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Separation of church and state questioned by Christine O'Donnell

This blogpost was cross-posted from the Washington Post's On Faith website.

Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons (D) and Christine O'Donnell (R) met again Tuesday at Widener University's School of Law for a debate over, among other contentious topics, the separation of church and state.

After a squabble over whether or not schools should be permitted to teach creationism as a competing theory to evolution, Coons said that the First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to imply the case for the separation of church and state.

O'Donnell interrupted:

O'DONNELL: "So you're telling me . . . that the phrase 'separation of church and state' is found in the First Amendment?"

Coons didn't take the bait and went on, citing the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment as confirmation of the First Amendment's intention.

The debate soon after returned to the subject:

O'DONNELL: "Let me just clarify, you're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

COONS: "'Government shall make no establishment of religion'"

O'DONNELL: "That's in the First Amendment"

It is not clear if O'Donnell last line is a question, a rumination or a confirmation. Listen to the clip and decide. (Around the 19 minute mark).

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

This point --that the First Amendment does not call for the separation of church and state --is a favorite among some conservative religious activists who say that proponents of secularism have gone too far in removing religion from the public square. For one such perspective, read David Barton, conservative Christian activist and Wallbuilders founder.

The phrase itself --'separation of church and state' --originated from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a persecuted Baptist minority group in 1802, well after the Constitution was written and ratified. Jefferson wrote:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

Government may not 'establish' a religion, nor may it 'prohibit the free exercise thereof.' This tension -between the freedom of citizens to express their faith and the duty of government to stay out of the religion business -has haunted America throughout her history. But given the competing opinions on where to draw that line on issues like abortion, gay marriage, public prayer and yes, teaching creationism, could it be that open debate is a sign of a healthy and functioning democracy?

What did you think of the back and forth between O'Donnell and Coons over the 'separation of church and state'? Do you think the country has gone too far --or not far enough --in keeping religion out of the public square?

By Elizabeth Tenety  | October 19, 2010; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election, 44 The Obama Presidency  
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Next: O'Donnell: Close the borders entirely

Comments

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the 1st Amendment erected a "wall of separation" between the church and the state (James Madison said it "drew a line," but it is Jefferson's term that sticks with us today). The phrase is commonly thought to mean that the government should not establish, support, or otherwise involve itself in any religion.

Liberals twisting the founding father's words to suit their aganda. Maybe the left would like to rewrite history and give us a new group of founding fathers? What would their "constitution" e drafted from? The Communist manifesto?

Posted by: pielusztcontractor | October 25, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Although unfortunately presented inarticulately, Ms. O’Donnell is correct that "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, nor is it a correct interpretation of the Establishment clause. The sole meaning of the Establishment clause was to prohibit the federal government from preferring one faith as a national religion. The 20th century Supreme Court rulings expanding that clause to incorporate the bigoted 19th century anti-Catholic concept of "separation of church and state" are an unconstitutional exercise of judicial overreach, as well as creating a jurisprudence which even pro-separationists acknowledge is incoherent. We need to amend the first amendment to restore the original meaning of its establishment clause, which is non-preference among denominations, not secular hostility to faith in general. See http://www.timelyrenewed.com.

Posted by: tr1123 | October 21, 2010 2:22 AM | Report abuse

What kind of wall of separation did Jefferson envision?

Did he want it to be utterly impenetrable?

Not all walls are 12 feet thick and made of lead.
Some wall are paper thin. Some are massive. Some have windows or gates or doors.

The wall Jamie Gorelick raised between the FBI and the CIA, before 9/11, should have been more porous.

Maybe the wall of separation between Church and state should be more porous, too.

Posted by: dumbreddown | October 20, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Democrats, like Coons, are careful to quote Jefferson when it suits their purposes.

Coons obviously values Jefferson's writings about the "Wall of separation" between Church and State.

How much does Coons value Jefferson's mention of "our Creator" in the Declaration?

Does Coons really think that Jefferson would want to ban the mention of "our Creator" in a classroom?

BTW, Why does Obama consistently omit the words "our creator" when he quotes the Declaration of Independence."

Posted by: dumbreddown | October 20, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I understand that the affirmed atheists now make up something like ~14% of the US population. If the closet atheists were added to this my guess is that the total would probably double thus making atheism equal to the largest religious group in the USA. Yet ~45% of US responders to 8 separate Gallup polls over the last 25 years said that the earth was less than 10,000 years old and evolution didn`t happen. This represents slow progress for rational thought given that Darwin`s "Origin of Species" was printed 151 years ago. Europeans did much better on the above questions.

