Christine O’Donnell Gets The First Amendment Wrong, Again

During a radio debate in Delaware this morning, Christine O’Donnell appeared to not really understand what the First Amendment is all about:

WILMINGTON, Del. — Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as 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 him.

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.

Video:

To put the audience’s reaction into context, note that the debate took place at a law school and that the audience was apparently primarily made up of law students.

This isn’t all that surprising, of course. On Thursday, O’Donnell advocated the teaching of creationism in schools even though it’s explicitly prohibited by a 1987 Supreme Court case, and she couldn’t name a single Supreme Court case.

And, if you watch the whole video you’ll see that she doesn’t seem to have an understanding of what the 14th and 16th Amendments are.

But, you know, she’s the darling of the Tea Party movement.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Bernieyeball says:

    Why should a US Senate candidate know anything about the Constitution?
    Richard M. Nixon believed “When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

  2. anjin-san says:

    O’Donnell is a glib, attractive BS artist. That is what she has based her entire adult life on. Do we really need more BS in the senate? It’s pretty clear that she does not much of a clue as to what she is talking about.

  3. Incredible and yet not surprising.

    I suspect that her answers will in no way give her supporters pause, despite her obvious lack of knowledge about the things upon which she is theoretically campaigning.

    A minimum it should be an embarrassment to those who claim that the most important thing is the US Constitution.

    On the separation of church in state many will simply point to the fact that those exact words are not in the document whilst ignoring the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses.

  4. Paul L. says:

    I know you hate her Doug. But you are engaging in Media Matters level sophistry.
    “she couldn’t name a single [recent] Supreme Court case [that she disagreed with].”

  5. I don’t hate her Paul.

    I do, however, consider her to be a flake and not a serious person

  6. Juneau: says:

    In case you need a history lesson – as in, you know, what the common understanding of the language was before the liberals started the revisionist agenda – the term “separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution. You might also want to admit (Doug) that the current use of the term, which is always used to reference the supposed authority to keep religious discussion out of any government-related events, actually ignores the First Amendment, not comply wit hit.

    All the liberals love to hammer the first part of the applicable language in the amendment and ignore the second part , which states “nor pass any law prohibiting the free expression thereof.”

    Sorry. O’Donnell was perfectly correct in incredulously asking Coons if he found the authority to prohibit religious discussion in a public school under the First Amendment. Its not there – no matter how much revisionism you want to engage in. The term “separation of church and state came from a single letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association about this issue. It does not appear nor is it clearly supported ( as an authority for government prohibiting it in the public schools) in the Constitution. It doesn’t matter how much your liberal law professor said it was there, either.

  7. Andy says:

    @Paul,

    Are you suggesting she was brimming with knowledge about older cases, ones she agreed with, or both? Or is your point irrelevant?

  8. mantis says:

    On the separation of church in state many will simply point to the fact that those exact words are not in the document

    It’s true. I remind idiots who say that that the exact words “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” do not appear in the Constitution, but those things are still there.

  9. david says:

    The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religtion. There is nothing in the Constitution remotely advocating the removal of God (yours or mine) from the State. Separation of Church and State is an interpretation which has stretched the meaning of this sentence beyond recognition by our founders.
    The great Khan, Tamerlane, had only one law regarding religion, “You can’t be godless”. He didn’t care what you believed in as long as you believed in something. One could argue the founders had a similar idea in mind. You may choose to believe in nothing but the Annointed One, buy don’t tell others to check their God at the door to the Capital Building.

  10. Paul L. says:

    Andy,
    I suspect she would have plenty to say on Heller/Citizens United (agrees) and Roe(old).

  11. mantis says:

    Ha. There’s such an idiot now. Hey Juneau! I guess we don’t have checks and balances in our government either, right? After all, the exact words aren’t in the Constitution!

    O’Donnell was perfectly correct in incredulously asking Coons if he found the authority to prohibit religious discussion in a public school under the First Amendment.

    Obviously you’re as dumb as she is. Here’s what happened, again:

    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?”

    O’Donnell did not dispute whether Coon’s ” found the authority to prohibit religious discussion in a public school,” which no one claimed anyway, but rather whether “the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion,” which it very clearly does, in those exact words.

    Wingnuts! They pick a certain formulation of words, say it’s not in the Constitution in that exact formulation, and thus say the principle or concept isn’t there! However, even if you quote the text verbatim, they still say it isn’t in the Constitution! Revision indeed!

    And Juneau, no one is claiming religion can’t be discussed in a public school. You just can’t force students to pray to your god, as you no doubt wish you could. That’s what religious schools are for.

