[Guest post by Aaron Worthing]
I am not going to document it as meticulously as with the WaPo/AP story because this is just not a significant issue–if the links go bad, you will just have to either believe me, or not. But with the help of Dustin and JK, we were able to recover a cached version of Widener Law School’s coverage of the O’Donnell debate, before they scrubbed it of pretty much all analysis, with gems like this:
“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” asked Christine O’Donnell, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, during a debate held at Widener Law’s Delaware campus on Tuesday, October 19th against Democratic candidate and current New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.
O’Donnell asked the question of Coons during an exchange on the Constitution and O’Donnell’s contention that Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools alongside Evolution. The law school audience reacted strongly to O’Donnell’s lack of familiarity with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Coons too seemed bemused at O’Donnell’s question, calling the separation of church and state “an indispensable principle” of the Constitution and noting, “Religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”
The unnamed writer of the piece apparently thought it was self-evident that O’Donnell was showing us how stupid she was. Except now we know she wasn’t. She was making a wholly valid point—that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t actually appear in the constitution, and its validity as a doctrine is highly debatable. I mentioned the arrogance of the audience in a previous post, but I think honestly Althouse captured it better than I did, when she wrote:
A word needs to be said about the mocking laughter that instantly erupted from the law students in the audience. Presumably, that sound meant we are smart and you are dumb. Where did they learn to treat a guest at their law school — Widener Law School — with such disrespect? They hooted O’Donnell down, and she never got a chance to explain her point. What does that say about the climate for debate in law schools? Not only did they feel energized to squelch the guest they politically opposed, but they felt sure of their own understanding of the law….
What is the atmosphere at Widener? Is there no intellectual curiosity? No love of debate? No grasp of how complex constitutional law problems can be?
The irony of it all is that here is a line that is also rescued from the memory hole at Widener’s Law School site.
Following a welcome from Widener Law Public Relations Officer Mary Allen in which she affirmed the law school’s commitment to the “Open exchange of ideas,” WDEL Anchor Peter MacArthur… turned to a panel of four journalists for the first question.
(emphasis added.) I doubt that the exchange is very open, if the minds are so closed. This whole incident has rightfully become an embarrassment to the law school. And that makes it less shocking that they tried to disappear this entire piece.
You can read the current version of this webpage, here.
Update: Minor corrections made.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]