Yes, Christine, the First Amendment. Also.

It’s astonishing that an actual major party candidate for the United States Senate can be so ignorant of the US Constitution. This would be cause for flunking a high school Civics class – I can attest that foreigners living in other countries know better than O’Donnell.

She obviously thinks she scored a zinger, too – what a triumphant smile! She thinks the audience is laughing with her, not at her. Given that it’s a law school – a real one, not one of those thinly disguised seminaries – I would certainly hope that wasn’t the case.

Sadly, CO’D is far from alone in her cluelessness. When she says she’s not a witch, I take her at her word (to appropriate a phrase R’s like to use about the President’s Christianity). When she adds “I’m you!” I know she’s not addressing me – she’s addressing the other people living in her evangelical Christian Dominionist alternate reality, a world only a few thousand years old with a history of talking snakes, all the world’s fauna in a single ship, and an America founded as a non-secular Christian nation.

It’s weird to me that people like her are so intent on insisting that the stupidest, most primitive and laughable fables in their haphazardly collected, multiply re-translated and internally self-contradictory Iron Age collection of texts must be literally true exactly as written, but when it comes to the plain secular English language of America’s founding documents – documents they claim to revere with-but-after their silly scriptures – they seem totally incapable of accepting that it means precisely what it says.

There is no reference to the Christian God or any other God in the Constitution, unless you count the pro forma use of the phrase “year of our Lord” in the date. There are exactly two substantive mentions of religion in the Constitution: Article Six, which provides among other things that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” and the First Amendment, which provides among other things that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“.

That’s it. Two mentions of the subject, and both explicitly separating the functions of government from considerations of religion.

Without dredging up a lot of detail, any honest and straightforward examination of the written discussion and argument around the framing of the Constitution shows that it was a deliberate policy choice to keep it secular. It was certainly not an oversight by a government of a new Christian nation. This could not have been made clearer than it was in one of the first significant treaties America undertook, the Treaty of Tripoli, which in Article 11 states “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This was a treaty initiated by President George Washington and signed into law by President John Adams after a full reading aloud, publication and circulation as pamphlets and in newspapers, and the unanimous approval of the US Senate of 1796. You don’t get any more Founding Fatherly than that.

So yes, Christine, we really do have a separation of Church and State. Really!

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on October 20, 2010.

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