October 19th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
4 years ago

O'Donnell gets Coons for Constitutional Law 101

(CNN) – Christine O'Donnell received a lesson on the Constitution at Delaware's Widener Law School Tuesday, but unfortunately for the Republican Senate candidate it came during a debate with Democrat Chris Coons.

On the issue of whether creationism should be taught in public schools, a highly skeptical O'Donnell questioned Coon's assertion that the First Amendment calls for the separation of church and state.

"The First Amendment does?" O'Donnell asked during the Tuesday morning debate. "Let me just clarify: You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

Watch the heated interaction, after the jump:

Coons responded by quoting the relevant text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

"That's in the First Amendment?" a still skeptical O'Donnell replied smiling, as laughter could be heard from the crowd.

Earlier in the debate, O'Donnell flat out asked, "Where in the Constitution is separation of Church and State?" - a question that Coons did not appear to take seriously.

Matt Moran, campaign manager for Christine O’Donnell, said in a statement that 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. It was in fact Chris Coons who demonstrated his Constitutional ignorance when he could not name the five freedoms contained in the First Amendment.”

Unfortunately for O'Donnell, the Tea Party-backed candidate also stumbled over the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Amendments when asked if she would support repealing them.

"I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately, senators don't have to memorize the Constitution. Can you remind me of [them]?" O'Donnell said.

Some Republicans and members of the Tea Party movement have advocated repealing the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment that grants citizenship to every individual born in the United States and the Sixteenth Amendment that created the Federal Income Tax.

Members of the Tea Party movement have also called for a repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment – the provision that calls for direct election of U.S. senators. O'Donnell was aware of that amendment and said she supported it.


Filed under: 2010 • Chris Coons • Christine O'Donnell • Delaware
soundoff (325 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Who cares what's in the constitution? All that matters is what God wants. What Would Reagan do? But most importantly – I'm not a witch.

    October 19, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Darko

    'Separation of Church and State' is mentioned NO WHERE in the constitution. The First states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

    Shall make NO law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE OF...

    It does NOT state that there can be no religion whatsoever in anything related to govt (that would be prohibiting the free exercise of). The govt cannot establish or endorse one religion over another like the Church of England. Furthermore, state govts and state govt duties (such as education, which the federal govt has no constitutional authority to legislate) aren't bound by 'congress'. This is another reason why Federalism is so important.

    Lesson 1: Don't take Constitutional interpretations from Marxist, Communists, Statists or Progressives. They hate everything about the Constitution. It's the fundamental bane of their agenda.

    It's sad that the 'educated' audience thought O'Donnel was being ignorant, when in fact, she was making Coon (and CNN!!!) out to be the fool communist that they are!!! ZING!!!!

    October 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  3. ChumBucket

    "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."

    That folks, is the first amendment. Your opinion on how this applies to the point O'donnel was trying to make will depend on if you like O'donnel, or dislike her.

    Literally though, she is correct.

    October 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. TangledThorns

    The phrase of separation of church and state does not exist in the Constitution. O'Donnell was right, Coons and CNN are wrong.

    October 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. Ken

    She is absolutly right.... the first amendment says there shall not be a state church or religion. There is nothing in the Constitution about the separation of chirch and state. The Founders did not keep religion out of the government, congress started each day with a prayer.. a practice that is still going on today! The Senate even has a Chaplin. The Founders were simply protecting us from a state religion like the Church of England whose repression so many of our forefathers fled.

    It is a sad testament to the state of our Law schools that the audience at the debate didn't know she was right. No wonder the practice of Law has such a bad name, and the profession does so much damage to out country and freedoms. Just look at the fact that nearly 50% of memebers of congress are lawyers!!

    It's also a sad testament that the media is so dishonest, or ignorant as the print this as a true story. Don't worry about the truth, use it to try to eek out a victory. At the expence of the Truth and our Freedoms. I had to dig just to find a place to post a response... what are they so afraid of?? Also why was it not printed that Coons could not name the 5 freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment when she asked him what they were?? Dishonest and cowardly...

    October 19, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  6. Richard T.

    Why are all the Tea Party and Republican canidates always saying anything they do not support is unconstitutional or not in the constitution? Repeatedly these self defined constitutional experts can not answer simple questions about the U.S Constitution they say they cherish so much. Sharron Angle also says there is not requirement for the separation of church and state in the constitution. Theocrats just like in Iran and the Taliban.

    October 19, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. J

    Sarah Palin lite

    October 19, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Bill

    I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Let me check with my book of potions and my broom. Hocus-pocus giranamocus, mirror mirror on the wall....

    October 19, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  9. Mark

    And people actually take this lady seriously? Wow, just shows how stupid people are.

    October 19, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. wil

    This is so sad. At least no what you are talking about.

    October 19, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Phil

    How can you support somebody for the United States Senate who does not know anything at all about the amendments to the Constitution, and thus presumably, the Constitution itself???

