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. InTruth23

    Christne O'Donnell is her own worst enemy! Since she agrees that Sepration of Church and state has been established by the courts then the argument is a mute point. Coons also pointed out that an established religion will not be recoginized by the US as one that dictates it's own dogma on a group of people. That is what the founding fathers were trying to do. So if you're a baptist you can't force me to be one if I'm a methodist. This is simple six grade civics...LOL!

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

    Didn't she take Civics in High School?

    October 19, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  3. Publius13

    O'Donnell, like most of her cohorts in the TEA parties, lacks even basic knowledge of the very Constitution that they purport to respect as the supreme law of the land. I doubt that O'Donnell has ever read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance, or for that matter, any of the seminal SCOTUS decisions she decries. It seems to me that before anyone signs on with a bunch of Constitution and flag wavers, they ought to make sure the wavers have some basic knowledge of the documents. And anyone who seriously advocates repeal of the 14th, 16th, and/or 17th Amendments would take this country back to ante-bellum times. Hey, why not go for the 13th while they're at it? I think that's what they really want. I guess the question I would ask of such people is whether they want to continue to have a nation called the United States of America.

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. Dan

    Hey Mr. Mooney, get your facts straight. The first amendment does not say anything about seperation of Church and State. Bad headline from an ignorant liberal!!

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. Scott

    Oh gosh bless her even if she doesn't know anything she's not a democrat so I'm voting for her.

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. PaulaAP

    Wow – not embarrassed to demonstrate her vast ignorance – Tea Partier for sure!

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. Robert in NYC

    MAN UP O'Donnell! AND DROP OUT OF THIS RACE!!! You've lost it! And the Republicans continue to implode day by day....

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. Keith

    I'm confused as to what the 'lesson' was?

    This is terrible journalism.

    October 19, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. duke

    How can you and your party stand for the constitution when you and your party don't respect/don't know about the constitution??

    October 19, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. Craig

    Ok, I'll give Ms. O'Donnell the argument that senators don't have to memorize the Constitution (even though I am certain many do considering that most have worked hard to become Senators and the Constitution is a big part of our government) but you have got to be a freaking moron – or just utterly careless – if you can't recall the consitutional ammendments that your own tea party stumps daily on every platform available. Stop blaming liberal media and their "gotcha jounalism" (that your fearless leader, Sarah Palin, famously quoted because she couldn't answer fundamental questions) and start arming yourself with a fundamental knowledge of government or current issues. If you want a focused, bi-partisan, effective government we have to stop voting for the candidate that screams the loudest rhetoric and start voting in intelligent, reasoned invididuals – democrat or republican, I could care less.

    October 19, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. Dt

    Hey cons, How can u defend something u know nothing about,lol.

    October 19, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Joann Stump

    PLease change typo "Prevents" to "protects" Thank you

    October 19, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. steven harnack

    "Fortunately Senators don't have to memorize the Constitution" but apparently they can accuse people of disregarding it or espouse their version of it without actually knowing what's in it.

    October 19, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. Laurie

    For God's sake and she is running for Senate? Heaven help us all. what an embarassment.

    October 19, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. harvey 60

    she'll be attending the michelle bachmann constitutional law class if elected, otherwise known as the rush limbaugh/sarah palin school for dolts. maureen dowd is right, but these people are notn just bullies. they're so stupid, and so easily led, that they're very very dangerous.

    October 19, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. True American

    these tea party loons are hoot. they know nothing of the constitution. they proclaim that they do, but they will be the first in line to spit on it.

    October 19, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. LeavePalinAlone

    You're taking her out of context. It was a retorical question because all liberals think the 1st Amendment is the separation of church and state and that is not correct. The first amendment merely says that Congress shall establish no religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Also, it's funny how God is on our currency, in our oaths, etc. and people think the founding fathers meant it to be separated out. I'm an aetheist and I can figure this out.

    October 19, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Chad

    What si going on inthis country, that anyone in their right mind could take this women seriously? I was watchinghow Hitler came to power with brown shirts verbally abusing people who disagreed with them,which eventaully spread to beatings of those who disagreed with them. Evil wins when good people do nothing to stop it. People need to rise and stop this minority of vocal angry people from hijacking this country. My persian friends tells me how no one in Iran took the mullahs serioisly until one day they woke up and they were running the country. Myf riends get out and vote and stop this Tea Party Lunacy.

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

    Maybe senators SHOULD be required to memorize the constitution!! And the Bill of Rights. And each amendment added since. After all, they're in the stinking legislature . . . isn't that supposed to be where laws are crafted and voted on?? Heaven help us but our congressional choices are between ignorance and idiocy.

    October 19, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. Observer

    Typical of something Palin herself would say or by someone Palin would whole-heartedly endose. You betcha!

    October 19, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Gayle

    We finally found the right McCain for President!

    October 19, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  22. The Mud Shark from Oregon

    Yes, Christine there is a constitution. Senators are not required to memorize the constitution, but they are expected to understand the most basic tenets therein. I'm sure that this woman sincerely believes in what she says, and she probably does not intentionally act stupid. Unfortunately for her, I look for something more in a candidate for a US senate seat. You know, like intelligence, an understanding of American history, and the ability to understand difficult concepts such as evolution and global climate change. These tea bagging whackos are going to be VERY interesting to watch...

    October 19, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  23. logicalme

    "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."

    Oh dear god!! .People want to send this women to congress?

    October 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. David1225

    The problem is, unfortunately, she's right. There is nothing about the separation of church and state in the Constitution, and, in fact, most legal scholars believe that such a separation was not intended at the state level. The doctrine of the wall of separation was invented by the Supreme Court, which, of course, is their prerogative.

    October 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  25. John Szelog

    Let's see: 1. Freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speach, freedom of associations, freedom of religion.

    Not sure on that last one. How'd I do?

    October 19, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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