Intellect matters in candidates

October 24, 2010


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” — from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

That’s for Christine O’Donnell.

“Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?” she asked last week, drawing gasps and astonished laughter from an audience of law school students.

Chris Coons, her Democratic opponent for a Delaware Senate seat, replied that in asking the question, O’Donnell shows “fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is. ... The First Amendment establishes the separation ...”

O’Donnell wasn’t buying it. “The First Amendment does? ... So you’re telling me that the separation of church and state, the phrase ‘separation of church and state,’ is found in the First Amendment?”

It was a bizarre exchange that permits but two conclusions. One, O’Donnell is frighteningly ignorant, particularly for a woman who claims constitutional expertise and aspires to the Senate. Or, two, assuming you buy her after-the-fact explanation (she was merely observing that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the First Amendment), she is terribly disingenuous.

After all, the framers’ intention to isolate church from state and vice versa is evident in the amendment’s wording and is a matter of long-settled law, besides. The phrase “freedom of expression” doesn’t appear in the First Amendment, either. Would O’Donnell question that right, too?

Maybe I shouldn’t ask.

While one is appalled by O’Donnell’s ignorance and/or disingenuousness, one is not surprised. The capacity to be surprised by her died long ago, victim of revelations that she once “dabbled” in witchcraft. And was the subject of an IRS lien. And said people with AIDS brought the disease upon themselves. And was sued for nonpayment by her college and mortgage company. And was cited eight times by the Federal Elections Commission. And thinks scientists have created mice with human brains.

That this woman is a major party candidate for national office, that she is among the brightest stars of a constellation of like-minded cranks — some of them already in office — tells you all you need to know about this moment in our political life. Welcome to the United States of Amnesia.

Somehow we have forgotten the lesson we spent most of the last decade learning at ruinous cost, that faith-based governance, foreign policy by gut instinct, choosing leaders on the basis of which one we’d most like to watch television with, simply does not work.

Some say this is a conservative revolution, but this is no conservatism Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater would have recognized. At least their ideology adhered to an interior logic. This ideology adheres to a perverse “illogic” that posits that the less you know, the more authentic you are. So what triumphs here is not conservatism but rather, mediocrity. The Know Nothings and Flat Earthers are ascendant.

But intellect matters. Knowledge is good. And what’s it tell you that that point even needs to be made?

In a recent debate, O’Donnell was asked to name a modern Supreme Court decision to which she objects. “Oh, gosh,” she said. “Give me a specific one, I’m sorry. ... Right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise you.”

Some of us are reminded how candidate George W. Bush kept calling Greeks “Grecians.” Some of us remember how the electorate shrugged off that evidence of looming gaps in his basic knowledge because he had a folksy way and twinkling eyes. Some of us remember how that came out.

Others apparently don’t. Others are ready to travel that road again. It brings to mind an old saying: we get the leaders we deserve.

You and I better hope that’s not true.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com


CorkyHundley 7 years, 5 months ago

And who made Pitts the power that determines who is smart?


Maybe it is a consensus of people educated by NPR? I'm sure glad Juan Williams is not a candidate. I can't decide if Identifying terrorists as directed by Napolitano is liberaly correct.

"Sort it all out for liberals Pitts."

CorkyHundley 7 years, 5 months ago

The first black president said yesterday that Pelosi is the best speaker ever because she is beautiful and elegant.

Isn't that just like a man. You one guy saying candidates have to be smart and another guy saying they have to be beautiful and elegant.

What are these two guys really thinking about?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

Will you provide a quote to support your claimed statement from President Obama?

Jimo 7 years, 5 months ago

"The first black president said yesterday that Pelosi is the best speaker ever because she is beautiful and elegant."


Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

"But intellect matters. Knowledge is good. And what’s it tell you that that point even needs to be made?"

Thanks for so consistently proving his point, Corky

llama726 7 years, 5 months ago

She doesn't understand the First Amendment. This is a Senate candidate who is running with the backing of a political movement that claims they are the authority on the Constitution. You cannot be the authority of that which you do not understand. Stop trying to distract from the issue at hand.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

All politicians fancy themselves leaders. Leaders, by definition, think they know better than those they are leading. The right wingers you support are no different.

If you are a woman who has been raped, they know what's best for you.

If you are lying in a vegetative state, they know what's best for you.

If you'd like to have a government health care option, they know it is best that you be denied the choice.


overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

WEll, if your only criteria for 'smart' is agreement with your narrow vision, we have a really limited and deficient definition to work with.

"cyber-bullying is not the answer. We need to pull together and figure out how to all get along" Now who would say something like this? One of those Liberul Loons? Nope, Mr. Spewmon himself posted this last week. I'd like to know how this can be accomplished without practicing respect and civility...and a little humility??

mbulicz 7 years, 5 months ago

Christine O'Donnell is asking to be elected to a position in which she swears to uphold and defend the Constitution.

