Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons (D) and Christine O’Donnell (R) made appearances Tuesday at Widener University’s School of Law for a debate over, among other contentious topics, the separation of church and state.
According to the Washington Post:
After a squabble over whether or not schools should be permitted to teach creationism as a competing theory to evolution, Coons said that the First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to imply the case for the separation of church and state.
O’DONNELL: “So you’re telling me . . . that the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is found in the First Amendment?”
Coons didn’t take the bait and went on, citing the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment as confirmation of the First Amendment’s intention.
The debate soon after returned to the subject:
O’DONNELL: “Let me just clarify, you’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?”
COONS: “‘Government shall make no establishment of religion'”
O’DONNELL: “That’s in the First Amendment”
Amendment I reads:
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 Post notes that the phrase itself –‘separation of church and state’ –originated from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a persecuted Baptist minority group in 1802, well after the Constitution was written and ratified.
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
All I can say is: Watch the video, courtesy of Pushing Rope.