October 19th, 2010
01:01 PM ET
12 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. Just Go AWAY

    SCARY. JUST SCARY. These people would rather cut off their noses to spike their faces. In other words, they will vote for people like her no matter how unprepared, unqualified, and silly she REALLY is. And I feel for her because she does not realize that she is being played by forces more powerful and WILL be calling for FAVORS if she (GOD forbids) is elected. What gets me is that these same people questioned, and still questions President Obama statehood, religion, etc. But accepts every nut case that the TEA PARONOIDS back. SCARY and sad

    October 19, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. Denise

    Not surprising. She's just one of the Tea Party Reality Show Contestants along for the ride. Well, at least she didn't do what Angle did and call it a "commandment".

    October 19, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. liberal elite = anyone with an education

    Ow, my jaw just hit the ground. How in the world does anybody support these nutjobs?

    October 19, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. RedMan, Canada

    Oh all that ignorance she displays just makes her more folksy to me! If she was smart she's be one of them elitist Liberals! I like my women dumb and hot. Why the heck else do you think I support Palin and O'Donnell??!

    October 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. BobRoss

    If you're going to debate at a law school, you may want to review the constitution (if you don't already know it).

    This is embarrassing.

    October 19, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Marry

    This is just unbelievable! There should be a law, prohibiting such uneducated people like Ms O’Donnell to be a candidate. It shows that the people screaming about “The Constitution” have not the faintest idea what they are talking about. And that is not the only important thing that will influence your live they do know nothing about.
    By the way, what did the GOP(TP) do positive for you in the last 10 years? Well…besides running up the biggest deficit ever in wars based on lies where people died, and leaving the country on the brink – they did fool you now often enough, don’t you think? Please, people, go out and vote! But, do vote in your interest, informed, responsible, and smart! Please!!!!

    October 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Miriam

    WHOA ... this lady is really, really out there! Uneducated, constitutional illiterate for one wanting to be a US Senator and arrogant in her ignorance. Time for this "mamma grizzly" to pack up and go back into the woods.

    October 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. Please Vote Republican, So We Can End The Minimum Wage

    O'Donnell and her supporters want an America where the Bible replaces the Constitution.

    October 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. O'Brother!

    I love America but people like her just embarrass me to be one.

    October 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Thomas Jefferson, 1801:

    "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

    Doesn't get any clearer than that. Jefferson (a) quoted the 1st Amendment and (b) stated that the quoted language was meant to create a "wall of separation between church and state." Arguing otherwise is futile and borderline retarded...after all, he and Madison are the founding fathers responsible for the Constitution, so their explicit expressions of their intent and interpretations constitute 100% proof of what the language in the Constitution was intended to mean. This is why the TX Board of Education has decreed that Jefferson and Madison will be marginalized and downplayed in their history text books, so they can indoctrinate their school children into believing that it's open to intepretation. It isn't. It's already been interpreted...by the guys who wrote it.

    October 19, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. Joe

    Yes, demonstration of what a "Constitutional Conservative" truly is– someone ignorant of the thing they allegedly espouse.

    October 19, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. DICK Cheney

    While literacy tests for voters have been abused in the past and should never be implemented again, I think that Christine O'Donnell amply demonstrates why there probably should be one for our elected officials. She is clear evidence that Tea Party supporters have no interest in what the US Constitution actually says, and want to overturn establish amendments to the Constitution (which have a very high bar to pass). It seems like the more ignorant the candidate is, the greater their support for the Tea Party movement . . . ignorance is bliss!

    October 19, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  13. Don

    Tea Party people don't know what's in the Constitution?
    I am shocked!!
    No, wait, what is this I'm feeling?
    Ahh, totally not surprised.

    October 19, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. Griffin

    Constitutional Ignorance? From Coons?

    "Congress shall make no law respecting AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITIN 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. "

    In other word; there must be no single religion respected/elevated above the others, and there must be no religion demeaned/ranked lower than the rest.

    There must be a distance, a separation if you will, between the two.

    October 19, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. K

    Well...finally this would be the Tea Party choice for 2010. Ms. Palin will be their presidential candidate...and Ms. O'donnel will be her running mate.......What a joke

    October 19, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Jerry in NC

    And people of alleged intelligence are voting for this woman to represent them in congress?

    October 19, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Whututhinkin

    How unsurprising – Ms. O'Donnell doesn't know or understand the Constitution. Palin lite!

    October 19, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. DJ in TX

    There are no words except "are you smarter than a 5th grader?" So she's not even sure of the things the Tea Party supports, but the Tea Party supports her???? The tea party seems to want to do away with the constittional amendments. I really don't understand them. And as an open minded person, it is hard to tell what they really want.

    October 19, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. MS

    A social conservative unfamiliar with separation of church and state? Say it aint so!

    October 19, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. JoeW

    I've always been a believer that the people get the government we deserve. Contrary to a lot of politicians (of BOTH parties), our government is us. If we can't make hard decisions (like: we want social services but we also want tax cuts) than we get politicians who waffle on that issue and deficit spend. Thus, it really saddens me that someone like O'Donnell would actually be a serious candidate (well, okay, a candidate with major money and the support of a serious party) for the US Senate. If she comes within 20 points of winning (let alone if she does better) it will be a very sad indictment of the US public (and no, not just Delaware although those are the voters who get a direct say in this matter). Tea Party members out to be ashamed–not embarassed–but truly ashamed that someone is running with their support and endorsement. Regardless of what your political stance is, what policies you think are best or worst for this country, having someone like this run who doesn't know critical information and then takes dogmatic positions despite that ignorance–it's appalling. It's one thing to not know something–there's a lot I don't know. But I try not to be dogmatic and hold firm conclusions in the areas I know I'm uninformed about. But when someone like O'Donnell takes strong, hard positions about the courts, the constitution, our government and even runs for election (not just this once, but many times), it is shameful that she's a final nominee for any part, let alone that it would be a race she has a chance in.

    October 19, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. Julia- Idaho Native American

    Okay, bimbo, what is it you don't understand about "Congress WILL MAKE NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion," I guess she just doesn't understand about NO! So what religion does she want in Govt? Christian, Judism, Islam, Budda, To each his own in their own place of worship, not in the government. Boy would that create another religious war, americans killin' americans because of religion, Nope, won't happen will it???????

    October 19, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  22. Rich

    Anyone surprised she is that dumb?

    October 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  23. kayla

    talk about looney tunes.

    October 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Goddog

    W, w, w, wow! I may not always agree with my party but I at least demand that they be somewhat grounded in reality and have at least a 6th grade understanding of our constitution. Please stop requiring our high school students to take a secondary language class and require an knowing the constitution class instead. That should weed out the O'Donnell's of the world. This is like Sarah Palin all over. My ideals run down the middle. If you want me to turn right you better turn left and meet me half way.

    October 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. KB

    O'Donnell is absolutely right. There is no seperation of church and state in the US Consitution . It's the biggest Constitutional myth that there is. And this misquotes Coons' response. Coons uses the term "seperation" in his reply, which makes O'Donnell's response logical.

    October 19, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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