Christine O'Donnell Questions Separation Of Church And State
When her Democratic opponent said that public schools aren’t permitted to teach religion, O’Donnell asked, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?”
When Coons explained, O’Donnell then said, “Let me just clarify, you’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment.”
To some, the comments made by O’Donnell today at Widener University Law School are just one more reason the GOP candidate is facing lagging numbers in the polls, leading some experts to believe that Coons will win the Senate race.
“Easily, Coons is the one that came out on top [today],” said Dr. Wesley Leckrone, Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at Widener University Law School.
“[O’Donnell] was really forced to come out and be aggressive [because of low numbers at the polls] and I think Coons withstood that aggression,” he said.
However, O’Donnell used the incident to her advantage later in the debate, asking Coons if he could name the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.”
Coons could only name the separation of church and state. The others are the freedoms of the press, speech, to assemble, and to petition.
O’Donnell’s campaign manager, Matt Moran, released a statement clarifying the candidate’s comment, saying, “Christine O’Donnell was not questioning the concept of separation of church and state as subsequently established by the courts. She simply made the point that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution.”
However, Erin Daly, a Constitutional Law professor at Widener, believes the damage has already been done by O’Donnell’s comment.
“I think she has a steep learning curve as far as Constitutional issues go. The most surprising part was what appeared to be her surprise that the First Amendment establishes the principle of separation between church and state,” Daly said.
Reach Reporter Brooke Matthews here.
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