Silly evangelicals and fundamentalists of all stripe should be denied the vote until they become better informed/rarional.

Posted by: ddmjlennox | October 20, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

etshoney asks "When the Atheists start going after the Muslim religion I'll believe they are truly sincere. You never hear them complain about the Muslim call to prayer. WHY IS THAT?????"

When my tax dollars start being used to fund Islamic churches or compulsory Islamic prayer in public schools you'd better believe atheists like myself will fight against it. We live in a country dominated by Christians, not Muslims so that's pretty unlikely. Kids in public schools are welcome to pray if they want to. The school itself however is not welcome to compel children to pray. You and others like you are welcome to attend the churches of your choice, to practice your religion in your home, to erect monuments to your deity, as long as those activities are not explicitly endorsed or funded by tax dollars or using government property.

There should be no opening prayer in Congress (which has been contentious from the very beginning).

No public official should be required to mention god during their swearing in as it creates a religious test for office which violates the Constitution.

"Under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. It was not part of the original pledge. It was inserted in 1954 after heavy lobbying by the Knights of Columbus who were freaking out about "godless Communists." "One nation, indivisible" was about the civil war - a statement that we would not allow our country to be divided that way again. The insertion of "under god" completely changed the meaning to say that the United States is indivisible from the Christian God. It's incredibly offensive.

"In God We Trust" should be removed from our money. It replaced the pluralistic national motto "E Pluribus Unum" (from many, one) with an offensive Christian nationalist motto completely contrary to the intent of our founding.

All of the above are nothing more than Christian territorial markings like dogs peeing on trees. They're obnoxious, offensive, and wrong.

Christian fundamentalists have been agitating to change this country from a pluralistic secular democracy into a Christian theocracy where Christians have special status and everyone else is a second class citizen from the very beginning. People like me will continue to fight against them.

Posted by: Chip_M | October 20, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, not traiditional Protestant Christians like many of the people protesting that the Framers did not want a separation of church and state (well, as long as it's their religion involved). Would the same people protest if a teacher decided that reciding Jewish, Muslim or Hindu prayers in school was okay? What if one of those religions is the majority faith in a particular area? No problem with displaying tenets of, say, Buddhism or Islam at a courthouse? Why do we need prayer in schools? Why don't more families say prayers around their breakfast table? And if we're going to teach "creationism," which creationist theory? All of them? Or just the one believed in by conservative Christians?

Posted by: Sutter | October 20, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The likes of O'Donnell leave alot to dislike. May God have mercy on any State that elects a tea partier into government. Ms McCain was spot on with her statement about O'Donnell being a nutcase and maybe a bit understated.

Posted by: glenglish | October 20, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

As demonstrated in the posts below, there is a fair debate on what constitutes a law establishing a religion violating the 1st Amendment. As with other constitutional provisions, the language allows for interpretation.

To me, though Christian, I don't like the idea that a 3rd grader who is Jewish being made to hold hands and to recite the Lords Prayer in school. The creationism textbooks are another version of the same thing, because that is a religious view.

A great many people who settled in this land left their homes due to being branded heretics by the Church of England. Surely that memory had much to do with the 1st Amendment, and underscores that an individual has the right to practice any religion without the Government dictating what that belief will be.

To me, the big problem the Tea Partiers have is that their drive for a more limited federal government may be something that a lot of people agree with, but the logic of their arguments breaks down quickly to the absurd.

The Tea Party candidates are remarkable in that to a person they are strangely uninformed, more sound bite than thoughtful, and are really pretty laughably bad as a group. The last thing I'd want is to have a crucial representative in Washington be so much of a wacko that as a practical matter I am unrepresented. Instead of making the right call on important issues, they'd be all weird and unable to get a single thing done.

Another curiosity - the Tea Partiers seem so attached to the Republicans, without apparently even knowing or caring that the Republicans have been the most noxious deficit spenders in modern history.

Then there's the Patriot Act, which pretty much takes the direct language of the 4th Amendment and junks it. You want to talk about an overreaching federal government? There's your issue. The TP's won't touch that one though, because it was a George Bush measure and because they sort of agree with it, as a matter of feeling.

So there you have it. Tea Partiers want to see direct language on anything they disagree with, and ignore their own mandate if it's something they want. And that explains why they tend to implode when asked if they want to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. You want smaller government? There you go, plus a defense budget that is bloated beyond the imagination.

