The Constitution Says What...?
What do we know about Christine? Well, she has made a career in the sphere of conservative political activism; she is against abortion, considers masturbation a form of adultery, and may or may not have been a witch. Oh, yes, one other tiny detail has come to light about Christine: she doesn’t possess a fundamental knowledge of the United States Constitution, a document which she would be expected to defend if she is elected to the US Senate next week.
The snowball has melted!
O’Donnell’s command — or lack thereof — of this country’s most important document was revealed in a debate against the Democratic nominee for Senator from Delaware, Chris Coons. In trying to make a point about creationism or intelligent design being taught in public schools, she challenged Coons to show her exactly where the words “separation of church and state” are in the Constitution. Coons tried to explain to her — between her own interruptions — that the concept of separation of church and state is not stated word-for-word, but is rather implied in the First Amendment.
O’Donnell remained skeptical, even as the audience of lawyers and law students giggled and gasped. Coons even pointed out that O’Donnell lacks the knowledge of the Constitution which many people might assume is required for someone aspiring to a Congressional position. Why she is grasping for such a literal interpretation of the Constitution is anyone’s guess.
Another implied right is in the Second Amendment, which is so fondly hacked apart and quoted in segments to justify people owning guns. The amendment only states that Congress shall make no laws abridging a citizen’s right to bear arms. There’s another part mentioning a “well regulated militia”, but this is almost always ignored by both sides of the debate over gun rights. Still, the way some people carry on, one would swear that the amendment actually says: “The gov'mint better not pry my cold dead fingers offa my huntin’ iron or they’ll be hell to pay.” No one will find these words in the Constitution; the right is implied.
Or take executive privilege...please! (ba-dump ching!) These exact words do not appear in the Constitution, but Nixon Administration Justice Department lawyer William Rehnquist saw that it was implied in Article 3: the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Every president has understood that the concept was available to them when they wished to preserve candid communication between members of the executive branch or to maintain certain elements of national security.
Washington used it. In more modern times, Truman and Eisenhower used it. Nixon tried to claim it also, but his credibility was so shot to hell by that time that the whole idea became suspect. For many years, I myself have been unable to see it within the language of Article 3, but it is there!
Actually, if O’Donnell knew the history behind the separation of church and state, then she might stop questioning it. The idea grew out of the fact that each individual colony had adopted its own religion. The Puritans settled Massachusetts, the Quakers ruled Pennsylvania, Roman Catholics founded Maryland, and so on. If your religious preference was different from the one that was adopted for the colony in which you happened to live, you ran the risk of persecution, or even execution.
In other words, Ms. O’Donnell, if you allow the separation of church and state to be repealed — as some claim the Tea Party want to do — then you might want to avoid going to states like Massachusetts. You might get burned at the stake as a witch! Fortunately the beauty of the Constitution isn’t in what it says, but more in the flexibility of what it doesn’t say.
(Thank you for reading. Please remember, witches should never be burned. It’s rude, and besides they’re not good with ketchup!)