“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Self-professed Marxist Democrat Chris Coons messed up today in his debate with Conservative Christine O’Donnell. Coons insisted that the First Amendment declared, “”Government shall make no establishment of religion.” The First Amendment actually reads, “”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Christine O’Donnell correctly challenged Coons on his misinterpretation. In fact, O’Donnell was correct. The First Amendment does not prohibit the free exercise of religion or speech as Coons was suggesting. It certainly was not included in the First Amendment.
Unfortunately for O’Donnell, by questioning the church and state commandment she put herself further in the doghouse with the state-run media. They lambasted her for questioning their leftist dogma.
CBS News reported:
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Republican Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell today challenged her Democratic opponent Chris Coons on his statement that the Constitution disallowed the integration of religion into the federal government, asking, “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?”
The exchange, which prompted laughs from the studio audience, came during a debate this morning at Delaware’s Widener School of Law, which was aired by WDEL radio.
In a discussion over the whether or not public schools should be allowed to integrate religion-based ideas into science curricula, O’Donnell argued that local school districts should have the choice to teach intelligent design if they choose.
When asked point blank by Coons if she believed in evolution, however, O’Donnell reiterated that her personal beliefs were not germane. “What I think about the theory of evolution is irrelevant,” she emphasized, adding later that the school of thought was “not a fact but a theory.”
Coons said that creationism, which he considers “a religious doctrine,” should not be taught in public schools due to the Constitution’s First Amendment. He argued that it explicitly enumerates the separation of church and state.
“The First Amendment does?” O’Donnell asked. “Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”
“Government shall make no establishment of religion,” Coons responded, reciting from memory the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Coons was off slightly: The first amendment actually reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”)
“That’s in the First Amendment…?” O’Donnell responded.
Of course, the interpretation by Coons and the media is hardly a concensus. In fact the Supreme Court will hear a school choice case next week on this very issue.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has several updates on this latest attack on O’Donnell.