No wonder that Eric Cantor won't do a campaign debate. Someone would have to ask him about his $500 million pork ear-mark for his "extra jet engine" and his support of Bush's $750 million TARP bank bail out.

Posted by: aclearview | October 20, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

If those who believe there is to be separation of church and state then why did our founding fathers have references to God in our constitution?

Posted by: smithho2memorialhealthcom

"God" does not appear in the constitution. Your argument is invalid.

Posted by: washpost18 | October 20, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

O'Donnell knows our Constitution The separation of church and state is no where in the Constitution and this shows how uneducated her opponent is on our Constitution. This was a concept to protect the church from government in writings by Jefferson. His reference to the First Amendment give freedom to us to worship as we wish even on government property. Liberal activist judges have legislated from the bench violating our freedom of expression of religious belief. Coons needs to go back and read the Constitution since his education seems rather mediocre at best.

Posted by: greatgran1 | October 20, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

If those who believe there is to be separation of church and state then why did our founding fathers have references to God in our constitution? Our government has taken away more religious rights than it has protected our rights to religion. This is totally contridictory to it's intent - to protect our freedoms. Leave it to the know-it-all progressives to destroy a foundation and a country build on hope and yes - faith. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!

Posted by: smithho2memorialhealthcom | October 20, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

We have too far.....All it takes is one atheist to stop a prayer at any public meeting or removing the word God from out money. These suits cost us a fortune so most local Governments will just stop mentioning God to solve the problem. I believe that the intent of the Constitution was to prevent the Government from adopting a National Religion as in Great Britain. Even our President has decided to OMIT THE WORD GOD FROM THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. ENOUGH ALREADY! When the Atheists start going after the Muslim religion I'll believe they are truly sincere. You never hear them complain about the Muslim call to prayer. WHY IS THAT?????

Posted by: etshoney | October 20, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Thomas Jefferson's statement of "separation of church and state", only clarifies the intent of the 1st amendment that, "Congress shall not pass any law establing a religion." To this day Congress has not passed a law establishing a national religion. Separation of church and state does not mean that governmental agencies cannot recognize a relationship between them and religion. If Jefferson meant that churches could play no part in school activities, or tax payer grounds of state capitals, or saying a prayer at activities, why did he and other Constitution writers recognize it in their Preamble and also establish a precedent by opening sessions with prayer. Hypocritical liberal congressmen still do that today.What is the difference in them saying a prayer at the opening of a tax payer session of Congress and a child repeating a prayer in a tax payer school activity. They are both tax payer institutions. Why does the President lay his hand on a Bible and say, "so help me God?" If the liberals think that religion is not a proven fact and can't be taught in the classroom, why do they go to church? Is evolution any more of a fact than creationism? What specific, proven facts do they have that man evoluted from animals? They are only theories just like they say creationism is a theory. If man descended from apes which according to them began millions of years ago, why do we still have apes? You would think that in millions of years all apes would have already been extinct. What reasoning do they have for that? I guess when man destroys all apes, then mankind will begin evoluting back to apes. O'Donnel is right. The constitution says nothing about separation of church and state. The Supreme Court only verified the 1st amendment and Congress still has never made a law establishing a religion.

Posted by: jjeleven | October 20, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

If TP expresses a desire for smaller government- a populist and libertarian point of view I tend to favor as well- how can they coherently subscribe to an officious brand of centralized Xtianity? .

Posted by: alika | October 20, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

The only thing I can say about Ms O'D...she should have gone to law school first...crash courses from less than worthy "institutions" will not provide her with the knowledge required to become a US Senator from anywhere. She is pathetic.

Posted by: fairness3 | October 20, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I believe the intent of the Founding Fathers was clear. Religion is mentioned only twice in the Constitution. First, in the body, it says that there shall be no religious test for any office. Then, in the First Amendment, it prohibits the government from establishing any religion or preventing anyone from observing any religion (except, maybe, Aztec human sacrifice!). In both cases the Constitution separates government from practicing or promoting any religion while allowing any church to operate. This is consistent with the philosophies of the Enlightenment, which formed the basis of the Constitution and were themselves a reaction to over three centuries of intra-Christian wars, destruction, torture, and persecutions. The intent to build a "wall of separation" is abundantly clear to anyone not blinded by ideology.

