The conflict centers over the phrase "separation of church and state." Coons insists that phrase is in the First Amendment. It is not.
Amendment 1 says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.I don't see the phrase "separation of church and state" in there either.
O'Donnell clarified her question for Coons, who continued to insist the phrase is there (emphasis mine):
She interrupted to say, "The First Amendment does? ... So you're telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase 'separation of church and state,' is in the First Amendment?"Yet the headline in the Washington Post is "O'Donnell Questions Separation of Church and State." That's rather misleading, no?
When pressed to name the five freedoms in that Amendment, Coons could not.
O'Donnell was not without error; she had to be reminded what the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Amendments were. But she had a full grasp of the First Amendment; when you watch the video clip, she presses Coons on the "separation" phrase, has him repeat it several times, and cocks her head in amusement, knowing she's caught him in a misrepresentation. Yet all the left wingers hear is "You're telling me that separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"
As Michelle Malkin points out, that phrase is nowhere in the Constitution but comes from Jefferson's Danbury Baptist letter of 1802.
Criticize O'Donnell if you must, but let's recognize the limitations of Coons, too. In truth, it's all semantics. We all know what Coons meant, and we all know what O'Donnell meant. It's the left wing media's ballyhooing about O'Donnell's "ignorance" that is ridiculous.
But what else is new.
(More at Memeorandum)