  12. mantis says:

    There is nothing in the Constitution remotely advocating the removal of God (yours or mine) from the State.

    How does one remove God from a State?

    The great Khan, Tamerlane, had only one law regarding religion, “You can’t be godless”. He didn’t care what you believed in as long as you believed in something. One could argue the founders had a similar idea in mind.

    You could argue that, but it would be an incredibly stupid argument unsupported by any evidence. It does represent a fairly common wingnut theocratic view though, of course. Tell us, Tamerlane, what do you think the founders would have liked done with all of us atheists? Burn us at the stake?

  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Oddly, Doug, your take on this is vastly different from what other bloggers with much more political experience than you exhibit seem to have gotten from the exhange. Seems Coons could not enumerate the five freedoms listed in the first amendment. Others seem to think Coons expressed the belief separation of church and stated was listed in the first amendment. Seems Coons, unable or unwilling to answer O’Donnell’s question about what is and what is not in the first amendment, he hid behind the moderator ducking the question. Doug, are you and Coons lovers?

  14. Juneau: says:

    @ mantis

    You know, constantly insulting the intelligence of someone who disagrees with your position is actually somewhat revealing of your own inability to put together a reasoned position. When you have to begin every reply with an obligatory “you are stupid” opinion, it reflects upon your intelligence, not your target’s.

    “O’Donnell did not dispute whether Coon’s ” found the authority to prohibit religious discussion in a public school,” which no one claimed anyway, but rather whether “the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion,” which it very clearly does, in those exact words.”

    Then I guess the real sticking point between the two positions would be, “What, exactly, is meant by the phrase ” establishment of a religion?” The left would have us believe that any time someone who serves in a public position mentions religion while they they are engaged in the responsibilities of their office, then their actions represent the state “establishing” a religion. This is patently ridiculous on several logical levels; first, the individual is not the state, and second, someone expressing their personal beliefs in no way “establishes” anything in any official capacity whatsoever.

    So, yes, mantis. Your manufactured indignation is based upon your abhorrence of religion – not a Constitutional , or even logical, argument

  15. anjin-san says:

    Yes mantis. Why do you hate God? Why do you hate America? Are you a commie or a jihadist? Perhaps you are a comhadist. The lamestream media has been burying the story of the comhasist threat because George Soros does not want the truth to come out.

    See kids, you too can be a wingnut 🙂

  16. Gerry W. says:

    Be careful of what you wish for. Prayer rugs, burkhas, prayer five times a day and all traffic stops, and sharia law. France is having problems as well as Denmark.

  17. sam says:

    Have at it, guys:

    U.S. Supreme Court Decisions on Freedom of Religion (arranged by date)

    McCollum v. Board of Education Dist. 71, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

    Court finds religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional.

    Burstyn v. Wilson, 72 S. Ct. 777 (1952)

    Government may not censor a motion picture because it is offensive to religious beliefs.

    Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)

    Court holds that the state of Maryland cannot require applicants for public office to swear that they believed in the existence of God. The court unanimously rules that a religious test violates the Establishment Clause.

    Engel v. Vitale, 82 S. Ct. 1261 (1962)

    Any kind of prayer, composed by public school districts, even nondenominational prayer, is unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion.

    Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)

    Court finds Bible reading over school intercom unconstitutional and Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) – Court finds forcing a child to participate in Bible reading and prayer unconstitutional.

    Epperson v. Arkansas, 89 S. Ct. 266 (1968)

    State statue banning teaching of evolution is unconstitutional. A state cannot alter any element in a course of study in order to promote a religious point of view. A state’s attempt to hide behind a nonreligious motivation will not be given credence unless that state can show a secular reason as the foundation for its actions.

    Lemon v. Kurtzman, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971)

    Established the three part test for determining if an action of government violates First Amendment’s separation of church and state:
    1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
    2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
    3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

    Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)

    Court finds posting of the Ten Commandments in schools unconstitutional.

    Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S. Ct. 2479 (1985)

    State’s moment of silence at public school statute is unconstitutional where legislative record reveals that motivation for statute was the encouragement of prayer. Court majority silent on whether “pure” moment of silence scheme, with no bias in favor of prayer or any other mental process, would be constitutional.

    Edwards v. Aquillard, 107 S. Ct. 2573 (1987)

    Unconstitutional for state to require teaching of “creation science” in all instances in which evolution is taught. Statute had a clear religious motivation.

    Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

    Court finds that a nativity scene displayed inside a government building violates the Establishment Clause.

    Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992)

    Unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduation. It involves government sponsorship of worship. Court majority was particularly concerned about psychological coercion to which children, as opposed to adults, would be subjected, by having prayers that may violate their beliefs recited at their graduation ceremonies.

    Church of Lukumi Babalu Ave., Inc. v. Hialeah, 113 S. Ct. 2217 (1993)

    City’s ban on killing animals for religious sacrifices, while allowing sport killing and hunting, was unconstitutional discrimination against the Santeria religion.

  18. sam says:

    A more comprehensive list is @ http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/court/. See, e.g., Cantwell vs. Connecticut ( a pretty interesting case):

    Facts of the Case:

    Cantwell and his two sons were found guilty of violating the common law offense of inciting a breach of peace. They went door-to-door with books and pamphlets in a predominately Roman Catholic street. They played a record entitled “Enemies” which attacked Catholicism. They claimed that the statute upon which their conviction was based violated their right to free speech by requiring a permit to solicit donations from people outside of their organization.

    Decision:

    The Court ruled that the statute requiring a license to solicit for religious purposes was a prior restraint that vested the state with excessive power in determining which groups must obtain a license. Also, the Cantwells did not pose a threat to public order by spreading their message.

    Majority Opinion: (Justice Roberts)

    The statute denies these individuals their due process rights. The state is not permitted to place this prior restraint on those who seek to solicit contributions. The activity is not restricted because of its potential for harm, as is evidenced by the fact that the act could be performed after obtaining a permit. The statute gives the secretary of public welfare the power to determine which groups are religious and therefore, who must obtain a permit before soliciting contributions. “Such a censorship of religion as the means of determining its right to survive is a denial of liberty protected by the First Amendment and included in the liberty which is within the protection of the Fourteenth.” Even if an error by the secretary can be corrected by the courts, the process still serves as an unconstitutional prior restraint. “[T]o condition the solicitation of aid for the perpetuation of religious views or systems upon a license, the grant of which rests in the exercise of a determination by state authority as to what is a religious cause, is to lay a forbidden burden upon the exercise of liberty protected by the Constitution.” The Cantwells should not be convicted of posing a threat to public order because they were merely sharing their ideas. When several Catholics became upset at the message one of the sons immediately left the scene in order to avoid a physical confrontation.

    The jurisprudence concerning the exercise of religion in this country is very rich, and, if anything, its thrust is to prevent the state from interfering with the exercise of religion or, equally importantly, to prevent the state from mandating one form of religious expression to its citizens.

  19. anjin-san says:

    > The great Khan, Tamerlane, had only one law regarding religion

    Now that the door is open, I am going to have to work Kahn Noonian Singh into the discussion somehow…

  20. mantis says:

    You know, constantly insulting the intelligence of someone who disagrees with your position is actually somewhat revealing of your own inability to put together a reasoned position.

    You don’t like it? Don’t write such stupid things.

    When you have to begin every reply with an obligatory “you are stupid” opinion, it reflects upon your intelligence, not your target’s.

    And if when I go outside, I say, “My, it’s a nice day,” that only reflects on my own attitude, and has nothing to do with the weather.

    Then I guess the real sticking point between the two positions would be, “What, exactly, is meant by the phrase ” establishment of a religion?”

    Yes, that is a fundamental debate in Constitutional law, but that’s not what you said. You claimed O’Donnell was responding to something other than Coons reciting the exact words of the 1st Amendment, which was demonstrably untrue. Care to explain yourself?

    The left would have us believe that any time someone who serves in a public position mentions religion while they they are engaged in the responsibilities of their office, then their actions represent the state “establishing” a religion.

    You are incorrect. The “left” wants no such thing.

    This is patently ridiculous on several logical levels

    Your claim? I agree, it is ridiculous.

    So, yes, mantis. Your manufactured indignation is based upon your abhorrence of religion – not a Constitutional , or even logical, argument

    Do you imagine you are answering some question I asked? By the way, if my indignation were in face based on my abhorrence of religion (it’s not), would that really be “manufactured,” rather than genuine? Does the actual meaning of words have any importance to you?

  21. mantis says:

    “were in fact”

  22. Juneau: says:

    170 years of history where politicians, teachers, police officers, and military personnel all prayed openly and discussed their religion freely. 60 years of courts making various rulings that determined, magically, it was completely against the Constitution. The men who wrote the Constitution somehow misunderstood what they intended when they created it I guess , huh?

    Just keep telling yourself that the current situation is what they intended… despite the empirical evidence to the contrary.

