First Amendment Lesson for Tea Party Candidate

Listen to Audio from Politico

Just fascinating, isn't it?
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked [her opponent Chris Coons during a debate]. 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.
Source: Washington Post as cited at IndecisionForever

It's undoubtedly a teachable moment.

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Anonymous said…
Funny thing is....technically, she is correct. Separation of church and state, a doctrine distinctly different from the barring of establishing a religion, requires Congress not to be involved in religion at all - to be separated from it. The First Amendment only requires Congress not to pass laws that respect one religion over another or laws that create a "national religion," much like the tradition was in Europe in the 18th Century. So, Congress doesn't technically have to avoid dealing with religion-related matters.

Take, for example, school vouchers. If Congress gave vouchers to children who went to a religious school, and made sure that kids of all religious schools had equal opportunity, or equal access to the funds, then it would not be violating the First Amendment since it didn't favor one religion over another. But, the doctrine of separation of church and state prevents Congress from letting federal dollars be used in any religious school at all. I think there is a distinction there that people don't realize.
Mr. RCollins said…
I think she's questioning the statement that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" on whether it is actually in the 1st amendment.

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