I Guess They Don’t Teach Constitutional Law at Hogwarts

Christine O’Donnell says the United States Constituion means a lot to her. She claimed to have studied “Constitutional Government at Claremont Graduate University”

Then, in last week’s debate, Christine made a big deal about her beliefs not meaning anything, if she goes to Washington, it will be to support the Constitution.

Yesterday’s debate at the Widener Law School shows the Constitution to be a document she obviously has not read with any amount of comprehension.

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

“You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp,” said Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone, adding that he thought it raised questions about O’Donnell’s grasp of the Constitution.

Note in the video how O’Donnell keeps on gleefully repeating her ignorant misunderstanding of the Constitution. She is convinced she is right and has Coons in a “gotcha” moment. She understands that someone in the room is an idiot, but unfortunately does not realize that she is it.

After that debate my team and I we were literally high fiving each other thinking that we had exposed he doesn’t know the First Amendment, and then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like “what?”

Love and Hate

Crossposted from DemConWatch

I've been thinking a lot about hatred and bigotry, in light of the comments on this post. It seems that we all have some latent, if not blatant, inherent bigotry. Last night, Scott posted a link to Ron Paul's comments about why Park51 should be allowed near Ground Zero. Scott picked one quote, I pick this one:

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. 

I have been thinking about my lifelong, absolute, defense of First Amendment rights. In case you have forgotten, there are five: 

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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And yet, I am somehow disquieted.  It's because of the Preamble to the Constitution, which says:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (emphasis mine)

What do we say about religions, and religious “idealism” that deny liberty to those amoungst us? How do we balance the right to practice one's religion when members try to force some parts of that religion down other people's throats? 

Much more after the jump. 

My friends Tim and Victor are getting married. Victor published this:

We waited two years for the order striking down Prop 8 in California. When it happened Tim and I immediately started making  plans to fly back and finally get married like we were supposed to before this this illegal piece of legislation. Then we waited till we understood the order. And then we waited to see if an appeal would happen before August 15th….well, as you know the order was stayed, and it will likely be next year before the appeals court hears the case. We waited long enough, we're not waiting any more.

Marriage for everyone is legal in 5 states. New Hampshire is one of them. We have a dear friend in New Hampshire who is a lawyer and not only that, she's a Justice of the Peace. Come this October Tim and I (and our faithful companion Cybil, the Wonder Dog) will pile into the car and make the 7 1/2 hour drive to the Live Free or Die state (how appropriate is that???). On October 14th we are getting married.

We'd like to apologize in advance for all the heterosexual marriages that will fail or be devalued because of us and for the end of civilization as we know it.

In my heart, I cannot abide those who work tirelessly to deny this couple, who have been as “married” as anyone, except in the eyes of the law, for so very many years. Marriage is, in many ways, a blessing of liberty: why should Tim and Victor, and Mike and Jim, and Debbie and KJ, and Wendy and Jill, and all the others be prevented from this? You won't find a single agnostic or atheist who is opposed. 

Why does political action in the name of religion trump basic human rights? This is not a rhetorical question: I've wondered for years, and no one has been able to give me an answer of why and how a country based on freedom of religion uses it as a stick.  

And I come back now to the Park51 project. I defend to the death the right for the project to be built. Without question. I don't, however, think it's a terribly smart idea because there is no doubt in my mind that there will be clashes there, and violence, and possibly killing. I do not believe, as the Time poll indicated 46% of Americans believe, that people born into Islam are more likely to do violence to others in the name of religion. There is too much history of violence in the name of all religions to believe that. I am, however, disquieted by how Islam treats women. I don't expect in America to see stonings, and virtual home imprisonment, and women being denied the right to drive a car, or even to be on the street without a male family member accompanying them. But that certainly goes on in Muslim nations. I am haunted, for example, by the 15 school girls made to die in a fire because they lacked the proper attire. The sect Mormons with plural marriage are not much better to their girls and women. How do I integrate in my heart supporting the rights of people under the First Amendment, when they lead lives in violation of the Preamble? I don't have a good answer. I want everyone to be allowed to practice his/her religion, but I want religion to never trump law. Is there some way to make sure that the religious “beliefs” stay internal to those religions? If so, there is no problem with Tim and Victor getting married (gift is on its way, boys!) and no problem with making sure that all women, in all areas, have the same basic rights to liberty as men. 

A Mosque near Ground Zero?

The Anti-Defamation League has a record of sticking up for religious freedom, but they are speaking out against the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Various Jewish groups are praising or condemning the ADL for this stand. In joining forces with the right-wing ,is the ADL taking a stand against terrorism or selling out their long held principles?  

The ADL issued the following statement regarding the proposed Corboda Islamic Center in Manhattan:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.  

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.  But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam.  The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong.  But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.  In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Nate Silver actually scouted out the construction site to see what was up. He reports:

There’s not going to be some huge, ostentatious mosque with some minaret or some giant crescent located “at” Ground Zero, nor within clear sight of it, nor even on the way (in terms of virtually all natural paths a commuter or tourist might take) to Ground Zero. Rather, there’s going to be a mixed-use retail building that contains some kind of reformist mosque, located somewhere in its general vicinity — as there already is now. It would not impose upon or offend anyone unless they were going out of their way to be imposed upon or offended.


Does the ADL argue that Ground Zero is sacred ground and a mosque in Lower Manhattan would be a sacrilege? Actually there is already a mosque in the neighborhood, along with strip clubs, straight and gay bars, sex stores and escort services.

The ADL describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” yet they oppose the construction of a place of worship because of the faith they adhere to. As Adam Serwer writes in The American Prospect:

It is inconceivable that the ADL would argue such a position if the building in question happened to be a synagogue, and the builders happened to be Jews.

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

As the grandson of a holocaust survivor, Jed Lewison writes How to surrender the moral highground in one easy step:

Even if you have no intention of ever setting foot inside such a center, you should still stand up against the campaign of irrational fear-mongering being waged against the facility — especially if you are part of a group whose mission is to fight all forms of bigotry. Whether or not the proposed Islamic Center is politically popular is besides the point: the bottom-line is that you can’t put an asterisk next to tolerance.

Finally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg concludes as follows:

If somebody wants to build a religious house of worship, they should do it and we shouldn’t be in the business of picking which religions can and which religions can’t. I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try to on that piece of property build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it too. What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody and I just- you know, if we are so afraid of something like this, what does it say about us? Democracy is stronger than this. You know, the ability to practice your religion is the- was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.