Posted by: ianmac37 | October 20, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Ms. O'Donnell lacks that old professional politician polish but said nothing "stupid" or even "clumsy."

Its healthy debate.

It is pretty much impossible to have ethical views that have not been informed by one or more religions, even if you claim to be an atheist.

You cannot wholly separate church and state so the debate should be ongoing.

The whining is full of faulty logic on both sides.

Posted by: Over-n-Out | October 20, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

If the radical liberal elite candidate Coons interprets the First Amendment to the US Constitution to include "separation of church and state", despite the fact that it does not say that, then it must be so!

Posted by: rteske | October 20, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Christine O'Donnell is as ignorant as Sarah Palin, and, like her, shows no desire to remedy her ignorance. The tea baggers, for the most part, are a new Know-Nothing party who know nothing and are proud of it and who will accomplish nothing if any of them are actually voted into office by their like-minded supporters. If O"Donnell and Palin are products of intelligent design, its name is obviously a misnomer.

Posted by: LurayDemocrat | October 20, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Christine O'Donnell challenging the Thomas Jefferson's interpretation of the First Amendment is not a sign of a healthy and functioning democracy as much as a sign of wishful thinking and the willful ignorance of fundementalist evangelicals attempting to foster their views on the Founding Fathers. The beauty of our government is that our constitution was written by men of the Enlightenment and not evangelicals like Christine O' Donnell. If Christine O'Donell had written the Constitution we would undoubtedly have Christianity as our state religion and religious test would be required to hold public office.

Posted by: exbrown | October 20, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Wow....just wow. I can see why our nation is crashing in so many ways compared to the rest of the world.

My jaw hit the floor when I heard her say that. Yes, the Constitution does not say those words directly, BUT....here's a new word Tea-baggers need to learn....IMPLIED.

Those words came out of a letter from Jefferson himself and have been held as sacred by the courts for as long as it has been there and contested.

What these teabag yahoos want is to bring religion back to schools. You already have the right to practice whatever religion you want on your own (it's not government controls, thanks to the amendment you want to back you when it's convenient for you), but I don't want a government run school proselytizing me or my kids into a particular view point of religion.

Ok....Teabagging yahoos, say for instance you get your way....creationism in schools. Ok, you have a Hindu teacher....should he teach Christian creationism or his faith's? Too many arbitrary factors. Now if we were to have a nationalized religion (ie government controlled), then it might be feasible. But we don't, so you lose.

Lets see, the amendments Coons listed the teabaggers wanted to repeal:
14th Amendment - citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection
16th Amendment - Levy of Income taxes without apportioning the states or based on census data.
17th Amendment - election of Senators by popular vote.

I can't believe people want these repealed. 14th amendment came about mostly to give equality to African Americans....seriously, people want to repeal this? 16th, taxes need to be nationwide not based on population, it's only fair and 17th, c'mon, did they really hope to get an end-run around the people. I'm surprised they didn't attack the 15th as well (right to vote not limited by race, color or previous condition of servitude).

C'mon, anyone that agrees with these people needs some drugs, cause they are off in the head.

If anyone from Delaware reads this stuff. VOTE COONS!!!!! Down with the witch!!

Posted by: madchem23 | October 20, 2010 5:42 AM | Report abuse

O'Donnell has managed to make Meg and Carly look rational.

Posted by: ChristyS1 | October 20, 2010 3:24 AM | Report abuse

Watch this video. Then see if you can still believe that our country's greatness is not in part based on a wall separating Church and State.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUl6T2hQIbk

Posted by: Martial | October 20, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

The restriction was never intended to be bi-directional.

Posted by: Founder


And you base this fallacy on precisely what?

Posted by: washpost18 | October 19, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

"could it be that open debate is a sign of a healthy and functioning democracy?"

No. It's a sign of willful ignorance and denial. O'Donnell's comment was just parroting a tired Christian right talking point that refutes the separation of church and state by pointing out that the phrase doesn't appear in the first amendment, propping up the phony revisionist notion that it's the result of later "judicial activism". Never mind that the phrase comes directly from the first amendment's principle author when describing its intent.

You can't have an honest debate with people who think historical fact is all a liberal conspiracy and that the founders really intended to create a pious Christian nation rather than a secular democracy. All O'Donnell succeeded in doing is showing that she's poorly educated but knows how to parrot bogus propaganda she doesn't really understand to begin with.

