The Right's Drive To End The "Separation of Church and State"
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" - Christine O'Donnell
The absurd controversy over Markos' use of the title American Taliban in his latest book has papered over the real issue for liberals and progressives - the unending drive of the Right to constitutionalize government promotion and imposition of religion. The above quote from Christine O'Donnell has drawn a great deal of attention in the Left blogs, but I think the focus on O'Donnell's ignorance with regard to the Establishment clause misses the larger point - O'Donnell was merely parroting the standard line of the Republican Party and the Right on the separation of church and state. Consider National Review's Ramesh Ponnoru's defense of O'Donnell:
[O'Donnell] denies is that the First Amendment requires “the separation of church and state.” Here’s something I wrote about this question several years ago that, I think, is on point: [. . .] People mean different things when they talk about “theocrats,” “the separation of church and state,” and “secularism.” The word “secular” can describe both irreligion and neutrality about religion.
Ponnoru is not writing in a vacuum. The drive to change the meaning of "separation of church and state" is a program of longstanding for the Right. Consider the 2002 case Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, where Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote:
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