It's not hoity-toity to ask that she at least read the Cliff's Notes on it.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

"Tightening Senate races give pause to upbeat GOP"


Uh oh, looks like unlimited corporate pollution of our political process can't fool all of the people.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

So, Tom, you think a Tea Party alternative to the republican party candidate is a bad thing? Interesting, but really it is beside the point. And by the way, why do so many American's reject the republican party and feel the need to branch out and start a third party movement? Does not seem to speak any republican party strength, despite what the captured media tells us every day.

In any event, my observation was that the right wing's introduction of the unlimited and undisclosed corruption of corporate, multinational and foreign entities campaign contributions to our political process may not be successful.

oakfarm 7 years, 5 months ago

Pitts demonstrated both his bias and ignorance with his column. O'Donnell is clearly right; Pitts is clearly wrong. Shame on the Journal-World editors for allowing such mush to be published. Yes, opinion is expected in the Opinion section; ignorance, stupidity and lies are not. That's supposed to be why we have editors. 'Separation of church and state' is NOT in the constitution. Pitts needs to read his own opening line.

jayhawktownie 7 years, 5 months ago

Pretty much every legitimate historian of colonial history would tell you that none of our Constitution's framers were "escaping" England's tyranny. They were a privileged upper class of people who had extraordinary economic and political gains to be made by achieving independence from England.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps one of you constitutional scholars will explain the meaning you attribute to the portion of the First Amendment quoted in the first line of the article.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

The intent and context of the 1st amendment is clear and has been upheld for over 200 years. The brevity of the language of the constitution compels interpretation to be more considered than playing find-that-word games.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." --Thomas Jefferson in commentary on the First Amendment.

Jimo 7 years, 5 months ago

Oakfarm reminds me of a 4 year old, cornered by his mother who asks whether he has stolen a cookie, and, while choking down the last bite and with crumbs on his chin, insists loudly and with faux shock that he most certainly did not!!!

Thanks - exactly 0 people are convinced by you .

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

I doubt he'll get the Tillman family's vote.

jayhawktownie 7 years, 5 months ago

Care to make a side by side list of Obama "gaffs"(sic) versus Bush gaffes?

whats_going_on 7 years, 5 months ago

on ANY politicians defense (or not, whatever)...YOU try to go up there and make a speech sometime while trying to appease everyone, all the time, no less.

Pretty sure every politician has a teleprompter.

Or...notes written on their hand. Whatever.

Smokie408 7 years, 5 months ago

When is come down to calling someone a name you have already lost the conversation.

Joe Blackford II 7 years, 5 months ago

Catsap's comment has not been posted due to restrictions on rational thought & civil discourse in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Centerville 7 years, 5 months ago

Nice try, Leonard. But, it looks like you didn't get the memo.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

The parties, news media and corporate america decide who OUR candidates should be for local,state or federal level representation. Why do we allow them to decide considering there are billions more of us?

The media has become a large part of the special interest takeover of our process as if they know what is best for all of us. Voters support this takeover by voting for those candidates who spend the most money and the question is why? The media loves those big campaign dollars

Campaigns go too long,spend way too much money and do not necessarily provide the best available. It is up to us to stop the nonsense at the voting booths.

Replace 95% of all elected officials every 4 years for the house and every 6 years for the Senate. Ralph Nader says 90%

Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : http://www.fairvote.org/irv/ This needs to happen!

Incumbents say NO to the voters on IMPROVED Medicare Insurance for ALL yet 63%-70% of taxpayers were saying yes. Meanwhile elected officials live in glass houses and digest corrupt money.

We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue. This needs to happen http://www.publicampaign.org/

Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers, their bought and paid for politicians and some corporate/Wall Street profiteers(shareholders)!

Wasn't it the previous repub president who described the Constitution as a god damned piece of paper?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 5 months ago

You know, I'd almost swear that I've seen all the pieces of this post on other threads over the years. That merrill is a fiend at recycling, isn't he?

Jimo 7 years, 5 months ago

"we'd be better off if they just picked the first 535 people listed in the phonebook."

That's what the Tea Party did. Isn't it??

You're not telling us that they intentionally picked their dogs breakfast of Nazi uniform fetishists, decapitated bodies in the desert jokers, fake security goons, greedy health care felons, violent drug-dealing biker gang members, human brains implanted in mice body witches, gays are like alcoholics bigots, millionaires who made their fortune paying people to beat the crap out of each other, yelling at pidgeons in the park crazies, and raped women should be forced to bear their children as part of God's will fascists????

You owe an apology to the first 535 people listed in the phonebook. And right now.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof " from the first amendment

"After all, the framers’ intention to isolate church from state and vice versa is evident in the amendment’s wording" from Pitts

As I read the first sentence, I see that the government is precluded from meddling in a church. I see no such restriction of the church from meddling in government.

So Mr. Pitts' statement of isolation of church from state is erroneous.

"That this woman is a major party candidate for national office, that she is among the brightest stars of a constellation of like-minded cranks — some of them already in office — tells you all you need to know about this moment in our political life"

Also, that Mr. Pitts is a major columnist for a national syndication and that he is one of the brightest stars in the constellation of poor thinkers should tell you something about the sorry state of rational thought at this moment in the history of western intelligence.

