Monte Kuligowski
What's the significance of O'Donnell's church and state remark?
By Monte Kuligowski
October 21, 2010

Tuesday's debate between U.S. Senate candidates Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons at the Widener Law School is being sensationalized by the media in an attempt to further discredit the conservative candidate. Christine is discovering that anyone who strays from the progressive narrative on topics of evolution, creation and separation of church and state becomes an easy target for the establishment. The liberal media wants to cast a public opinion spell on their Tea Party "witch."

During the debate the Delaware Democrat, Chris Coons argued that evolution is a "broadly accepted scientific fact" and as such should be taught in public schools to the exclusion of creation science which relies on religious doctrine. O'Donnell, of course, disagreed.

In context of Obama's multi-trillion dollar spending spree and Coons' liberal ideology O'Donnell probably should have responded, "Whatever." Now is the time to focus on the Democratic agenda that is bankrupting the country. Federal overreaching with respect to the religion clause of the Constitution perhaps should have been reserved for another day.

Nevertheless, O'Donnell touched upon one of the single most important questions facing the country. Should the localities be free from central control in matters of education? Liberals know that as long as they control education out of Washington they form the groupthink worldviews of future voters.

In response to Coons, O'Donnell argued that the feds have overreached and the states and their localities should be free to teach creation science in their own schools. After the debate was moving on to another subject O'Donnell asked Coons where "separation of church and state" is mentioned in the Constitution.

Of course the phrase isn't in the Constitution but the question provided an opportunity for the audience of postmodern jurists to gasp and laugh with amusement. And it gave Coons the chance to instruct O'Donnell on liberal separation of church and state doctrine. The occasion made O'Donnell appear as though she didn't know that the concept of church and state separation was in the Constitution.

Maybe Ms. O'Donnell didn't use the best example inasmuch as the text of the religion clause, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," does in fact stand for the prohibition of Congressional law to establish a national religion (church). Congress is also prevented from interfering with the states' free exercise of religion (the religion clause contains the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause).

Nevertheless, I think O'Donnell was simply making the point that the phrase — separation of church and state — is not in the Constitution even as volumes of other liberal constitutional phrases are conspicuously missing. For example, supposed violations of the Establishment Clause include government's "advancement of religion;" "religious purpose;" "excessive entanglement with religion;" "endorsement of religion;" and "preference of religion over irreligion."

Incidentally, O'Donnell also asked Coons to name the "five" rights (actually there are six) in the First Amendment. After stumbling and bumbling the Yale law graduate couldn't name five. Of course, the "mainstream" media doesn't consider Coons' embarrassment newsworthy.

In context of evolutionary theory and the Establishment Clause, another question for Coons could have been asked: what does a command which prevents the federal Congress from passing law have to do with what a public school in Frankford, Delaware teaches? The answer is a complicated nothing. The complicated part would be explaining the legal gymnastics of the federal Supreme Court in maneuvering away from the actual Constitution to its privileged version of the Constitution.

In the space I have for this piece I can't untangle the confusing mess of Supreme Court precedent which led to the very danger the Bill of Rights was written to prevent: arbitrary central control. But consider this commonsense fact: several of the states had their own official state churches at the time of the Constitution's ratification — which clearly means that even the choice of "separation of church and state" was entirely up to the states and not the feds. If the states could handle that issue on their own they can handle all other matters of ordinary life that the Constitution reserves to the states and the people.

It's sufficient to say that the Establishment Clause was turned on its head and the federal courts are holding it in a tight full nelson. The clause, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion," was rewritten (without a vote) to effectively say, "The local schools across the country shall have no curriculum or practice respecting the expression of the Judeo-Christian religion." The federal "Congress" became interchangeable with a local public school; a "law" of Congress became exchangeable with an unwritten tradition; and "establishment" became negotiable as a mere expression of religion.

The Supreme Court unfortunately sets many social trends. And after decades of the expulsion of religion-based morality and forced evolutionary naturalism in the public schools we have what we have.

The real issue regarding evolutionary science fiction and creation science is not who's right and who's wrong; people have the same evidence and will reach their own conclusions based on suppositions. After decades and billions in taxpayer funded evolutionary research and the censoring of opposing viewpoints it shouldn't surprise anyone that a "consensus" has been reached. Unfortunately, it's an artificial, authoritarian consensus and not one born from constitutional liberty.

The chief issue is the liberty of each state and locality to believe and teach what it wishes.

We have a systemic problem in the law and unsurprisingly we have systemic problems in the areas the central government is illegitimately controlling — with our own money. If the liberties of the Constitution were exercised state by state we would actually have what liberals claim to love: real diversity.

Ms. O'Donnell's argument of freedom from federal control in education raises larger Tea Party concerns. For example, in the areas in which the federal government has exceeded its constitutional boundaries, should we continue to ignore the problem? Should we continue to build upon one erroneous precedent after the other? Or do we have the courage to force the federal government back to its constitutional boundaries?

Those are the big questions we must face. Yet the leftist media would rather frame O'Donnell as a constitutional and scientific ignoramus who rides around on her broomstick over a flat earth.

© Monte Kuligowski


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Monte Kuligowski

Monte Kuligowski is an attorney and writer whose legal scholarship, including "Does the Declaration of Independence Pass the Lemon Test?" (Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy), has been published in several law journals... (more)

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