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. Linda

    And this woman is running for the Senate? Heaven help us!!!

    October 19, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Greg

    The words "separation," "church," and "state" are nowhere to be found in the First Amendment. It is intentionally vague and was the colonists' fairly reasonable response to the existence of the Church of England. It bears mentioning that several states had their own statewide Churches.

    I'm not saying that Christine O'Donnell isn't an abject moron, but let's not allow that to take away from the fact that the Separation of Church and State, understood as such, is the deeply misunderstood brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, as interpreted by a 1950's Supreme Court.

    October 19, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Jim

    Well that is one seat the Dems won't have to worry about

    October 19, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. LISA

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." The modern concept is often credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke, but the phrase "separation of church and state" is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, where Jefferson spoke of the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause . She is right.

    October 19, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Mrs. MC

    Senators don't have to memorize the Constitution???

    Well, that's probably part of the problem, folks. Let's start with having all potential candidates read the Constitution.

    Matter of fact, maybe we'd better make that "all potential high school students."

    I don't care what Ms. O'Donnel did in high school. Everybody did something they'd rather forget when they were 16. Personally, I spent that year drinking cheap wine, sneaking cigarettes out of the glove box of my dad's car, and hiking three miles down a country road during shift change so I could jump up and down in front of an air shaft fan (a really big fan that moves a lot of air out of a coal mine at high velocity) pretending to fly.

    What bothers me is that I've gotten at least marginally smarter since them. Neither Ms. O'Donnel, her competitors, nor the majority of other folks running for office in the last 10 years seem to be able to make that statement, with or without qualifiers.

    October 19, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. ChristoInferno

    Wow... What a tool.

    Good job, Tea Party. Way to pick a winner.

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. lol

    OMG...This is too funny

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Mah

    "Good thing senators don't have to memorize the constitution" .......... Delaware, that should be your biggest hint right there.

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Steve S

    O’Donnell was later able to score some points of her own off the remark, revisiting the issue to ask Coons if he could identify the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

    Coons named the separation of church and state, but could not identify the others — the freedoms of speech, press, to assemble and petition — and asked that O’Donnell allow the moderators ask the questions.

    “I guess he can’t,” O’Donnell said.

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. steve505

    "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.

    wtf?

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. keeth in cali

    "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]? Because I plan on being a complete hypocrite and ignoramus just like the people I'm trying to oust."

    October 19, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. Left Leaner

    Good grief! Because of O'Donnell, the United States, and, in particular, the Tea party, is the laughing stock of the world.

    October 19, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. SAY WHAT!!!

    Thanks McCain...

    October 19, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. A concerned voter

    It's like she's five. years old.

    October 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    And tell me how many amendments did Coons have quote? Did they even ask him ANY questions about the Constitution? I bet not?

    October 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  16. Patriot

    I expect my Juniors in high school to know more about the Constitution than O'Donnell seems to-and SHE wants to be in the U.S. Senate? Is this how low we have sunk?

    October 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Laurie in Spokane

    And this woman is running for the US Senate? Can she see Russia from her front porch just like Palin? They must be related; both are unbelievably stupid and uninformed.

    October 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. Jack

    This woman, and her tea party ilk, are a threat to democracy and to the security of our nation.

    October 19, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. ghp

    This election cycle of Tea Party candidates are ignorant and dangerous. Most of them do not understand the basics of how government works nor do they have an understanding of the Constitution. Just today, shots were fired at the Pentagon. Inspired by Tea Party rhetoric no doubt.

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. Jay

    This is not surprising. Ignorance is the foundation upon which creationism and political conservatism rests.

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Realistic

    As I have stated many times before, these TP candidates are not just right of center, they are so far right that they are beyond absurd. I know people are tired of life long politicians and some want them out but should we really replace them with these TP people. Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment(the provision that calls for direct election of U.S. senators) really? So as a voter I should vote for these TP people so they could take my right to vote away to chose my own senator(s). Really? Its like hiring someone who tells you directly that" If you hire me I will steal from you" and go and hire him/her anyway. What do expect to happen? They want you to vote for them so they can take the right away from you..Wake up people!!!!!!

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Captain EO

    Hahahaha! How long does moderation take? Didn't like what i had to say? Fine, here it is again:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion" and "Separation of Church and State" are not equal statements. Not by a longshot. That little word 'establishment' actually means something.

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Phattee

    This is ignorance at its most extreme. If O'Donnell really meant what her spokesperson claims she meant, she could've very easily have said that instead of embarrassing herself. Keep this woman and those like her as far away from political office as possible.

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Mick

    A view from Canada, where do the tea baggers find these people? Hiding under a rock, even I know that they were arguing the 14th amendment specifically to nullify Citizenship for illegal alien babies who are born in the USA. And..monkey like creatures do not turn into humans overnight as she seems to think as seen on the Maher show. Evolution is a theory supported by tons of evidence and takes place over long periods of time. Gravity is a theory too so maybe if she doesn't believe in scientific theory she should talk a long walk off a short pier and see what happens. geez louis!

    October 19, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Ed

    No, Christine, Senators do not have to memorize the Constitution; but wouldn't it be nice to know it if you are advocating trashing it?! This joke has gone on too long - though not as long as that Alaska-sized joke called Palin. Fortunately her campaign is imploding; but we cannot take Coons' lead for granted. This idiot O'Donnell is DANGEROUS. It is stunning that she actually is viable and that people will actually vote for her. America - do you really want to wear your stupidity on your sleeve?

    October 19, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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