The other night, as Christine O’Donnell was arguing for the scientific/educational merits of creationism, she suggested that “the separation of church and state” is not anywhere in the United States Constitution.
Below are two very different media reactions to the incident.
Media Interpretation #1: Rachel Maddow
From Rachel Maddow transcript:
Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Christine O‘Donnell are running for Senate in Delaware. They participated in a debate this morning in which they had an exchange… about the First Amendment, about what‘s in the Constitution.
And when you read the text about their exchange about it, it’s remarkable enough – it‘s remarkable enough that Christine O‘Donnell seems to be challenging Chris Coons’ true assertion that the separation of church and state is laid out in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the part where it says religion and government have to be different things… But when you look at the tape it is clear there was so much going on here… The thing you don‘t get from just reading that exchange, that you do get from the tape, is that she thinks she‘s just won. She thinks she‘s got one over on Chris Coons there… The crowd is laughing… She doesn‘t understand that the crowd is laughing at her because she doesn‘t really believe that he knows what he‘s talking about. If She thinks she has nailed her opponent on this point, that‘s why she repeated it, that’s why she went back to it. In Christine O’Donnell’s mind Chris Coons is wrong—the First Amendment doesn‘t say anything about religion and government being separate.
For the record, this is what the First Amendment says, “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.” The top, once again, for emphasis, “no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That is what we now call the separation of church and state. What‘s clear here is that to Christine O‘Donnell, having been a lifelong conservative activist and perennial far-right candidate, this is news. If And that is why this is more than somebody just getting something wrong about the Constitution or having an awkward exchange with an audience who thinks it’s laughing about something the candidate doesn’t think she’s laughing about. This is a window into right-wing world.
Media Interpretation #2: Rush Limbaugh
From Rush Limbaugh transcript:
There was a debate between Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons, and the way the media… I read this this morning, and I knew — I just knew but I didn’t have time to get into the details at the time, but I knew — with what I had read that it could not be this way. There was a story that was written in such a way as to make the reader believe that Christine O’Donnell did not know that the First Amendment prohibited the government from establishing a religion. The story was written in such a way they had Christine O’Donnell saying, “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?” What she was talking about was this idiot Coons talking about “the separation of church and state.” She was saying, “Are you telling me separation of church and state’s in the Constitution?” because it isn’t.
It was Coons who couldn’t figure out what’s in the Constitution. It’s Coons who didn’t know what he was talking about. And so the panic in the State-Controlled Media, they write a story making it look like O’Donnell doesn’t know what she’s talking about. They had to misquote her and take her out of context in order to make this point. “Are you telling me that that’s in the First Amendment?” meaning, the government cannot officially sponsor a religion. That’s not what she was expressing incredulity over. She was incredulous that somebody was saying that the Constitution said, “There must be separation between church and state.” Those words are not in the Constitution.
This is a modern and incorrect description of the prohibition of the establishment of a national religion… And the left has taken this to say that religious people can not be in government. And that you can’t teach something like creation in the schools while you can teach evolution because evolution isn’t religion but creationism is. Intelligent design can’t be taught because that’s a religion, evolution is. Yet both require faith because neither can be proved… Separation of church and state is not in the Constitution, and the fact that people laughed about this is what’s really scary.