Posted by: Chip_M | October 19, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

My grandparents were Christians in Northern Ireland. She was Protestant, and he was Catholic. They had to flee after death threats. When I became of age, I volunteered and joined the Army, and I served as an 11B Infantryman. Most of my time in the field was in squad or platoon size operations. We would have discussions about what we were fighting for. It always came back to the “Bill of Rights”. To me the most important was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
What did our Founding Fathers have to say about religion:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god." - Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787):
"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason;
"Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.", John Madison;
“Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: lynnlm | October 19, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

My grandparents were Christians in Northern Ireland. She was Protestant, and he was Catholic. They had to flee after death threats. When I became of age, I volunteered and joined the Army, and I served as an 11B Infantryman. Most of my time in the field was in squad or platoon size operations. We would have discussions about what we were fighting for. It always came back to the “Bill of Rights”. To me the most important was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
What did our Founding Fathers have to say about religion:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god." - Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787):
"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason;
"Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.", John Madison;
“Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: lynnlm | October 19, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

My grandparents were Christians in Northern Ireland. She was Protestant, and he was Catholic. They had to flee after death threats. When I became of age, I volunteered and joined the Army, and I served as an 11B Infantryman. Most of my time in the field was in squad or platoon size operations. We would have discussions about what we were fighting for. It always came back to the “Bill of Rights”. To me the most important was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
What did our Founding Fathers have to say about religion:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god." - Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787):
"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason;
"Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.", John Madison;
“Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: lynnlm | October 19, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Not that I like Coons but ODonnell seems to be playing "gotcha" with a point of law, when she's the one claiming "I am You" in her ads and "I didn't go to Yale."
Cmon, which is it?

Posted by: kls1 | October 19, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't know which is funnier, O'Donnell's blatant stupidity or the laughable contortions her supporters have to go through in order to try and defend her.

Posted by: menaman | October 19, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

So about this education issue, does O'D have personal experience in attending school? It's amazing nobody had told her about Amendment Numero Uno. http://hypervocal.com/news/2010/odonnell-strikes-again-where-in-constitution-is-separation-of-church-state/

Posted by: hypervocal | October 19, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

last3miles wrote: "So if Christine O’Donnell’s argument is that we shouldn’t interpret or amend the Constitution, then I guess that means that she shouldn’t be able to run for office since she’s female and that right didn’t come around until 1920." This is one of the points that the Tea party will never acknowledge; that the progressives were responsible for giving voting rights to half of the country. In fact the Tea party members have benefited from practically all of the progressive reforms that they now condemn. The G.I. bill, child labor laws, medicare, social security, equal employment laws, wage and hour laws, public education requirements; all have directly or indirectly helped them get to the station in life where they are now.

Posted by: seemstome | October 19, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The first amendment was originally written as a restriction only on congress, not on state governments and not on religious organizations. The intent was not to keep religous people or views out of government.

The words "separation of church and state" are not part of our constitution. The restriction was never intended to be bi-directional.

People with religous views like "there is no God" would like to have government control religion, and promote that particular religius view, but it must never be allowed.

Posted by: Founder | October 19, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Would Ms. O'Donnell have the same support for local determination of school curriculum were it to chose some Muslim Doctrine for their schools? And if a Christian parent objected who could they call to remedy the situation?.

How could any serious, intelligent person see Ms. O'Donnell as anything but a unlearned opportunist?

Posted by: agingbabyboomer | October 19, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

thomas777 wrote:

Every property owner on or near the Arizona border with Mexico lives in fear of who might be lurking nearby when they walk out of their homes in the morning, and at night, they are constantly reminded that armed insurgents may well be nearby. At least one innocent rancher has been killed by these insurgents already, another American was recently killed after venturing into the Mexican portion of a recreational lake on the border. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in the Sonora Desert has designated roughly half of it's territory as off-limits to visitors due to threats from across the border in Mexico. The violence and magnitude of this threat continues to escalate, and yet our President steadfastly refuses to take any substantive action to defend the sovereign territory of this nation.
-------------------------------------------
Under the Manifest Destiny doctrine America simply stole the land you're talking about from Mexico. Perhaps the Mexicans simply wants what is rightfully theirs.

I suppose your 3x7's is because you believe God was only supporting America in the U.S. - Mexican War.....

