The Tea Party takes pride in the belief that their party represents a movement to return to the founding principles of the Constitution. That mantra of “returning to the Constitution” has already made an impact in the 2010 midterm elections, as the Tea Party has largely been credited with nominating a number of candidates over the GOP “establishment” candidate. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is candidate Christine O’Donnell, who defeated moderate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) to win the GOP nomination for the Senate race in Delaware. However, while she comes from the party who prides itself on the Constitution, O’Donnell displayed an utter lack of knowledge about the Constitution in her recent debate with Democratic opponent Christopher Coons.
In the video clip seen to the left, O’Donnell engages in a debate with Coons over whether evolution and creationism should be taught in public schools. O’Donnell returned to one of her favorite talking points in the debate, saying that the country needs to return to the founding principles of the Constitution. Coons then notes that one of those founding principles was the separation of church and state. Indeed, many of the first immigrants to America came her to escape religious persecution in Europe which resulted from the mix of religion and government. However, O’Donnell proceeds to ask where one can find the separation of church and state in the United States Constitution. The crowd in attendance then erupts in a mix of laughter and disbelief.
Most people who have passed their high school government class know that the First Amendment states clearly that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That part of the Constitution is known as the “Establishment Clause.” At the very least, the clause does establish some wall of separation between the church and the state. For example, the courts would certainly strike down any law which said the official religion of America was Christianity, since the First Amendment expressly prohibits the establishment of any religion. At the end of the clip, after being told about the Establishment Clause, O’Donnell still denies that any such language exists in the First Amendment.
O’Donnell’s ignorance was not just limited to the First Amendment. O’Donnell also completely butchered the 17th Amendment in her remarks, saying at one point that the amendment gives the “state government” the ability to choose United States Senators. In fact, the 17th Amendment did exactly the opposite. When asked about other amendments, O’Donnell needed assistance from the moderator to answer questions on the 14th and 16th Amendments. O’Donnell should certainly know about the 16th Amendment, since it grants the federal government the power to tax incomes.
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