October 23, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Christine O'Donnell (Again)

christine-o-donnellYes, I am in complete agreement with all the criticism I have seen about how much time the media is wasting on Christine O'Donnell. She is going to lose the Delaware race by a considerable margin, and it does make more sense to cover close races. And yes, all she is really doing at this point is following in Palin's footsteps, ensuring that she will be a well-paid symbol fir years to come. I highlight her again because her latest idiocy gives me the perfect excuse to make a point about the increasingly disturbing position of the Republican Tea Party on separation of church and state.

As you may recall from the last time O'Donnell earned Idiot of the Week "honors," she has a long history of Christian extremism. Thus, we can't be surprised that she rejects evolution, thinks that imposing her religion on others would cure all social ills, or accepts an odd bit of revisionist history about the Constitution long pushed by Christian extremists. What I think should surprise and concern us is the degree to which this particular example of revisionism has seeped into the political dogma of the right.

O'Donnell has once again earned Idiot of the Week for her performance in a political debate with Democratic rival Chris Coons. After Coons referenced separation of church and state as one of the key principles of the Constitution, O'Donnell asked,
Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?
Coons responded by explaining that it was in the First Amendment and went on to add that it has a long history in case law, the writings of the founders, etc. O'Donnell didn't budge and interrupted Coons multiple times.
"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?"
It didn't matter what Coons said. O'Donnell was convinced that she had won this point of the debate. She would letter admit this in an interview and mention how shocked she was by all the reports that read this as a clear win for Coons and another embarrassing example of her ignorance. Considering O'Donnell's background, we should not have expected anything different.

Raised in Christian extremism, O'Donnell has likely been exposed to little but revisionist history. Christian extremists feel threatened by separation of church and state, so they deny its Constitutional basis. And this is quickly becoming an increasingly mainstream conservative position, championed by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and others. They crow that the Constitution does not contain the phrase "separation of church and state" and insist that this was an invention of "activist judges." Some go so far as to insist that our founders really wanted a Christian theocracy.

This is the sort of thing we are up against, and it gives me ample reason to support atheist organizations, to suggest that others do the same, and to hope that we will embrace the need for political activism before it is too late.