First Amendment

Senate Candidate: Where in Constitution Is 'Separation of Church and State'?

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In a debate today at Widener University Law School, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware disagreed with her opponent that there might be something expressly unconstitutional about teaching creationism in public schools.

“Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked.

Later, her Democratic opponent Chris Coons, a Yale Law School graduate, stated that the First Amendment establishes that the federal government shall not establish any religion.

“You’re telling me the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?” O’Donnell asked in reponse.

Widener constitutional law professor Erin Daly told the Washington Post that while there are some questions about what activities fall under government promotion of religion, there is little debate over whether the First Amendment forbids the government from making laws establishing religion.

“She seemed genuinely surprised that the principle of separation of church and state derives from the First Amendment, and I think to many of us in the law school that was a surprise,” Daly told the Post. “Most Americans do know the basics of the First Amendment.”

O’Donnell’s campaign manager later issued a statement saying that she was simply making the point that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the constitution.

Related coverage:

Above the Law: “Christine O’Donnell Asks: ‘Where in the Constitution Is Separation of Church and State’?”

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