Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is back in the news today, just two weeks out from the midterm elections, after questioning in a debate whether the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.
The debate with Democratic candidate Chris Coons, before students and professors from Widener University Law School, was aired on WDEL and seemed to be more hostile than the nationally televised debate on CNN last week.
The freedom of religion exchange began with Coons, who stated that private schools are free to teach creationism, but “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”
O’Donnell responded, “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” drawing laughter from the crowd. “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”
Coons, on the other hand, The News Journal reported, was challenged by O’Donnell to name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. “He deflected.” For the record, it’s press, speech, religion, petition and peaceful assembly. “Perhaps they didn’t teach you constitutional law at Yale Divinity School,” O’Donnell said to gasps. It’s worth noting Coons has a law degree from Yale as well as a Master of Arts in Religion.
Later, O’Donnell was asked about her position on the 14th, 16th and 17th Amendments. She reportedly asked what the first two were. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me,” she said. “Fortunately, senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.” The 14th Amendment, which includes language on due process and equal protection, most recently has come under fire for providing citizenship to any person born within the United States. The 16th Amendment deals with the federal income tax. The 17th Amendment allows for the direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote. O’Donnell said she opposes repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments; she was unclear about the 14th, saying the U.S. should close its borders before discussing amnesty.
Going back to her stumble during the CNN debate regarding recent Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with, O’Donnell said her statements during that debate were taken out of context and that there have been few cases in the last few years with which she disagrees. She again cited Roe v. Wade and Kelo v. City of New London, a 2005 case which furthered the government’s eminent domain powers, as bad decisions.
Full audio of the debate, provided by WDEL, is below in three parts.