  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    For all idiot liberals and worse yet liberal Judges and lawyers to read.

    ****To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

    Gentlemen

    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

    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. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    Th Jefferson
    Jan. 1. 1802.****

  24. @anji-san,

    Allow me: click.

  25. 170 years of history where politicians, teachers, police officers, and military personnel all prayed openly and discussed their religion freely

    And they don’t now?

    I guess imagined the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-8R1OXWJz8

    Not a politician praying, granted, but it rather undercuts the notion that religion has been removed from our politics or the public square.

  26. Alex Knapp says:

    Doug,

    You’re getting it all wrong. O’Donnell wants to get us back to the ORIGINAL Constitution, before the liberals started getting all amendment happy with it. Damn those elitist deists Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Mason and their insistence on freedom of speech and religion!

  27. mantis says:

    170 years of history where politicians, teachers, police officers, and military personnel all prayed openly and discussed their religion freely. 60 years of courts making various rulings that determined, magically, it was completely against the Constitution.

    Please provide detailed evidence that the courts have ruled that any of those groups cannot pray and discuss their religion freely. Keep in mind that freedom to pray and discuss religion does not include authority figures forcing students at public schools, prisoners, military personnel, or anyone else to pray or otherwise practice a religion.

    I have no confidence you will back up your claims with actual facts, but you should at least try if you want to be taken seriously, as you apparently do.

  28. Juneau: says:

    @ mantis

    You claimed O’Donnell was responding to something other than Coons reciting the exact words of the 1st Amendment, which was demonstrably untrue. Care to explain yourself?

    The explanation is in a review of the applicable section of the debate. The question from O’Donnell had to do with the concept of “separation of church and state” being found in the First Amendment. Coons said it was. It is not. O’Donnell wanted him to verify his claim. He did. He was wrong. O’Donnell was right. Any further questions?

  29. mantis says:

    . The question from O’Donnell had to do with the concept of “separation of church and state” being found in the First Amendment. Coons said it was. It is not.

    The concept isn’t there? Gee, you’d think Thomas Jefferson knew what was in the Constitution, but I guess you and O’Donnell know better.

    O’Donnell wanted him to verify his claim. He did.

    Yep, by referencing the 1st Amendment, which is exactly where that concept is established in the Constitution.

    He was wrong.

    No, he was absolutely right.

    Anyway, your explanation is quite lacking, as you ignore what was actually said in favor of what you wish was said.

    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?”

    It is in the 1st Amendment. O’Donnell didn’t know that. She’s an idiot.

    Here’s what you said:

    O’Donnell was perfectly correct in incredulously asking Coons if he found the authority to prohibit religious discussion in a public school under the First Amendment.

    Which is not true, once again. She wanted to know why Coons thought creationism couldn’t be taught in public schools, which Coons answered correctly, due to the 1st Amendment and the Supreme Courts interpretation thereof. She also was apparently surprised at the notion that the 1st Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion. “The First Amendment does?” was her response, with a winking nod to the audience as if they agreed with her and weren’t all laughing at her ignorance.

    Teaching creationism, a religious doctrine, to students in public schools is the government recognizing the establishment of religion. Specific religions deny the science of evolution in favor of ridiculous notions of magic written in texts many centuries old. Allowing those religions to teach their absurd and unscientific notions in public school science classes is absolutely unconstitutional.

    “Discussion of religion” is not unconstitutional, as you surely know, and neither Coons nor anyone else is claiming it is. Keep whacking that strawman if you like.

  30. sam says:

    Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, having seen the treaty, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

    Annals of Congress, 5th Congress

    Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary

    Article 1. There is a firm and perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, made by the free consent of both parties, and guarantied by the most potent Dey and Regency of Algiers.

    Art. 2. If any goods belonging to any nation with which either of the parties is at war, shall be loaded on board of vessels belonging to the other party, they shall pass free, and no attempt shall be made to take or detain them.

    Art. 3. If any citizens , subjects, or effects, belonging to either party, shall be found on board a prize vessel taken from an enemy by the other party, such citizens or subjects shall be set at liberty, and the effects restored to the owners.

    Art. 4. Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty, shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers, belonging to such vessels, shall be sufficient for their protection.

    Art. 5. A citizen or subject of either party having bought a prize vessel, condemned by the other party, or by any other nation, the certificates of condemnation and bill of sale shall be a sufficient passport for such vessel for one year; this being a reasonable time for her to procure a proper passport.