He invented the restriction of church influence on the state. The first amendment prohibits state influence on religion. Religion is not precluded from influencing the state by this amendment.


jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

Jefferson's letters to a Baptist minister show his interpretation to be that it creates a "wall of separation" between church and state.

In addition, we have many years of court cases in which it's been interpreted that way.

Also, as a tax-exempt organization, a church is prohibited from endorsing political candidates.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Oh, the first amendment isn't good enough for you, is that it Jafs? Mr. Pitts didn't refer to Jefferson. The subsequent court cases aren't in the constitution, Jafs.

A statement was made by Pitts. It is wrong. Justifying it with embellishment is erroneous thinking. If Mr. Pitts wanted to site case law, or the letter from T.J., then he would have.

He didn't. He is wrong. And so are you.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

How the 1st amendment is to be interpreted is a vital question - Jefferson's letters on the subject provide an interpretation by one of the founders of the country.

How the constitution is interpreted and applied is shown by our history of court cases and Supreme Court decisions.

You are wrong.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

If the right wing philosophy that the framer's intent is determinative is to be accepted, then Jefferson's intentions would seem to be relevant.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Jafs, Scott, you are flopping around like fish on the dock. Look, Pitts wrote a column. Its premise is not supported by the evidence given.

Rational rules of thought show the statement made in the first amendment doesn't mention that religion is precluded from affecting the establishment of laws. It does say that the state can't make laws affecting religion.

Pitts then goes on to question the ability of people to think, when he engages in the very behavior that he decries.

Bad column, bad reasoning. And now you make excuses for him.

Now you provide evidence that he does not. Now you embellish his column as if he meant to say...... Bologna, to all of you.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality. -Theodor Adorno, philosopher and composer (1903-1969)

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

I read nothing ambiguous about:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” — from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

It is clear enough. Moon, what is the interpretation that leads to ambiguity?

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

Ok. I see the second amendment makes clear that the People can bear arms as part of a well regulated militia.

Nowhere does it say people can carry loaded weapons into churches, schools, or on the street.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Sorry moon, stick to the 1st amendment. Discussion of the 2nd 3rd or any other amendment is spurious.
Leonard Pitts took a candidate to task for asking a question. He implied that the candidate was ignorant, stupid, or both because the 1st amendment says right there:

"the framers’ intention to isolate church from state and vice versa is evident in the amendment’s wording "

Well Mr. Pitts, read the words. It doesn't say it. The candidate was right. You disagree with the notion that the 1st amendment doesn't preclude religious involvement in government.

Religions affect government all the time. You don't think that environmentalism is a religion? Wake up to Gaea.

I don't think the WWF should be banned from influencing the government. Nor should fundamentalist Christianity. Its called the 1st amendment. I love it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

You're straining even harder than usual, Devo. Just because members of churches, as well as people who choose not to be members of any church, are not constrained from engaging in political activity doesn't mean that there is no constitutionally mandated separation between churches and state.

So you can debate what the meaning of "is" is all day, but Pitt's point remains a quite valid one.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Read the words, bozo.
"After all, the framers’ intention to isolate church from state and vice versa is evident in the amendment’s wording" from Pitts.

The visa versa part is erroneous. It is a one-way street, bozo. And this isn't an abstraction.

Precluding laws that address religion is a major difference from religious people engaging the government. Government has power to enforce its laws. People only have the right to petition the government and elect representatives.

Yep bozo, even laws that you don't agree with. Christian ideology style laws. Environmentalism laws, all kinds of laws. But no laws establishing or prohibiting religion.

The separation is unidirectional. Like a diode. Like a flapper valve in a pipe. One way...from people to government, not the other way.

A difference much past what "is" is.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

No, it's not unidirectional. Churches are not allowed to take control of the levers of government, and vice-versa.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

Environmentalism is by no stretch of the imagination a religion.

jayhawktownie 7 years, 5 months ago

Sometimes evidence requires multiple layers of thought and examination. The beautiful traits of these clauses is that they create a delicate balance when applied to actual situations. For example, a school may not prevent a child from wearing religiously significant apparel because it would violate the Free Exercise Clause. At the same time, a public school could not carry out any organized religious observance because it would effectively be an endorsement of that religion and a violation of the Establishment Clause. Now, when we talk about things, we like to come up with short summaries of certain ideas for expedience's sake. Hence, the phrase "separation of church and state". It's there, you just have to think a little bit.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes jayhawktownie, it is there. It is there in the same way as religion is there. It is there in the same way as God is there. It resides in the interpretation of concepts.

Your interpretation is in support of Pitts, and the Free exercise clause.

The words of the 1st amendment don't say it.

You live in a world of created reality.
Created reality. That which suits your needs. No different than religion. You establish freedom of thought as long as it suits your need. And your present need is ridicule of a candidate that questions authority. You sound like my junior high principal. Black horned-rimmed glasses and God-fearing.

You are now the man. Think about it. You are now that person who we baby boomers rebelled against. You created a reality and now you defend it.

Created reality, sophistication, nuance, subtlety, Multiple layers of thought.