Posted by: waxtraxs | October 19, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

I am a citizen with no college yet I have learned a few things about the constitution merely by Googling. It is not so difficult for me to grasp the basic sense of what it means as a historical document and what it's function is now. But I am not in a debate with Mr. Coons nor do I feel qualified to sit in the U.S. Senate. Clearly, Christine O'Donnell's knowledge is even more rudimentary than mine. I don't feel comfortable with having her in that body and I hope that the voters of Delaware have more wisdom than to vote the party line and put an incompetent in power for 6 years.

Posted by: seemstome | October 19, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

O'Donnell is right! It is Coons that can't even name the freedoms in our constitution! What should really scare you is the law students that laughed. But I hear Coons tell her Good Answer! The story was written in such a way they had Christine O'Donnell saying, "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?" What she was talking about was this idiot Coons talking about "the separation of church and state." She was saying, "Are you telling me separation of church and state's in the Constitution?" because it isn't.

There's nothing in the Constitution about separation of which you need and state. It was Coons who couldn't figure out what's in the Constitution. It's Coons who didn't know what he was talking about. And so the panic in the State-Controlled Media, they write a story making it look like O'Donnell doesn't know what she's talking about. They had to misquote her and take her out of context in order to make this point. "Are you telling me that that's in the First Amendment?" meaning, the government cannot officially sponsor a religion. That's not what she was expressing incredulity over. She was incredulous that somebody was saying that the Constitution said, "There must be separation between church and state." Those words are not in the Constitution.

Posted by: releggneh1 | October 19, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Which is worse, failing to remember the wording of a part of the Constitution, or, having taken the oath of office as President, to protect and defend the Constitution, deliberately disregarding what is arguably his single most important obligation under the Constitution?

Case in point:

Article 4 - Section 4

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

In the State of Arizona, our President has ordered signs placed well inside our borders (80-miles in one case) warning American Citizens to "Stay out" due to the presence of armed drug traffickers who have entered the country illegally from Mexico. (http://www.postmarks.com/obama/border_war.html)

Meanwhile, we have handed over $7-Billion to the government of Pakistan "as an incentive" for them to be more aggressive in pursuit of Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives who hide in Pakistan, and attack our troops in Afghanistan across that border.

Every property owner on or near the Arizona border with Mexico lives in fear of who might be lurking nearby when they walk out of their homes in the morning, and at night, they are constantly reminded that armed insurgents may well be nearby. At least one innocent rancher has been killed by these insurgents already, another American was recently killed after venturing into the Mexican portion of a recreational lake on the border. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in the Sonora Desert has designated roughly half of it's territory as off-limits to visitors due to threats from across the border in Mexico. The violence and magnitude of this threat continues to escalate, and yet our President steadfastly refuses to take any substantive action to defend the sovereign territory of this nation.

I regret Ms. O'Donnell's failure to thoroughly study the First Amendment, arguably one of the most important. However, were I a resident of Delaware, I would think it far more important to send a Republican to the Senate in November, and with her a demand that our President fulfill his obligations as Commander in Chief, than to continue to tolerate a President who obviously knows the words of the Constitution verbatim, and yet chooses to disregard them, even when doing so leaves thousands of American citizens exposed to a lethal threat boiling over south of our border.

Posted by: thomas777 | October 19, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

this wasn't even the worst exchange. the worst was when o'donnell asked the moderator what exactly are the 14th and 16th amendments. what did they mean / do? she is a complete incompetent.

Posted by: ebproducer | October 19, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Chris Coons earned graduate degrees from both the law and divinity schools at Yale University. Christine O'Donnell, sporting her pseudo Journalism Degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University wants to go toe to toe with him on the legalities of the First Admendment?

Christine O'Donnell: The Tea Party Favorite!

Posted by: waxtraxs | October 19, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

O'Donnell is clearly lacking any understanding of the US Constitution -- well, she lacks sense period. What a disgrace that someone like her could actually be a candidate.
Oh, well. Americans are becoming more polarized and less educated, more radicalized and extreme and less thoughtful and rational.....

When extremists make inroads, the roads lead to destruction.

Posted by: abbydelabbey | October 19, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

The Government has been a Frequent Violator of the 1st Amendment by its prohibition against Students practicing their worship or their prayer on school property.

Posted by: Wordwaryor


Nobody knowledgeable has ever argued that students cannot practice their religion or pray on school grounds...but on their own time, and not in a fashion that interferes with others. Where Xtians like O'Donnell want to go is to impose Xtian theology into the curriculum of public schools and make special accommodations for Xtians in public schools. If parents want that, they can pay for it. To do otherwise is to steal my tax dollars.