    Art. 6. Vessels of either party, putting into the ports of the other, and having need of provisions or other supplies, they shall be furnished at the market price. And if any such vessel shall so put in, from a disaster at sea, and have occasion to repair, she shall be at liberty to land and re-embark her cargo without paying any duties. But in case shall she be compelled to the land her cargo.

    Art. 7. Should a vessel of either party be cast on the shore of the other, all proper assistance shall be given to her and her people; no pillage shall be allowed; the property shall remain at the disposition of the owners; and the crew protectedand succored till they can be sent to their country.

    Art. 8. If a vessel of either party should be attacked by an enemy, within gun-shot of the forts of the other , she shall be defended as much as possible. If she be in port she shall not be seized on or attacked, when it is in the power of the other party to protect her. And when she proceeds to sea, no enemy shall be allowed to pursue her from the same port, within twenty-four hours after her departure.

    Art. 9. The commerce between the United States and Tripoli; the protection to be given to merchants, masters of vessels, and seamen; the reciprocal right of the establishing Consuls in each country; and the privileges, immunities, and jurisdiction, to be on the same footing with those of the most favored nations respectively.

    Art. 10. The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli, as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part, and on the part of his subjects, for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship, are acknowledged to have been received by him previous to his signing the same, according to a receipt which is hereto annexed, except such as part as is promised, on the part of the United States, to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoli; of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no pretense of any periodical tribute of further payments is ever to be made by either party.

    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion [my emphasis]; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    Art. 12. In case of any dispute, arising from a violation of any of the articles of this treaty, no appeal shall be made to arms; nor shall war be declared on any pretext whatever. But if the Consul, residing at the place where the dispute shall happen, shall not be able to settle the same, an amicable referrence shall be made to the mutual friend of the parties, the Dey of Algiers; the parties hereby engaging to abide by his decision. And he, by virtue of his signature to this treaty, engages for himself and successors to declare the justice of the case, according to the true interpretation of the treaty, and to use all the means in his power to enforce the observance of the same.

    Signed and sealed at Tripoli of Barbary the 3d day of Junad in the year of the Hegira 1211— corresponding with the 4th day of November, 1796, by

    JUSSOF BASHAW MAHOMET, Bey.
    MAMET, Treasurer.
    AMET, Minister of Marine.
    SOLIMAN KAYA.
    GALIL, General of the Troops.
    MAHOMET, Commander of the City.
    AMET, Chamberlain.
    ALLY, Chief of the Divan.
    MAMET, Secretary.

    Signed and sealed at Algiers, the 4th day of Argill, 1211—corresponding with the 3d day of
    January, 1797, by
    HASSAN BASHAW, Dey,
    And by the agent Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, JOEL BARLOW.

    Read aloud and unanimously adopted by the Senate. Hmmm. Perhaps they misunderstood the treaty’s claim of religious neutrality.

  31. sam says:

    Oh, and then there’s this:

    Article VI

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

  32. FredW says:

    So let me see if I have this right; according to Christine O’Donnell there is no constitutional barrier to establishing religious law, such as Sharia law. in the United States.

  33. Deborah says:

    While O’Donnell may not have been as articulate as she should have been, she’s nonetheless right: The phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution. It was penned, instead, by President Thomas Jefferson in a letter that Jefferson sent to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.

  34. mantis says:

    Deborah,

    So what? Who said that exact phrase needs to be in the Constitution for the separation to exist?

  35. John says:

    Mantis,

    Mantis,

    Your understanding of the Constitution is juvenile. There is an intended separation of Church and state and Jefferson, as he always did, expressed this eloquently in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. To put the letter into more context the Association was worried about impending government action that would infringe on their right to practice their religion. Jefferson wrote the letter to assure them that due to the Constitution that no such action would be possible. The first amendment (as all the Bill of Rights does) limits WHAT GOVERNMENT CAN DO, not what the individual can. To allow prayer in school is not the same as forcing prayer to a specific God. To not allow anyone to pray in school, or not to allow the free people to allocate time for prayer is what goes against the first amendment.

  36. sam says:

    “To allow prayer in school is not the same as forcing prayer to a specific God. To not allow anyone to pray in school, or not to allow the free people to allocate time for prayer is what goes against the first amendment.”

    That’s sophistry. No one is saying that one cannot pray in school. What is being said is that the governing authority cannot mandate prayer in public schools. As for allowing free people to allocate time, you’ll have to flesh that out.

  37. mantis says:

    The first amendment (as all the Bill of Rights does) limits WHAT GOVERNMENT CAN DO, not what the individual can.

