The Watch

Christine O’Donnell: “Where In The Constitution Is The Separation of Church and State?”

Following on the heels of half a dozen other gaffes, Republican senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell, a “tea party” movement favorite, found herself out on a new limb Tuesday when she seemed unsure whether the Constitution guaranteed that church and state be kept separate.

O’Donnell, who wrested the GOP nomination from Delaware’s Republican establishment, met her Democratic opponent Chris Coons in their third debate for the Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. Fueled by conservative anger, O’Donnell came from behind to win a fierce primary, but most polls show that the momentum has cooled and that Coons leads by double digits.

The latest debate was before an audience at Widener University Law School in Wilmington, Del. In an exchange over whether creationism should be taught the same way that the theory of evolution is presented, Coons said 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 as the audience laughed, many in disbelief. One woman was overheard saying “Oh, my God.”

Coons responded that the separation of church and state is included in the 1st Amendment, which he tried to quote as O’Donnell repeatedly interrupted him’ “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

“Let me clarify,” O’Donnell interrupted. “You’re telling me that separation of church and state is in the 1st Amendment?”

“Government shall make no establishment of religion,” Coons replied.

“That’s in the 1st Amendment?” she asked incredulously.

Later when questioned about other constitutional points, O’Donnell said: “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.”

The GOP is feverishly trying to spin this by claiming that O’Donnell’s remarks have been spun, and that she was only trying to say that the actual phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. Too little, too late, though, I think. While nothing Christine O’Donnell does or says will sway her Tea Party backers, the more she talks the farther she alienates moderates. There’s a lesson in her epic flame-out for all Tea Party candidates.

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12 years ago

“I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.”

How much you wanna bet that she’s never read it? *grin*

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