Grow a pair, jayhawktownie. Show up and do a job, jayhawktownie. Stand for some real action, some real thought, some straight-forward being.

Be something. Where is your spine?

And deal with Christians the way the old men in black horned glasses had to deal with me. Reason. They lost.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

At least I know how to read a sentence and take it for what it says without creating meanings that aren't there.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Can't win the argument on the basis of your own logic, so you defer to an outside source.

Even though they are the supreme court, they can be wrong, bozo. Witness the allowance of tax-free status for churches.

So you can't protect Pits' butt that way. His assertion that government is protected from religion is still wrong. And O'Donnell's question remains unanswered.

jayhawktownie 7 years, 5 months ago

If you think the movement with which you associate yourself is in any way standing up to "the man", you are sadly mistaken.

I can see why you think that these "old men" lost when they tried to reason with you. They probably gave up when you refused to give any meaningful response to their points. Similar to the meaningless and unrelated drivel you just responded to my post with.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

the movement with which I am associated.

Movement? Associated.

I am quite unassociated with anybody. I try not to join groups, support candidates, or in any way agree to notions of others. Does it happen that I agree with other people? Sure. Heck, bozo and I agree that tax-free status for churches is against the 1st amendment. I wouldn't call our association a movement.

I cannot assert more clearly that the 16 words from the 1st amendment say that the government shall not....the government will not, the government is precluded from....making laws either establishing or destroying any religion.

I cannot find words in those 16 that say that religions cannot collectively vote. I cannot find anywhere in those words that religion is stopped from petitioning the government. They aren't there.

The words aren't there and Leonard Pitts said they were. And candidate O'Donnell asked where they were.

And Pitts attacked her for her ignorance and willful disregard of the amendment.

And they aren't in there. Pitts is wrong. Religion is not limited from addressing the government by the first amendment. I can't find any nuance. I can't find any beauty. I can't find any multi-layered thinking in those 16 words.

Nor can anyone else on this blog....because they aren't there.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

"As I read the first sentence, I see that the government is precluded from meddling in a church. I see no such restriction of the church from meddling in government.

So Mr. Pitts' statement of isolation of church from state is erroneous."

You read the Amendment wrong. That sort of meddling is exactly what the Amendment is intended to protect me from.

In any event, 200 years of jurisprudence has established the restrictions imposed by the First Amendment. If you disagree, either get the Constitution amended, or set about convincing a court that churches should be allowed to meddle in our government.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

The first ten amendments of the constitution are the bill of rights. They are included to clearly enumerate the limits of government. They were put there to protect you from government.

Now, the words of the amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...” — from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Using this statement from Mr. Pitts' article, give me an argument that shows me the amendment's meaning includes a restriction of religion upon government. A limit of religion such that religion cannot influence government. A separation of religion and state such that neither can affect the other.

I see only the limit placed upon government. I read that the congress shall pass no law respecting religion.

I don't see a statement that says : And religion shall be precluded from petitioning congress to enact laws that it supports.

If the Mormons want a law banning interstate trafficking of prostitutes, they can support a political drive to ask their senator to introduce such legislation. Nothing in the first amendment says they can't.

But Mormons don't make law. Nobody does except politicians. Catholics can't enforce traffic laws. The state can. Presbyterians can't arrest you for violating noise laws, the sheriff can. So the people must be protected from the government, not the other way around.

Get it?

mcmandy 7 years, 5 months ago

The point has been missed. The issue isn't the church's right to show support to get laws passed; the issue is the church being in power and creating laws to suppport it's agenda.

Pitts makes a better point than he usually does about anything, but his phrasing in a couple spots left it open for this ridiculous stream of comments. Blame his editor. I could understand the ideas behind it just fine.

We should demand intelligence out of our leaders, and right now we don't have it. A basic knowledge of our constitiution and bill of rights should be the foundation of our leaderships knowledge, but many of these candidates know less than the average American about these documents.

We've had candidates who think Africa is a country, think there are only 58 states, and those that not only think the separation of church and state is not our Constitutional right, but think it is Nazi based. In short, we've had and still have blatent idiot running for powerful offices.

Strange and scary times we're living in.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

"the issue is the church being in power and creating laws to suppport it's agenda."

You didn't think that one through either mandy. Kinda like Pitts.

The government has power. The power is vested in the government and that government is a government of laws. The laws must be constitutional, but they are enacted by representatives of the people.

The people have power to elect. The elected have power to legislate and the courts have power to limit.

The church has no more or less power to influence the government than does....the Sierra Club.

Yes mandy, you and Mr. Pitts have missed the point. It is called freedom. Freedom to petition the government with what you want.

But that freedom includes the views of Ms. O'Donnell. Even the views of those with whom you disagree. The point isn't ignorance by O'Donnell. The point is that Pitts reads into the 1st amendment a clause that church is separate from state.

No it doesn't. And why should Christians be precluded from their views in government and the views of Gaea worshipers be included.

