By now you’ve probably seen the above video of Christine O’Donnell’s disbelief that the First Amendment establishes the separation of church and state. If not, start the video around the 5 minute mark and see for yourself.
O’Donnell’s campaign and the right are trying to spin this by saying O’Donnell was only expressing disbelief that the words “seperation of church and state” appear in the constitution (which they don’t). It’s clear, however, that that’s not what Coons is saying. Coons quotes the amendment and says that decades of procedural law establish the separation.
So it sure sounds like a gaffe. But a belief that the Constitution doesn’t separate church and state is a widespread belief in certain parts factions of the right.
Ron Paul wrote:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.
It’s a strange statement, since the Constitution is anything but replete with references to God.
Number of references to “God” in the Constitution: 0
Number of references to “Jesus”: 0
Number of references to “Christ”: 0
Number of references to “Lord”: 1 – in reference to the “year of our lord”
Number of references to “Providence”: 1 – In reference to how many representatives the Providence Plantations get.
Number of references to “Religion”: 1 – in the first amendment when stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
The Declaration of Independence does make one reference each to God and one to Divine Providence. But what of it? The Constitution is the law of the land, not the Declaration.
The idea that someone could be elected senator and not know what the First Amendment says is scary. But here’s another scary idea: the Tea Party knows what it says but still does not believe in the separation of church and state. That’s clearly the case with Ron Paul, though he seems to have little influence over the Tea Party movement anymore. However, according to the NAACP’s Tea Party Nationalism paper released today, there are a number of leaders within the movement who also believe that. And it all ties back, rather uncomfortably, to the Christian Identity movement.
So what do we have here – simple ignorance, or a theocratic agenda?
PS – Wes Unruh is doing a good job of following this stuff on Twitter.