    It certainly limits what the individual can do if that individual is an agent of the government.

    To allow prayer in school is not the same as forcing prayer to a specific God.

    Prayer is allowed in public schools. Students and teachers can pray all they want, provided it does not disrupt the education of the other students. What gave you the idea that prayer has been outlawed in public schools?

    To not allow anyone to pray in school

    Where is this happening, or attempted? And if some overzealous school official has overstepped his/her authority in such a manner, where is the court that upheld it?

    My understanding of the 1st Amendment is just fine, thank you, but you seem to have the typical wingnut understanding of the issue that leads you to believe that evil liberals have outlawed prayer by private individuals. That hasn’t happened, and won’t happen. I never said the 1st Amendment provides for such things.

    So, if you’re done with your strawman, maybe you’ll want to debate an actual person next time.

  38. sam says:

    Although the Constitution forbids public school officials from directing or favoring prayer, students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” [ 9 ] and the Supreme Court has made clear that “private religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression.” [ 10 ] Moreover, not all religious speech that takes place in the public schools or at school-sponsored events is governmental speech. [ 11 ] For example, “nothing in the Constitution … prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day,” [ 12 ] and students may pray with fellow students during the school day on the same terms and conditions that they may engage in other conversation or speech. Likewise, local school authorities possess substantial discretion to impose rules of order and pedagogical restrictions on student activities, [ 13 ] but they may not structure or administer such rules to discriminate against student prayer or religious speech. For instance, where schools permit student expression on the basis of genuinely neutral criteria and students retain primary control over the content of their expression, the speech of students who choose to express themselves through religious means such as prayer is not attributable to the state and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious content. [ 14 ] Student remarks are not attributable to the state simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience. [ 15 ] As the Supreme Court has explained: “The proposition that schools do not endorse everything they fail to censor is not complicated,” [ 16 ] and the Constitution mandates neutrality rather than hostility toward privately initiated religious expression. [ 17 ]

    [ 9 ] Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).

    [ 10 ] Capitol Square Review & Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, 515 U.S. 753, 760 (1995).

    [ 11 ] Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 302 (explaining that “not every message” that is “authorized by a government policy and take[s] place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events” is “the government’s own”).

    [ 12 ] Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 313.

    [ 13 ] For example, the First Amendment permits public school officials to review student speeches for vulgarity, lewdness, or sexually explicit language. Bethel Sch. Dist. v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 683-86 (1986). Without more, however, such review does not make student speech attributable to the state.

    [ 14 ] Rosenberger v. Rector of Univ. of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995); Board of Educ. v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990); Good News Club v. Milford Cent. Sch., 533 U.S. 98 (2001); Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist., 508 U.S. 384 (1993); Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981); Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 304 n.15. In addition, in circumstances where students are entitled to pray, public schools may not restrict or censor their prayers on the ground that they might be deemed “too religious” to others. The Establishment Clause prohibits state officials from making judgments about what constitutes an appropriate prayer, and from favoring or disfavoring certain types of prayers—be they “nonsectarian” and “nonproselytizing” or the opposite—over others. See Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 429-30 (1962) (explaining that “one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services,” that “neither the power nor the prestige” of state officials may “be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say,” and that the state is “without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer”); Weisman, 505 U.S. at 594.

    [ 15 ] Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 302; Mergens, 496 U.S. at 248-50.

    [ 16 ] Mergens, 496 U.S. at 250 (plurality opinion); id. at 260-61 (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and in judgment).

    Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

  39. sam says:

    Uh, John, I reread your comment, and I’m not sure you were asserting what I thought. If I’m wrong on your position, I apologize.

  40. John says:

    Here is just one example of my straw man:

    http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2009/01/moment-of-silence-case-decision.html

    Here is a quote from the article:

    “Plaintiffs and the ACLU attack the constitutionality of the Statute on a number of grounds, including violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment,4 and vagueness. The Establishment Clause provides, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” ”

    If you put in the time you can find numerous cases where courts impede on peoples’ rights.

    Other cases have involved the banning of Bible (after school) clubs. There are dozens of examples of the infringement of the free practice of religion under the phantom “seperation of church and state” clause.

    Funny that just after ratifying the Constitution they prayed in congress, before court cases and included “In God We Trust” on the currency. Were they ignorant of their own words or are you?

  41. sam says:

    Well, maybe you were.

  42. mantis says:

    If you put in the time you can find numerous cases where courts impede on peoples’ rights.