Only on the basis of the electorates decisions. Get it, mandy? Bring 'em on, I say. Bring them all on. Evaluate their ideas and vote.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

You need to get over the Environmentalist as Gaea worshiper thing. Its absurd.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Wake up to world, moon. Science has a clearly stated goal of removing mythology, bad reasoning and narratives of explanation from the world. If evidence is provided and some semblance of scientific method can be done, science goes with it. All because science is there to reduce our reliance on non-science for explanations of the world.

Replace religion with science. But when science includes beauty, imagery, statements that are hopelessly untestable, I cry foul.

Environmentalism is just that sort of quasi-science.

Filled with motivation. Willing to accept huge stories about origins, the rise and fall of great previous earth conditions. All quite untestable, but better than Adam and Eve.

Well I cry foul. Adam and Eve are non-scientific religious stories. So are most of the stories that go for evolutionary biology. It is a religion complete with icons, imagery, sin, salvation. It is a religion supplanting other religions. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Recycle, reuse, reform, repent. All the same guilt trip.

Smokie408 7 years, 5 months ago

You are right about churches can try to influance political life, but what you haven't put in is if the church's give political commantary from the pulput then they lose their tax free status and have to start paying taxas. Which is another way to create a sepration of church and state.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Actually, I consider the tax exempt status of churches to be a clear violation of the establishment clause of the 1st amendment.
Removing that status when a church engages in politics is simply righting a previous wrong.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

Apparently, we can occasionally agree on something.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

"Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers, their bought and paid for politicians and some corporate/Wall Street profiteers(shareholders)!"

One very powerful interest that would oppose that, Merrill is the corporate media. They receive huge amounts of money in campaign spending and have a very powerful interest in perpetuating the disfunctional status quo. Campaign spending buys silence and favorable coverage for the purchasers, as well.

The right wingers take-over of our major media is a biggest part of the problem. When media ownership is consolidated in to the hands of a relatively few large media conglomerates, it is easier for their propaganda to take root and be effective. More diversity in ownership protects the public by allowing more ideas to be disseminated. The current effort to silence NPR is a good example of the right wingers' media agenda. Break up the media conglomerates and the corrupting campaign finance status quo and then our votes might mean something. As it stands today the exercise is simply that the winning candidate is the one that buys the most ads in the media. The media then spends 2-3 months trumpeting the fact that it appears, by golly, that all polls point to that candidates victory. A dispirited electorate then either checks out of the process, or votes with the winners.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

The issue is not the supposed wish for a godless nation by the secular-progressive historical revisionists, Tom. The issue is a republican Senate candidate who does not support the mainstream understanding of our First Amendment right to be free from imposition of the religion she favors.

There are many vexing issues facing the country today. Electing someone who does not understand our Constitutional protections, or who does not agree with them, is not going to be a good thing.

puddleglum 7 years, 5 months ago

Go Tea Party! Go FoX News! the only truth in right-wing news digests!

don't tread on me or TOM, or sarah Palin-epicenter of intellect

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Scott, clearly you are correct. Look how this screed from Leonard Pitts supports your assertion . Your post is weird, Scott. It blames a media for bias in an opinion piece which is antithetical to your statement. If your comment was attached to something from George Will, then I understand. Here the comment is nonsensical.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

It was intended as a reply to Merrill's question about who would oppose public campaign financing. Not sure why it ended up where it did, but the LJW does that from time to time I have noticed.

Mike Ford 7 years, 5 months ago

Europe was a continent of state religions like Catholic Church and the Anglican Church excedera before it's poor uneducated masses came here. Italy and Germany were not united until the 19th century. The people who founded this country on stolen land didn't want all of the corruption and meddling of the churches and monarchies that was Europe then. People here are free to practice religion of their choice. They are not allowed to hijack the US Government, preach political messages from the pulpit without losing their 501. (C) 3 status and use their religions to judge and subjugate others to their beliefs. This is exactly what the churchlicans and dumblicans have tried to do for years. This is coming from a PK who saw the rise of the fear wing dumblicans in central Louisiana in the mid 1970's. If the witch is going to speak of the US Constitution she better know what shes talking about. Like the archie bunkers, she doesn't.

jayhawktownie 7 years, 5 months ago

Not "stolen", those lands were conquered or purchased legally, except the Cherokee, but that got Oklahoma as compensation so it all worked out.

Wow. Just wow.

Jimo 7 years, 5 months ago

Or the truth you fear is that the "c" places the poor and needy at the core of their savior's message. Again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man - or he who licks the rich man's boots - to enter into the kingdom of God. Repent and commit to change your wayward sinfulness.

llama726 7 years, 5 months ago

Who are you to judge anyone's lifestyle?

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

Then can you explain why there are so many moral, Christian Liberals? Or is that in the grey area between black and white you're not able or refuse to see??

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Nice conflation of 400 year old history (stealing land), European history (earliy 19th century), and 20th century laws (501.)

How is it that 501. c3 isn't a violation of the 1st amendment? Sure looks like it to me. That looks like a law respecting the free exercise of religion. Precluded by the 1st. Outta here.