Posted by: washpost18 | October 19, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Thank God the constitution protects my right to pray that this woman never gets into office.

Posted by: IndependentVotingDem | October 19, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The government has not gone nearly far enough in keeping the separation of church and state. All one has to do is look at the fights over mosques. Islam is a religion that has been recognized by our founders. Jefferson wrote about it in correspondence with Madison after the Virginia House of Burgess passed a freedom of religion act before the Revolution.
The prohibition of the government to establish (this also means favor) ANY religion allows for the free exercise of ALL religions. It is imperative that we NEVER allow one religion, or worse yet one fundamentalist activist sect of one religion to worm its way into our government and our laws. If we do that then everyone will have to convert to those beliefs, which very well may be wrong and thus cost people their souls. This is such a big, important decision that it should always be personal. Your rights ALWAYS end where they interfere with another.
SO Keep Your Religion Out of the Government because it belongs to Me TOO! Government means school, if you want your children to learn a myth based on mistranslations then home school your kids. Mine are going to learn how the world really works by taking science classes. By the way, study your history from someone other than Barton and Beck and you'll discover that the founders were products of the Enlightenment - the return of reason as opposed to religion. No less than 15 signers of the Constitution were Quakers and they're a heck of a lot more liberal than most even to this day. Others like Jefferson, were deists which is NOT Christian. The only fundamentalists were Puritans and they came here because Holland had TOO much religious freedom-they wanted totalitarianism. The 1st Amendment kept them in their place as it was designed to.

Posted by: legalhound13 | October 19, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The purpose of public education is, just that, to provide an education to children. There is no place for religion in that education. If people want to practice religion, it should be done on their own time and not with taxpayer money.

Posted by: IdahoGrrrl | October 19, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Wordwaryor is correct, but O'Donnel is wrong when she replied to Coons by questioning if the government shall not establish religion portion is part of the first amendment. That is the disturbing part, not her dispute of the fact that the separation of church and state phrase does not exist in the amendment.

Posted by: ASW02 | October 19, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

So if Christine O’Donnell’s argument is that we shouldn’t interpret or amend the Constitution, then I guess that means that she shouldn’t be able to run for office since she’s female and that right didn’t come around until 1920.

Posted by: last3miles | October 19, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I've had Chia Pets that were smarter than Ms O'Donnell. She is a dangerously vapid human being probably not even qualified to flip pancakes at my local IHOP.

Posted by: moninga1 | October 19, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Watch the video. O'Donnell wasn't making a nuanced Constitutional argument. She was simply wrong. She claimed that under the Constitution, local school boards are free to decide not to teach evolution and to teach intelligent design instead.

Posted by: workinglasshero | October 19, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

ODonnell was right. Jefferson's written sentiments in agreement and sympathy with the Danbury Baptists clearly indicate that is words " wall of separation between Church and State" were expressed as protective of the Church FROM actions of the State (government). And NOT the other way around. Also his words leading into that paragraph state that "religion is a matter which lies solely between and Man & His God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship...." clearly indicate Jefferson's opinion that a man has freedom not only of belief but of WORSHIP.

And since the 1st Amendment prohibits Congress (Federal Govt) from PROHIBITING the Free Exercise therof (Religion & Worship)..... Then Men are free to worship as they wish, and WHERE they wish. This freedom to worship EXTENDS to government property which is "public" property which means that it extends also to Public Schools.

The Government has been a Frequent Violator of the 1st Amendment by its prohibition against Students practicing their worship or their prayer on school property.

Posted by: Wordwaryor | October 19, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

ODonnell was right. Jefferson's written sentiments in agreement and sympathy with the Danbury Baptists clearly indicate that is words " wall of separation between Church and State" were expressed as protective of the Church FROM actions of the State (government). And NOT the other way around. Also his words leading into that paragraph state that "religion is a matter which lies solely between and Man & His God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship...." clearly indicate Jefferson's opinion that a man has freedom not only of belief but of WORHIP.

And since the 1st Amendment prohibits Congress (Federal Govt) from PROHIBITING the Free Exercise therof (Religion & Worship)..... Then Men are free to worship as they wish, and WHERE they wish. This freedom to worship EXTENDS to government property which is "public" property which means that it extends also to Public Schools.

The Government has been a Frequent Violator of the 1st Amendment by its prohibition against Students practicing their worship or their prayer on school property.

Posted by: Wordwaryor | October 19, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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