine seems to totally forget the text of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (which, oddly enough, makes mention that the provision exists to protect the Free Exercise of religion), but hey, if we’re going to get into who actually remembers more of the Constitution verbatim, Chris Coons couldn’t name any part of the First Amendment not solidly contained in the Democratic talking points memorandum.
O’Donnell was later able to score some points of her own off the remark, revisiting the issue to ask Coons if he could identify the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.”
Coons named the separation of church and state, but could not identify the others — the freedoms of speech, press, to assemble and petition — and asked that O’Donnell allow the moderators ask the questions.
“I guess he can’t,” O’Donnell said.
Oopsies! I wonder how comforting it is to liberals to know their man has absolutely no freaking clue what the First Amendment actually says that isn’t politically expedient – a fact that was pointed out by someone who is “widely understood” to be a complete and utter idiot. If Christine is “appalling,” “unacceptable,” “shocking,” and “disturbing,” what does that make Chris Coons? I mean, other than a disgrace to his party and the whole public education system?
Maybe he should take up witchcraft. I hear it’s an excellent campaign strategy.