Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – A belief in tea, and the Constitution

The Tea Party takes pride in its belief in the importance and centrality of the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, Senate Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell has been reported as referring to the document as a “covenant” based on “divine principles”.

So there was some disbelieving laughter from the audience in Delaware today when O’Donnell showed she did not know the contents of the First Amendment. “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” she asked Democratic opponent Chris Coons. OBAMA/

“The First Amendment does?” O’Donnell went on to ask. “Let me just clarify: You’re telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?” Watch the whole eight-minute exchange here, part of a debate about whether schools should teach intelligent design or evolution.

Later, O’Donnell stumbled over the 14th and 16th amendments too. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring my Constitution with me,” she said. “Fortunately senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution.”

Just for the record (and as a Brit you can perhaps forgive me for having to look it up), you will find the full text of the First Amendment and an explanation here. Worth looking too at Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists where he explains his belief in the need to build a “wall of separation between Church & State.”

O’Donnell has question on U.S. Constitution – where does it say separation of church and state?

Republican Christine O’Donnell has a question: where in the Constitution does it say separation of Church and State?

And she is genuinely amazed that the issue is addressed in the First Amendment.

The moment was captured during a debate at Widener Law School in Wilmington and quickly spread through the blogosphere.