    October 19, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Sherry

    Hopefully one day (sooner rather than later) people will realize that we need people who at least know the Constitution before they decide to run for the senate. To think you can just fly in on your broom and be elected is naive at best. Should Ms. O'Donnell be elected (God forbid), it would be interesting to follow her senate career to see just how long it takes for the special interest groups to "get to her" and buy her votes. She looks to be easily swayed. Look how quickly she went from being a Sarah Palin look-a-like to a different look, just to try to get elected. At the very least Ms. O'Donnell should have memorized the First Amendment in preparation for the debate. Isn't it interesting that she, like Palin, always have excuses for their lack of knowledge or simply just blame someone else. Sad days in politics.

    October 19, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. Jeff W

    O'Donnel is correct here. The phrase "seperation of church and state" does not appear in the constititution. The first ammendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....".

    October 19, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  14. Old Farmboy

    Thought I'd have some fun on this one...

    "On the issue of whether creationism should be taught in public schools, a highly skeptical O'Donnell questioned Coon's assertion that the First Amendment calls for the separation of church and state."

    FACT: The separation of Church and state is mentioned no where in the constitution.

    "Coons responded by quoting the relevant text: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

    Okay, I'm still trying to figure out the Church and state significance of this statement. This statement means, 1) a law cannot be passed that merges the Catholic and Baptist religions to form the "Baptholic" religion. Again..... no such separation of Church and state.

    Ah, now to the point. Creationism in the classroom. Well, this is my personal view, but why not. My only caveat to that is if there is an active religious program at the school. Evolution is taught as a science and not a faith and vice versa. I think that the student should be pointed in the direction to get that information if they desire, but no as science curricula.

    October 19, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  15. Meg from Iowa

    I am so not surprised that she hasn't even bothered to learn the Constitution. She is a phony just like Palin.

    October 19, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  16. Mollybee

    Eough of these "tea party" airheads! Lord-a-mercy!

    October 19, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. JFK

    Wow, O'Donnell doesnt know the Constitution? No surprise really since most Tea Party candidates are pandering to the uneducated crowd. Angle doesnt know if Hispanics are Asians. This is the best they got to offer us? Tea Partiers might as well put on white sheets and bring out the burning crosses. This is the decline of America happening if these people win.

    October 19, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. Billy

    Ah the CNN ticket. Home of Sarah Palin news and Tea Party candidate smear pieces.

    October 19, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. michaelam

    Miss O'Donnell-time to pack it up, go home, and realize you are not fit to represent Delaware. If you do not understand even the basics of our legal system, how can you enact laws? How can you legislate?

    This is why I do not vote for Tea Baggers because most are simpletons. Most received their Constitutional education from Glenn Beck's chalkboard......very scary! This is why I do not vote for former CEO's because they, too, possess limited skills in enacting legislation. If you do not know or understand the Constitution or the numerous Supreme Court cases that tested various amendments, stay the hell out of government and public policy in general!

    BTW, Chistine....Thomas Jefferson was very adamant of Separation of Church and State; he did not want an established religion...hence, the Establishment Clause!

    October 19, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. Barry

    She was referring to Coons assertion that the separation of church and state is actually in the Constitution. Coons was the one who looked foolish. The laughter in the crowd was directed at Coons for NOT knowing what is in the First Amendment.

    October 19, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. Todd A

    Holy cow!! Did she ever come to that debate unarmed mentally. God help the people of Deleware stupid enough to cast a vote for her. I think she has little chance of winning, but there will be fools to vote for her.

    October 19, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  22. shadysider

    Funny that those currently calling for a stricter following of the Constitution seem to not know it as well as their 'socialist' opponents. The tea party has been corrupted by social conservatives with neo-con tendencies. They don't know the Constitution and they have no plans to cut the debt. Cutting taxes will only serve to increase the debt. While on the face of it, it's great for us as individuals, our country will pay for it in the long run. Spending must be cut, first through fraud and what-not, but it needs to be cut back drastically as a whole. Doesn't anyone in the government take bids? Oh, also we need to end pension plans and install 401Ks. The one thing Reagan definitely did right was fighting the airline workers. While many be upset with some of what the Democrats have done, for the most part, they're better than their tea party/republican counterparts. The Libertarians have killed themselves by harnessing their wagon securely with Republicans. Same thing with McCain. Ron Paul's commendable vision of libertarianism has unfortunately been hijacked by Fox news and Sarah Palin. Truly a shame.

    October 19, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. CandyBee

    OK, this takes the cake. Not only does this woman not know (from her schooling???) that the constitution provides for separation of church and state, she seems to have no idea of where such a provision would be. Hey, I WENT to Catholic schools and I know they did teach US History. Was she at witch schol then?

    October 19, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Thomas

    Education is overrated by lots!

    October 19, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. The Unsub

    Are we in a bizarro world? You can't make this stuff up! The sad reality is that she still has supporters. My hermit crab is more qualified than her.

    October 19, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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