But if a group of Christians want to ask a congressman to introduce legislation that would outlaw halter tops, it ain't a violation of the 1st amendment. It might be wrong. But it isn't against the 1st amendment.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

The above was addressed to tuschkahoma.

Centerville 7 years, 5 months ago

Now I get it. O'Donnell was correct that the phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the First Amendment (or anywhere else in the Constitution). But, she sinned in having questioned what liberals wish to be (and therefore HAS to be) in the First Amendment.
O'Donnell's disqualificationn is that she isn't bowing to liberal orthodoxy.

That, and she made an entire law school look as dumb as Gwen Ifill.

Corey Williams 7 years, 5 months ago

"...and no matter how many ever---how many times ever..."

Just throwing that back out there, Nancyboy.

Does it make any more sense to you now?

Brian Laird 7 years, 5 months ago

It would seem to me that the governments endorsement of one religion over others by placing a nativity scene on the grounds of a government building would represent an "establishment of religion" and thus be prohibited. I don't think that that is "tortured" reading of the 1st amendment or would have anything to do with the mishandling of ladies undergarments.

Brian Laird 7 years, 5 months ago

Congress or state legislatures (which have to abide by the first amendment through the 14th amendment) establish law that authorizes court houses, so the 1st amendment would apply to any activities at the court house. Just because I feel this way doesn't make it so, the fact that it is so makes it so.

Mike Ford 7 years, 5 months ago

small minded people always try to make hay of small issues while avoiding the discussion of the bigger ones. avoiding issues altogether is a dumblican hallmark. New York, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all violated the Indian Non-Intercourse Act of 1790 treatying with the Six Nations, Abnaki, Maliceet, Micmac, Pequot, and Narragansett peoples and taking lands without an act of the US Congress, as required in the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. These thieves had immunity from land claim lawsuits for 180 years until the land claim lawsuits by the Abenaki, Oneida and Cayuga peoples in the early 1970's. The Abnaki, Maliceet, and Micmac got back hundreds of thousands of acres in Maine in the Maine Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980, the Narragansetts and Pequots got federal recognition and lands, and the Oneida and Cayuga peoples had Justice John Roberts misinterpret Alaska Native land laws and use them in the lower 48 in Sherrill V Oneida Indian Nation seven years ago. He knew like a dumblican right? Tummy dummy, don't step into something you know nothing of. Keep talking like O' Donnell, sooner or later something smart will come out.

Mike Ford 7 years, 5 months ago

nice rascist comment in regards to the federal govenment licensing traders and government employees for work on reservations in the 19th century. Intercourse refers to the licensed practice of business in Indian Country not what your dirty mind referred to.

David Albertson 7 years, 5 months ago

How many seats were stripped from the GOP in the last 2 elections? The fact that you win some back does not mean the country is rising up and there is some kind of political shift going on. A couple election cycles from now the people will be sick of the GOP and how they never address the issues they supposedly care about. For example, after 8 years of GOP control gays are still getting married, we still have plenty of gun regulations, women are still getting abortions, Muslims are still building mosques, Mexicans are still coming across the border, medical marijuana is still being prescribed, science is still disproving the bible step by step, embryonic stem cell research is still going on, we still have Medicare, Medicaid, social security, the US Post office, public libraries, etc, blacks are still free and can even vote, women can vote, the porn industry is alive and well, evolution is still being taught in public schools, we still HAVE public schools. Shall I continue? What exactly did the GOP do with their majority other than take us in to two wars, that they never funded by the way? Oh wait I remember, they crashed the economy and pushed for the TARP program, which by the way they blame the Dems for. The GOP really has nothing to stand on. They'll win some seats but they really have no direction or leadership.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

The right wingers hate government and especially hate our representative democracy. They have been largely successful in their efforts to discredit, dismantle and disgrace the federal government to the point that the public loses faith in its ability to be a force for good in their lives. They have set the stage for the very real possibility of the loss of our government to the forces of wealth and monopoly capitalism.

beatrice 7 years, 5 months ago

Corporations like their Republican politicians to not be particularly intelligent. Easier to control their puppets this way. However, every once in a while a candidate exceeds expectations and is too ignorant to fool a majority of voters. This was the case with Palin and will be the case with O'Donnell. Her Tea Party supporters (not the brightest bulbs on the marquee) may well keep the Republicans from gaining control of the Senate in this election.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Lemme guess Bea. You are amongst the intelligentsia ne'st pas? So that means that you can easily give an explanation of how these words:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....."

Mean these words:

"the framers’ intention to isolate church from state and vice versa is evident in the amendment’s wording"

Where in the first words does is say that isolation of church from state and visa versa is evident? I see that the state is precluded from enhancing or diminishing religion. In other words, government stay out of religion. Where are the words in the first statement that preclude religion from engaging government?

That is, there is a 1st amendment. It has words stated by Mr. Pitts. There are words by Mr. Pitts. They assert that religion is precluded from influencing government. That is the visa versa part.

How do you justify the two statements? The statements are made. They are contradictory. Justify them, please.

