From Michelle Malkin:
AboutContactArchivesRSSColumnsPhotos Michelle Malkin Chris Coons can’t name the five freedoms in the First Amendment
By Michelle Malkin • October 19, 2010 12:57 PM
That’s right. Delaware Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons can’t name the five freedoms in the First Amendment.
But all you’ll hear from the MSM today is that Christine O’Donnell — correctly — questioned Coons’ claim that the phrase “the separation of church and state” appears in the First Amendment.
Coons’ ignorance doesn’t fit the O’Donnell bashers’ narrative. So they’ll pretend this didn’t happen:
Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell questioned on Tuesday whether the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state.
The comment came during a debate on WDEL radio with Democratic opponent Chris Coons, who argued that local schools should teach science rather than religion, at which point O’Donnell jumped in. “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” she asked.
The audience at Widener Law School was taken aback, with shouts of “whoa” and laughter coming from the crowd.
Coons then pointed to the First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
“You’re telling me the First Amendment does?” O’Donnell interrupted to ask.
Following the next question, Coons revisited the remark — likely thinking he had caught O’Donnell in a flub — saying, “I think you’ve just heard from my opponent in her asking ‘where is the separation of church and state’ show that she has a fundamental misunderstanding.”
“That’s in the First Amendment?” O’Donnell again asked.
“Yes,” Coons responded.
O’Donnell was later able to score some points of her own off the remark, revisiting the issue to ask Coons if he could identify the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.”
Coons named the separation of church and state, but could not identify the others — the freedoms of speech, press, to assemble and petition — and asked that O’Donnell allow the moderators ask the questions.
“I guess he can’t,” O’Donnell said.
Yep, when he got caught with his own intellectual pants down, Coons runs to the moderators for cover.
Listen to the whole radio debate at WDEL here.
It’s obvious from O’Donnell’s very specific challenge to Coons during the debate that she knows perfectly well about the establishment and free exercise of religion clauses in the First Amendment.
It’s obvious that Coons is not only unfamiliar with the rest of the First Amendment, but also that he is wholly unfamiliar with where the phrase “separation of church and state” originated.
And it’s obvious from the warped, gleeful spin on this exchange just how in the tank for Democrats the “objective” press — protected by our precious, poorly understood, and frquently squandered First Amendment — really is.
Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO also agrees: “Some bloggers and tv commentators have seized on remarks by Christine O’Donnell to suggest that she is unaware that the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of religion. I don’t think that’s right. What she denies is that the First Amendment requires ‘the separation of church and state.’”
And, related, from The American Spectator:
O'Donnell Bests Coons on First Amendment
By John R. Guardiano on 10.19.10 @ 6:35PM
As Jeffrey Lord and I have observed, Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is absolutely right: The phrase "separation of church and state" appears nowhere in the Constitution.
Moreover, even as a statement of constitutional principle, the "separation of church and state" is of dubious value, given our nation's history and heritage, which have always been explicitly and avowedly Judeo-Christian. Yet the political and pundit class, aided and abetted by the media, have been having a field day smugly patronizing O'Donnell.
In fairness, though, it must be acknowledged that O'Donnell did fumble one question. That occurred when, during last night's debate, she asked her Democrat opponent, Chris Coons, where in the Constitution does it decree a "separation of church and state?"
Coons responded by citing the establishment clause of the Constitution, which prohibits Congress from establishing a state religion. O'Donnell then responded, "That's in the First Amendment?"
Yes it is, as is the clause guaranteeing the "free exercise" of religion.
OK, so O'Donnell got one wrong. But in fairness to her, she clearly was focused on the "separation of church and state"; and Coons completely missed that question.
It's one thing, after all, to say that Congress shall not "establish" a state religion, or prefer one religious sect over another. But it's an entirely different thing to say that there must be a "wall of separation between church and state."
The American founding fathers wanted to prevent the "establishment" of a state religion. However, they did not wish to erect a solid and impenetrable wall between church and state or church and the public square.
Why, even Thomas Jefferson, who penned the phrase, "wall of separation..." "endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians," the Heritage Foundation reports.
So O'Donnell made a slight error because she was focused on an issue Coons had dodged and gotten wrong. Nonetheless, she got the underlying principle of religious freedom right; and that's what really matters.
What, after all, is the benefit of having the Constitution memorized if you don't understand its underlying principles?
Wouldn't we rather have a candidate like O'Donnell, who understands the Constitution's underlying principles, even if she confuses its actual text? Or is it better to have a candidate like Coons who has memorized the Constitution, but completely misconstrues its actual meaning?
Ironically, it so happens that not only does Coons not understand the Constitution; he also isn't even that familiar with its basic text!
Lord notes, for instance, that "Coons was unable to name the five freedoms mentioned in the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, the right of peaceful assembly, and to petition the government."
So once again, and not surprisingly, the legacy media has gotten the story completely wrong and backwards: It's not O'Donnell who should be embarrassed about her lack of constitutional understanding, but rather Chris Coons; the smug, secular law students at Widener Law School; and the legacy media.