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O’Donnell’s latest comments raise questions about knowledge of Constitution

by Adam Russett on October 20, 2010

In her push to win the Delaware senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden, Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell has been met with fierce criticism from both the Republican and Democrat establishment, and on Tuesday she gave both of them more reason to be skeptical. The Wall Street Journal reports that in a debate with democratic candidate Chris Coons, O’Donnell seemed genuinely surprised that the first amendment was the basis for separation of church and state.

The exchange came during an event at Widener Law School in Wilmington, Delaware. The opponents were discussing whether or not evolution, not intelligent design, should be taught in public schools. Coons argued that because there is a separation of church and state, intelligent design should not be instructed. O’Donnell seemed taken aback at the suggestion that separation of church and state was a founding principle, and demanded to know where in the Constitution it says that. Coons swiftly cited the first amendment, which appeared to draw genuine shock from O’Donnell.

After the debate, many conservative pundits came to O’Donnell’s defense. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said that she was correct in her assertion that those specific words do not appear in the document, a claim which echoed her campaign staff’s defense of her statements. Although that is technically correct, it runs counter to the beliefs of many of the founding fathers, including Tea Party icon Thomas Jefferson, the news provider reports.

“It is clear that Ms. O’Donnell does not believe in the separation of church and state, something the framers believed in so strongly that they made it the very first amendment,” Coons campaign spokeperson Daniel McElhatton told the news source.

With less than two weeks until election day, it appears as though the race may be slipping away from O’Donnell. Coons leads by a comfortable margin in many polls, and a series of gaffes have plagued the 41-year-old O’Donnell ever since she scored an upset victory in the GOP primary.

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