WHY 7 years, 5 months ago

Smart people can't win in a democracy. People don't vote for what they don't understand. And dumb people forget the past to soon to learn anything from it. Who voted for the first half of the bailout? Who expanded government healthcare for old people in a socialistic manner? Who invaded a country for no particular reason? I say we all vote for that party, because at least they will pretend to be against abortion even though they will never ban it, and they can preserve marriage even though they all cheat on their spouses with other men and women, and last but not least they can make their rich friends as rich as possible while exploiting the weakest people in the system.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Nobody wins in a democracy, Why. That's the point. The founders saw that top-down government was evil and set about to limit government's influence.

Voters, two houses of congress, the executive branch, and finally the courts were all supposed to be at odds.

That is, laws were supposed to be few and difficult to enforce.

It is called freedom from government. It is the notion that "experts" and "rulers" and "powerful people" were to be subjugated to the will of the populace.

Nobody wins. The witless and infirm die. The strong and clever survive. The collective is only empowered to enforce freedom.

That is lost in modern society. Gone in a morass of laws and reinterpretations of existing laws so that the powerful grow and the people loose. This isn't a democracy as long as the only selections are democrats and republicans.

They both must cease to exist. They are overwrought, bloated, and devoid of thought, style and everything Ben Franklin stood for.

Where is ole Ben when we need him.

WHY 7 years, 5 months ago

I like how you think but I still think there is a role smart people can play in taking care of the public and directing the future of a complex society.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

I think smart people should be considered for their ideas. Then the people should make decisions about how government is run.

But taking care of the public? Directing our future?

No thanks. Hitler, Stalin and a lot of Kings before them show what happens when the masses turn things over to "smart people who take care of us".

whats_going_on 7 years, 5 months ago

Clearly, all of you know what the Constitution really means and exactly how this country should be run.

Yawn, this sh*t is getting annoying.

WHY 7 years, 5 months ago

Intellect also matters for journalists and political commentators but don't worry Mr. Pitts the bar is not very high. Even a guy like you gets his say every week.

booyalab 7 years, 5 months ago

The comment only seems ignorant if you don't consider the different implications in what the constitution says versus the phrase "separation of church and state".

There is a very good reason they didn't put the phrase in the constitution, it's vague and completely open to interpretation. If the constitution instructed for the separation of church and state, it could be taken to mean anything from no churches are allowed to be next to a government building to no churchgoers are allowed to vote or run for office. But what the constitution actually says is that effectively government can not force you to adhere to any religion you don't want to.

The difference is important and it's a shame that so many would rather insult someone for pointing it out rather than attempt to understand.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

The words of the amendment support your statement, booyalab. The words that would preclude religion from engaging the state aren't there. When this is pointed out to supporters of Mr. Pitts, things get crazy.

If the attack by Pitts is against a person who holds views different from the main stream, he is supported. Even if the logic is clear that Mr. Pitts made a mistake, people on this blog will conjure excuses that fail in juxtaposition to the words of the amendment.

Yet the supporters of Mr. Pitts' view go on. They are driven by their zeal to ridicule the far right. Ironically, they are engaged in the same stumblin', bumblin' logic that most political arguments have: "He's my candidate, right or wrong".

Or the more modern version: "He's not my candidate, right or wrong".

Its us versus them and to heck with rational thought.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 5 months ago

Intelligence among the voters would also be appreciated, Mr. Pitts. Good column.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Rational thinking on the part of columnists would be also appreciated. Mr. Pitts blew this one. He created the reality that religion shall not influence government. He thinks that the 1st amendment protects government from religious views. It doesn't.

BrianR 7 years, 5 months ago

Religious views are not a problem, never were. However, if you're talking about a Christian Nation or theocracy, that is a problem, and no, the First Amendment doesn't protect us from theocracy, that would be the Second Amendment.

devobrun 7 years, 5 months ago

Agreed, Brian. The problem with a 2nd amendment solution to Christian theocracy is that most of the people with the guns are Christians.

Unless, Islam continues to grow its numbers in the U.S. Then we would be in for a civil war between the Righteous Right and the Righteous Islam.

Conflagration is a word that comes to mind.

BrianR 7 years, 4 months ago

Unsettling thoughts. I belong to a Christian church but do not think theocracy is in the best interest of America or the world for that matter. And I have guns. I'm not sure all Christians would join a war for theocracy.

devobrun 7 years, 4 months ago

It doesn't need all Christians. Not all Muslims are violent killers of infidels. But there are enough aren't there? To cause havoc? And if Christians feel sufficiently threatened.........?

Oh, I do not belong to any organized group, Brian. I reject grand narratives in all their forms. Evolution, creation, diversity, environmentalism, you name it, it is all hubris.

And so, I simply show up and do the job. No grand mathematical abstractions, no philosophical imperatives, no guilt, no salvation.

Just be. Its simple.

But you just try to tell the Christians, Muslims, Environmentalist, Social Democrats.....they all have an agenda. It is a pattern for life. And all shall follow. Bologna.

Science has an agenda. Religion has an agenda. Politics has....well. Simple, naive ham radio-style people don't exist anymore.

Even the Boy Scouts have to ward off political battles from the left and right. Sigh.