    That decision does not keep anyone from praying in school. The law was unconstitutional because, again, it was about forcing public school students into prayer. As the ACLU point out on the page you linked:

    “Students remain free to pray on their own, in a non-disruptive manner, throughout the school day,” ACLU lawyer Adam Schwartz said in a statement. “As Judge Gettleman recognized in his decision, public school students in Illinois do not require the permission of the General Assembly to engage in this constitutionally protected activity. ”

    Nice try, fella. Go back and find where individuals are prevented from praying in a public school. So far you have failed to do so.

    Funny that just after ratifying the Constitution they prayed in congress, before court cases and included “In God We Trust” on the currency. Were they ignorant of their own words or are you?

    Neither, but you clearly are. Guess what? Politicians still pray in Congress, and “In God We Trust” is still on the currency. Yet somehow teachers are not allowed to force students to pray in public schools. Hmm. Maybe those are different things, ya think?

  43. sam says:

    “Other cases have involved the banning of Bible (after school) clubs.”

    Ah, c’mon. Supply a cite, OK? Google ‘after school bible club” and you finds scads of them around. You’ll also find records of failing state attempts to limit them, attempts that fail in the federal courts. See, eg, Wigg vs. Sioux Falls School District.

  44. John says:

    There are tons of cases that go both ways but you can do a little research on your own.

    As for students being “forced” to pray, where is your evidence? And of course that is against the Constitution, no said it it wasn’t nor was the arguement tendered to support such practices to force people to pray. BUt when an institution wants to give students an allocated time to do whatever they want in silence how does that go against the first amendment. Again, your arguement about being able to pray throughout the day is the straw man! No one said they couldn’t and the court case is not about that. The case is about whether free people can allocate time for prayer, AGAIN NOT FORCE IT, just be kind enough to give a student time to do so.

    And if your contention is that the forced silence goes against the first amendment then you better call the ACLU and tell them about detention where they force silence for hours (they secretly want you to pray to Aqua Buda during that time 🙂

  45. mantis says:

    As for students being “forced” to pray, where is your evidence

    There are many cases of this happening, but I’ll just follow your lead and tell you to look them up.

    BUt when an institution wants to give students an allocated time to do whatever they want in silence how does that go against the first amendment.

    It doesn’t, unless the school is telling students they need to pray during that time.

    Again, your arguement about being able to pray throughout the day is the straw man!

    How so?

    The case is about whether free people can allocate time for prayer,

    Actually, it’s about whether a school can mandate it, not whether “free people” can do anything.

    And if your contention is that the forced silence goes against the first amendment

    It’s not, and I never said that.

    Anyway, I confused this with a different case I’m familiar with initially, but after looking into it further I wonder how familiar you are with this case. Because the 7th Circuit just overturned the decision to which you link. I think they’re wrong, as any bill called the Illinois Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act clearly has a religious motivation and purpose. I agree with dissenting justice Williams from the 7th:

    by enumerating prayer as one of the only two specific permissible activities, the Act conveys a message that Illinois students should engage in prayer during the prescribed period as opposed to a host of other silent options.”

    Prayer or nothing are the choices presented to students. I’m not opposed to providing a silent period of time to students in public schools, but it should’t be presented in that way. If they want a period of silence for students to do with as they please is fine. A moment provided specifically for prayer is unconstitutional, in my opinion. We’ll see if the higher court agrees.

    In any case, the point that students can pray silently all they want in school is not a strawman (you don’t seem to understand the term), but rather it shows why such stealth maneuvers at injecting forced or coerced prayer into schools are unnecessary on their face.

  46. Bass says:

    The men who wrote the Constitution somehow misunderstood what they intended when they created it I guess , huh?

    Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the most important framer of the Constitution, James Madison, also fought alongside Jefferson to de-establish the state church in Virginia, or that they explicitly avoided theological language in its wording?

    As for students being “forced” to pray, where is your evidence?

    Try reading some first-hand accounts of minority religion students during the period when protestant prayer was more or less mandated in schools. The element of ostracization was quite frequent, particularly if you had the “misfortune” to be Jewish, Mormon, or some other religion that the mainstream protestants considered “not truly christian”.

    But then, school prayer advocates like to play a shell game with this. They’ll talk about students being banned from prayer, but scratch the surface, and almost all of them want mandated prayer in school – their type of prayer, of course.

  47. sam says:

    She’s “clarified” her position:

    In an exclusive interview with Battle ’10, Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell talked about her remarks made earlier this morning that the words “separation of church and state” are not present in the Constitution.

