Written by Ms. Lynn Abe. Lynn is a recent graduate from Carleton College in Minnesota. She has a BA in religion with a concentration in Educational Studies. Lynn is interning at Interfaith Alliance fall 2010.
Yesterday, at a debate held at Widener University Law School in Delaware, Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell voiced some confusion over the separation of church and state. During the debate she questioned the idea that the separation of church and state is in the Constitution. O’Donnell asked, “So you’re telling me the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?” When Coons replied, that the First Amendment says “Government shall make no establishment of religion,” she expressed shock (or some say sarcasm) at this information exclaiming, “That’s in the First Amendment?”
While of course the exact phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the text of the First Amendment itself, it does originate from one the amendment’s key architects, Thomas Jefferson, and certainly encapsulates principles of the amendment.
At the Interfaith Alliance, we strongly encourage all candidates to carefully consider the role religion should play in an election, and we encourage all voters to ask their candidates questions to establish their knowledge and understanding of our Constitutionally-protected religious freedom. To that effect, Interfaith Alliance has developed a set of five questions for voters to ask their political candidates that can be found here. We encourage everyone to consider these five questions and their candidates’ responses to them in the upcoming elections. It is important that we all work to uphold this tenet of our Constitution and maintain the boundaries between institutions of government and religion.