Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, a tea party candidate whose lack of grasp of issues shocks even the party faithful, shocked a law school audience during a debate Tuesday when she claimed the Constitution didn’t call for a on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.
O’Donnell didn’t even know the provision is part of the First Amendment. In fact, she didn’t appear to have any idea what was in the amendment.
In a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, 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.
Coons said the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell’s eyes widened and she responded: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”
Her claimed generated both gasps and a buzz in the audience.
“You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp,” Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone told The Associated Press, adding that McDonnell’s ignorance of the issue raised questions about O’Donnell’s grasp of the Constitution.
Erin Daly, a Widener constitutional law professor , added that while there are questions about what counts as government promotion of religion, there is little debate over whether the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making laws establishing religion.
“She seemed genuinely surprised that the principle of separation of church and state derives from the First Amendment, and I think to many of us in the law school that was a surprise,” Daly said. “It’s one thing to not know the 17th Amendment or some of the others, but most Americans do know the basics of the First Amendment.”
O’Donnell didn’t respond to reporters who asked her to clarify her views after the debate.
- O’Donnell questions separation of church, state (sfgate.com)
- Christine O’Donnell Is Stupid: Doesn’t Know The First Amendment (oliverwillis.com)
- Christine O’Donnell on the Establishment Clause: ‘You’re Telling Me That’s in the First Amendment? (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- Christine O’Donnell Gets The First Amendment Wrong, Again (outsidethebeltway.com)