"Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?" an incredulous O'Donnell asks her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons. The audience is heard laughing in the background. "Let me just clarify, you're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"O'Donnell is, of course, correct; the First Amendment does not say "separation of church and state."
"Government shall make no establishment of religion," Coons responds.
"That's in the First Amendment," O'Donnell says.
She's weaker on the later amendments however:
Later, O'Donnell was asked if she would support repealing the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments. She knew the 17th Amendment, but could not remember the others. "I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me… Fortunately, senators don't have to memorize the Constitution. Remind me of what the other ones are."It's good she knew the 17th, since it's why she has even a snowball's chance in hell of becoming a U.S. senator.
The AP story gives some amusing commentary:
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.Political scientists don't have to memorize the Constitution either, I gather.
"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.
This will be all over the conservative blogs as a "gotcha." Rightly so, I'm afraid.
... The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause does amount to "a separation of church and state." Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 719 (2005) (Ginsburg, J.). Justice Thomas's concurrence in that case disagrees:
Congress need not observe strict separation between church and state, or steer clear of the subject of religion. It need only refrain from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion”; it must not interfere with a state establishment of religion.So O'Donnell should not be any more, or less, shocking than Clarence Thomas.