    “It seems the AP and others are twisting it out of context,” O’Donnell said. “What I was trying to prove is that my opponent does not know the First Amendment.”

    “What our constitution prevents is … government establishing a religion, but it also says that it won’t prohibit free exercise thereof,” argued O’Donnell.

    O’Donnell’s original comment was made to address a question asked in a debate this morning about whether local public schools could teach creationism. Talking to Battle ‘10, O’Donnell said that if the local school board approves, there was nothing unconstitutional about a public school teaching the intelligent design theory.

    “He’s [Coons] saying the school board has no right do that, that the First Amendment prevents that,” she said. “My position was that’s not true. It gives them the freedom to teach that if that’s what local schools want.” http://www.nationalreview.com/battle10/250293/exclusive-o-donnell-clarifies-first-amendment-remarks-katrina-trinko

    She seems totally unaware of Edwards v. Aguillard and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Of course, if she meant that ID or Creationism could be taught in, say, a religion class, no problem. I doubt that she meant that though, but who knows?

  48. Dodd says:

    Since we’re still not ignoring O’Donnell despite your explicit suggestion that we do so, Doug, let me just point out that the article is somewhat misleading as to what she said. He full comment was as follows:

    “The First Amendment does? … So you’re telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase ‘separation of church and state,’ is in the First Amendment?”

    This is, of course, entirely correct. Her actual (rather more significant, frankly) mistake was what came next when she didn’t appear to realize that the Establishment Clause (as inartfully worded by Coons) is in the First Amendment.

    This little tempest in a teapot has been blow way out of proportion, mostly based on inaccurate recitations of her words.

    Note that I am not defending the idiot. But it’s best to be accurate about these things.

  49. It is perhaps a matter of nuance, but she was still wrong.

    And I firmly wish this twit would just stop making news. Two more weeks, and she’ll be moving on to her Fox News gig

  50. Kelly says:

    She has zero understanding of the Constitution? Hmmmm. Sounds to me like she’ll fit right in in D.C.

  51. MichaelW says:

    “It is perhaps a matter of nuance, but she was still wrong.”

    Nah. She had it exactly right — i.e. the phrase (and concept) of “a wall of separation” are not in the Constitution, much less the 1st Amendment (which she obviously recognized).

    What’s more disturbing is that she didn’t know what the XIVth or XVIth Amendments were about. I guess she could be forgiven for the income tax one, but the XIVth? That really is ridiculous for someone who wants to be a Senator. It seems to me that a much more fruitful line of attack against O”Donnell lies there (although, given Coons’ paltry understanding of any of it, it may be a wash).

    The bottom line is, while O’Donnell is not an ideal candidate in any sense, she is still better than the alternative of Mike Castle who would only serve to advance the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda and be difficult for a qualified candidate to run against. With O’Donnell’s successful primary campaign (even if she loses the election as expected), there is at least the possibility that a fiscally conservative candidate will emerge from the sidelines who might not have otherwise bothered.

    Well, that and the fact that O’Donnell presents plenty of opportunities for legitimate attack as opposed to the prevailing lines that subsist upon manufactured moments of outrage and (deliberately?) misconstrued statements. She may be bad as a candidate, but not in the way she’s been portrayed.

    P.S. @Doug: did you get my invitation to the Abizaid speech? I understand if you want to decline, but I wasn’t sure if you even had the opportunity. You have my email. Please let me know.

    Cheers,

    MJW

  52. wr says:

    John says: “Funny that just after ratifying the Constitution they prayed in congress, before court cases and included “In God We Trust” on the currency. Were they ignorant of their own words or are you?”

    Which proves that he’s yet another graduate from the Glen Beck school of constittional history. The phrase was first used on coins in 1864 — hardly “just after ratifying the Constitution” — and added to paper money in the 1950s in an attempt to prove we weren’t Commie rat bastards.

    John is yet another marching moron, repeating whatever he hears on Fox. Amazing. Here we used to be worried about the Commies brainwashing our citizens, and now a huge group of them are begging for the treatment.

    John — Go back to real school. Learn something before it’s too late.

    Or just learn to keep your mouth shut before you embarass yourself again.

  53. TG Chicago says:

    I agree with Paul L. In this post, Mataconis points out that O’Donnell is a flake… then completely twists the event during the debate to try to bolster his point. Look: O’Donnell is a flake! It’s true! There’s no need to make false claims to underscore this. Stick with the facts, Mataconis.

  54. Spin this anyway you want, it’s clear that O’Donnell has a far-right view of the First Amendment that is completely out of line with both history and with nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent