October 26th, 2010
09:58 PM ET
3 years ago

Colorado's Ken Buck on Christmas Trees and the First Amendment

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - In an interview with CNN, Colorado's Republican Senatorial nominee Ken Buck made clear he believes in the separation of church and state. He defended comments he made last year during a candidates forum in which he challenged the way courts have interpreted the First Amendment's religious protections.

Buck told CNN, "I have said I agree with the establishment clause. I agree with the idea that there is a separation of church and state. That teachers should not be leading prayer – a particular kind of prayer in classrooms. What I have said is that I think the federal government and we as a society have come too far in trying to separate good organizations that perform good functions for people just based on the fact one has a religious association and one doesn't."

CNN asked Buck to address the issue after a video of him surfaced Monday in which he says, "I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state. It was not written into the Constitution." That video, posted on the left-leaning website ThinkProgress, was taken during a candidates forum last year. In the video he goes on to say "While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that's sanctioned by the government, it doesn't mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion. And so that, that concerns me a great deal."

The separation is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, but it has become an accepted governing doctrine.

The campaign of Buck's Democratic opponent, Michael Bennet, sent out a string of emails sending reporters to the video. A Bennet campaign spokesman released a statement saying, "While the Constitution doesn't contain the exact words 'separation of church and state' legal scholars and the courts agree it does prohibit the establishment or endorsement of religion, and that the involvement Buck wants is dangerous."

In the CNN interview Buck argued his words have been taken out of context.

"My problem isn't with separation of church and state. It is with how far we have gone in that area. I think when you have a soup kitchen for example that is run by the Salvation Army which has religious ties in town and you have another soup kitchen in town which is purely secular. For the federal government to give one organization money but not the other because one has ties with a religious group is wrong. The idea is that we need to have compassionate programs for people. And if religious organizations are performing some of those functions without proselytizing then I think the federal government should include both."

He said while government and religion should work together to help society, "we absolutely have to maintain the concept behind the establishment clause. We don't want a religion forced on us by government. There are many functions that religion, that religious organizations perform that I think are important in our society."

Political candidates' views of First Amendment protections first became an issue this cycle when Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell – speaking during a debate – questioned whether the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state. She later explained she simply meant that exact phrase isn't included in the founding documents.

In Colorado, Democrats are also firing at Buck for criticizing the use of the term "holiday tree." In that same video he says President Obama has used that term to describe the White House Christmas tree and he thinks it's "just flat wrong."

Buck tells CNN, "I think it is a Christmas tree." But he said he wouldn't press legislation on the matter explaining, "I don't think it is a legislating issue. I think it is a Christmas tree. That is what we have traditionally called it. It is there on Christmas Day. And I think that is what it should be called."

The White House has not changed the name of the White House Christmas tree.

Buck's views on social issues have gained national attention – he opposes abortion in all cases and recently compared homosexuality to alcoholism. The candidate insists these issues are not important to the majority of Colorado voters.

"I'm talking about jobs and I'm talking about spending. I'm not going to sit here and talk about social issues. It is not – it is exactly where my opponent would like to take this debate. He has voted for the health care bill. He has voted for the stimulus bill. He has voted for so many pieces of legislation that he doesn't want to talk about and it is exactly what the voters in this state want to know about," he said.


Filed under: 2010 • Colorado • Ken Buck • Michael Bennet
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. gary taylor

    My oh My,how times have changed.The debate over Church and State is probably causing many long dead Presidents and congressmen to to turn over in their graves.As many people know, actual Church services were held inside the Capitol building for many years.! Several presidents were preachers.

    October 26, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. JH

    Oh good grief. As a Coloradan, can I just beg that someone PLEASE explain to the good candidate that the history of Christmas trees is pagan in origin and was part of the Church's (quite crafty and smart) plan to woo pagans to Christian beliefs (like re-setting the date of Christ's birth to as close to the winter equinox as possible)? I'm so tired of driving around town and seeing the aggressively hateful signs arguing that it "IS" "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays", as if embracing different beliefs (like, um, all the Jewish and Muslim holy days that fall on or around the consumer-driven frenzy of the Christmas season) is SOOO un-American. Yes, Ken. It's a Christmas tree. And before that, it was a pagan holiday tree celebrating the cycle of the seasons and the perpetuity of life. So scary.

    October 26, 2010 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  3. NotFooled

    You want to pray in school – send your kids to a parochial school.

    This country needs to move forward, not back. Mr. Buck and his beliefs are a huge step backward.

    October 26, 2010 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  4. TOTAL FACT

    This is sickening. This country was founded because of religious prosecution and now we have grown so smart as to not need Jesus Christ or his father our Lord almight in our lives anymore. This is sad for this country is due surely to fall. You have smart government officials representing us the taxpayers and the voters who elected them to these high paying jobs. They have turned their backs upon us, our children and our future. Now God is not needed in America anymore. But then I guess the Koran is. They will not let you pray in schools, ballgames or any other informal gathering outside of Church. We have a President who is either so ignorant or so obstinate that he refuses to salute our own flag. Instead he grabs his crotch just like his foul-talking four letter words his Bros speak. This country is down in the gutter where soon the white people will be looking for bones or any other scraps thrown away. WAKE UP AMERICA TRYANNY IS UPON US NOW. AND WE DID NOT CAUSE IT. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT DESERVE IT.

    October 26, 2010 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  5. LouAz

    "The separation is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, but it has become an accepted governing doctrine."
    CNN, you need to take a Junior High School Civics Class. It is part and parcel of the Constitution, and is part of the reason that the Constitution got signed as the Bill of Rights, the first ten Ammendments, was promised, in the day that your "word" meant something. You can not have one without the other ! Get right on this CNN, the Bill of Rights is not some optional addendum to the Constitution of the United States. It is NOT doctrine, it IS the Constitution.

    October 26, 2010 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  6. lisa

    I would like to email this to my daughter for school, what happened to the email to a friend option?

    October 26, 2010 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  7. chaski

    Oh, reading this makes me feel so much better about him since he is not going to push legislation that would require the use of the term Christmas tree, rather than Holiday tree.

    Phew, I thought he was going to start sounding like those big government tpes who try to regulate our lives.

    October 26, 2010 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  8. johnjo

    Ken Buck is as sane and as practical as they come. I don't agree with everything he believes, but he is not on a mission to shove his personal beliefs down our throats like Obama's puppetman Bennet. Ken's mission is small accountable government, fiscal restraint, and getting out of the way of small business. That means JOBS.

    October 26, 2010 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  9. u2canfail

    Ken Buck is something wants the government to support church charities? Nope, if they are supporting charity, it should be with their own money. How can we have smaller government, less taxes and support churches?
    I think we should tax churches. They are money making machines.

    October 26, 2010 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  10. A Kickin` Donkey

    Advice to GOPTP`ers -

    When you`re caught in a LIE or have been revealed for you LACK of KNOWLEDGE just admit your mistake and stop "spinning".

    Drop the shovel ... stop thrashing around.

    October 26, 2010 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  11. randy

    Separation of church and state was in a letter answered by Thomas Jefferson to a preacher worried about the State establishing a Government religion. His assurance was that the State had no right over the religious freedoms..in other words..the State was to keep itself out of the religious practices of it`s citizens..not the warped interpretation we have now..I hate a back-pedaling politician..know what you stand for and STAND FOR IT !

    October 27, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  12. dwayne

    Remember there is no heaven or hell and you will be a lot happier.

    October 27, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  13. Peter E

    Fun fact: During the 20th century in COMMUNIST Eastern Europe the state spent large amounts of money on church and religious organizations' charity work AND even religious schools! How the heck is it possible that in the 'morally superior BASTION of Christianity' that is America we have prohibition of public funds going to charity because it is done through well-meaning religious organizations?
    Oh, right, compassion and charity are considered unamerican SOCIALIST values. We must oppose them no matter whom we kick under, even our fellow Christians!

    October 27, 2010 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  14. barry

    Senator Buck now that has a nice ring to it.

    October 27, 2010 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  15. Trish

    It's an important distinction between having freedom of religion and freedom from religion. No one should expect individuals to have to check their faith – or lack there of – at the front door of the Capitol. But that's where we're heading in this country.

    October 27, 2010 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  16. J.V.Hodgson

    He chooses to ignore the precise words of the 1st Amendment and more critically correspondence amongst the founding fathers elaborating on intent of the meaning. His soup kitchen argument is spurious to me catholics, Jews, etc etc etc in the community may operate these freely and do. So may some non religisously affiliated community enterprise. Government at state and National level has no part in charity. Unless there is some kind of major national disaster in which case ther are multiple agencies that can give money.
    When he tops it off with anti abortion, anti gay, he is again allowing his religious views to determine his political vote, and for me disrespecting certain parts of the constitution as well particularly freedom of the Individual, and we all all created equal.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    October 27, 2010 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  17. Sherri W.W.

    So Mr bucks`opponent voted for the Stimulas,the Health Care bill,and other pieces of legislation?~Well,yes THAT IS what we elect them to do!To vote FOR things that benefit the majority~an evidently unknown thing to do,among Republicans!Vote em all out!and SURE dont vote any new ones[Repubs]in!

    October 27, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  18. CONSTANCE MOORE

    I think it is interesting how the Christmas holiday has become "Holiday" "Happy Holidays." It almost seems like we as a nation are afriad to regonize our Christian heritage. Whats up with that?

    October 27, 2010 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  19. jules sand-perkins

    Ken Buck's views on Christmas trees are agreeable. I went through a period of sending "holiday" cards even to my Christian friends. That's all over.
    Mr. Buck is also correct about the economy's being the most important issue, but his take on abortion, homosexuality, and alcoholism places his mentation several centuries behind our time.
    We need change from Obama's change, but, as a Republican, I think that a Democrat might do a better job in the Senate than Ken Buck would.

    October 27, 2010 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  20. BDGFN

    Ken Buck is extremely dangerous and electing him to the Senate would be disastrous. He has been taped saying we are spending too much money on education and that some of that money should go to the prisons. I don't know in what universe Ken Buck lives, but this country lags far behind many other nations in education, and it shows in the test scores high school students take, such as the SAT, and in how far behind we are in the fields of mathematics and science. Ken Buck is bad for Colorado, and he would be bad for the country as a whole.

    October 27, 2010 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  21. vwrtb_30

    Republicans are too funny! Lol

    October 27, 2010 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  22. jay in denver

    Buck again tries to take back his comments made throughout the primary season to win over the far right in Colorado. The rest of the state isn't falling for it. Bennet is nothing special, but Buck is definitely the evil of two lessers in this race.

    October 27, 2010 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  23. Marie MD

    Keep on spinning. It doesn't work. Rethugs are all about not wanting BIG government but they do want BIG government to rule women, religion, guns and anything else we do.

    October 27, 2010 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  24. Dawn Ada, Ohio

    Is that what Republicans are worried about "holiday trees" vs. Christmas trees??? Really?? Wow?? That just blows me over. How dare Dems want equal rights for gays.........it's not like that is important or anything. Amazing.

    October 27, 2010 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  25. Indie Woman in Denver

    You're wrong, Ken Buck. Women care about your stance on women's issues and your attitude toward women. Liberals care about your stance on gay issues and your characterization of gays, not to mention your positions on Soc Sec, Medicare/MEDICAID, and so many others. You're so wrong for the majority of Coloradans.

    October 27, 2010 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
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