I don't know where we came from, and neither do you. I don't know how a thing as complex and chaotic as 30 years of weather works.......the climate....and neither do you. But then I would be offending all the spineless people of the world who need some religion in whatever form. They need an answer to all those grand questions. I don't.

Limit government....that's what the 1st amendment stands for. It is the 1st because religion was the most important aspect of the life of the colonialists. Government shall not influence religion.

But people's lives are all about religion. Meaning that government shall be limited. Not the other way around.

And Leonard Pitts is so far removed from any of the ideas I just stated that he thinks the question of "where in the constitution is the separation of church and state?" is ridiculous.

That's because he has no idea what religion is, nor what 16 simple words mean. And neither do about half of the people on this blog.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 5 months ago

"Intelllect matters in candidates"

Yes, for the tea party, the less the better.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

The corporate goons manipulating them are the real threat.

puddleglum 7 years, 5 months ago

The Tea Party is taking the world by storm! soon we will win the presidency and finally get a white, fox news-style guy back in charge. Then We can ROLL!

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

The issue of the relationship between faith and our founding, and religion and government is a complex one.

Our founding documents have religious language in them - all men are created equal, ... - and the founders clearly had some sort of faith.

However, they were not anything like modern right wing Christians, and they didn't intend for this to be a "Christian nation" or a theocracy.

It is strictly (and narrowly) true that the phrase separation of church and state is not found in the Constitution. However, we have a long history of constitutional interpretation/court decisions that have concluded that is the correct interpretation of the 1st amendment.

For those who continue to advocate that religion should be able to "influence" government - I wonder how they see that playing out. When religious believers want to ban gay marriage, that may be a violation of the constitution. If they want to move us in the direction of a "Christian nation", that is also unconstitutional.

It seems to me that there would be very few ways in which religion can/should influence government that wouldn't violate some basic constitutional principles/rights. Which may be the point of the interpretation we've arrived at.

Any supporters have some examples of how religion would be able to influence government that wouldn't violate the constitution?

snoozey 7 years, 5 months ago

Integrity would seem to be in more conspicuous short supply than intelligence among our politicos but I grant you a fair number of dim bulbs are trying to push into the trough. I am beginning to believe that no solution to our current crop of elected criminals will occur until both parties are relieved of power and am only moderately optimistic that event would provide a solution. Perhaps it is true that the most poorly qualified candidates for public office are those who seek it.

robinhoodlum 7 years, 5 months ago

There is no Intellect in politics anymore. As rare as honesty.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 5 months ago

I have been in favor of aptitude tests for political candidates for a long time and that the results be publicly available on the internet along with their grades from school. We should require even more detail than a job applicant for an important position.

We really do not have enough information to make a qualified judgement anymore about a candidates ability to make good decisions.

Perhaps there would be less incentive to spend so much money on attacks ads that distort the truth about candidates.

The point of this article is to question Christine O'Donnell's qualifications to serve in such as high government office. I think her responses to many questions over the years has been disturbing.

However, if Christine O'Donnell is honest and trustworthy and cannot be bought by special interest groups and is willing to do the right thing as far as reining in government, getting rid of earmarks and getting rid of government corruption; she might not be very smart but she is still a better candidate than a bunch of crooks.

That remains to be seen.

overthemoon 7 years, 4 months ago

Nothing to compare to Bush who made enough ludicrous statements to fill an entire page-a-day calendar. Or two.

puddleglum 7 years, 5 months ago

Don't tread on me!


Birth certificate fir REELS, yo.

I say if Oblama can't provide a birth certificate, then we send him back to Kenya and put sarah Palin in charge, cuz she reel cute and just no-nonsense-type like a real smart woman with glasses usually is.

puddleglum 7 years, 5 months ago

If Mexico can't keep those illegal immigrants at home, then maybe we should dress them up and send them to Iran to fight for the Republic of the free world new order states of america (dont' be treading on me, broseph)

we need a regulatory commission that can regulate all the dumb throw-away programs like welfare and other moocher-type wastes of money..

bums riding my beautiful coat tails getting their dirty feet all over my threads.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

The poor Mexicans we see flooding our country in the last 10-12 years are the unfortunate consequence of our "free" trade/NAFTA policies and a stark warning of what happens to working people when society is turned over to business interests.

Agribusiness took over their society, gleans the profits and once again leaves the bitter costs to be borne by the US taxpayer in crime, wage slavery and environmental ruination of our beautiful homeland.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 5 months ago

Yes, intellect matters. It nowadays keeps intelligent people out of the GOP.

The Tea-bagger GOP is becoming the party of knee-jerk anti-intellectual populism and emotionalism.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

"becoming" is not necessary in that sentence.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 5 months ago

Speaking of intellect, how wise was it for chinless Mitch McConnell to admit on the record his number one job over the next two years is going to be to defeat President Obama in 2012.

Nice when a right wing loon admits their intent to but the needs of the country second to their own political ones.


Daniel Kennamore 7 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

pace 7 years, 1 month ago

Tax the churches, tax church property. Nothing in the constitution I should pay their share.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.