Patterico's Pontifications


Widener Law Tries to Erase Its Embarrassment

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:37 pm

[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.]

69 Responses to “Widener Law Tries to Erase Its Embarrassment”

  1. Perhaps this post should conclude with Ace’s bite of reality:

    Oh by the way: Don’t laugh too hard, Widener Law School students. For one thing, check your enrollment: You’re at Widener Fucking Law School. You aren’t really law students and you won’t really be lawyers.

    Sorry. But if we’re going to play the credentials game, I have to inform you, you’re not credentialed, at least in the eyes of anyone who actually is credentialed from a real law school.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  2. I can’t imagine those larval lawyers are good for a damn thing after they’ve been put through the “Widener Narrower,” which I envision as a machine from Dr. Seuss — perhaps repurposed from removing and replacing stars on Sneetches.

    Kevin R.C. O'Brien (ac00d6)

  3. Great job on these posts A.W.

    daleyrocks (940075)

  4. Let’s hope Widener Law School’s administrators and faculty understand the need to engage their students in more open-minded, serious discussions about the Constitution in the coming weeks and years.

    And I join with daleyrocks. It’s been interesting to read your posts and fun to comment on them.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  5. Absent some serious attitude adjustments, if these students ever pass a BAR, and (Heaven forbid) are admitted for practice at SCOTUS, they will be in for a serious shock upon encountering Mr. Justice Scalia during orals.

    AD-RtR/OS! (3e2169)

  6. 写得真好,很喜欢楼主写的东西。

    幼儿识字 (c5995c)

  7. No doubt those young people were rude, but then again O’Donnell kind of walked into it too. That does not mean she deserved the catcalls. She did not. But then again, it seems to me that young people are ruder today than in the past. Not just in that audience at Widener either, but all over the place. Recently I went to a family event and I was surprised, maybe even a little appalled at how rude and sullen and just plain unpleasant a lot of the younger people there were. And that was family. Imagine how obnoxious they would be with strangers. So maybe some of this is not about O’Donnell at all, it is about the audience.

    Terrye (2e6779)

  8. No, they were wrong, she was right, they edited the broadcast to reflect that, and the Washington Post went along. Coons, considering his indoctrination at Amherst, and Yale, was even more misinformed on the subject

    ian cormac (6709ab)

  9. There must be an awful lot of conservative law students there. Because I keep seeing liberals accuse conservatives of being closed-minded when it comes to having an open mind.

    So kudos to the admissions office for making their school so welcoming to conservatives.

    MU789 (9651cf)

  10. Why all the shock — as I said, all you need to know about the Legal Profession is right there in your friendly Yellow Pages.

    They will all find jobs word fucking legal documents and making spurious claims on those who actually produce.

    People think it is a joke, 99% of lawyers disappearing is a major positive for our country.

    javert (a8a9b2)

  11. NPR Website is still this morning headlining the “gaffe” that “stunned” Widener. And they just fired Juan Williams too (for a different, shocking, and “liberal” reason).

    elissa (250bac)

  12. elissa

    that juan williams thing doesn’t smell right. as i understand it he just admitted to a little uneasiness and then said he was wrong to feel this way.

    sheesh, i mean he arrived at the position they wanted him to, but not without some emotional difficulty. well burn him!

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  13. AW – The were quite clear that they do not like him appearing on Fox.

    JD (4aa811)

  14. Yeah, poor Juan Williams has just been “educated” by his masters. Somehow I do not think he’s going to take it lying down, either. Bill Chrystal has already come to his defense. It’ll be quite interesting to see where Cynthia Tucker, Eugene Robinson, Charles Blow, Clarence Page and others come down on this issue.

    But I didn’t mean to get off track from this Widener post. Did you actually read the O’Donnell link I copied above from NPR? As far as I’m concerned NPR’s version is actually more egregious and incendiary than the WP’s ever was. Standards? Who needs standards?

    elissa (250bac)

  15. Aaron, am really liking your guest posts, of course including this one. Keep up the great work.

    no one you know (72db9b)

  16. elissa

    i agree completely that the NPR version is worse.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  17. The complete lack of standards is the standard at NPR.

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  18. Elissa’s right. The NPR story is terrible. For one thing, they never even attempt to inform the reader what O’donnell actually said. They characterize it in the worst way, ignore her point, and then say she’s stupid a few times.

    And then, of course, the conclusion that the Tea Party isn’t serious about adhering to the actual constitution, even though this was her entire accurate point all along. The tone and lack of detail are exactly what you’d get from a political campaign commercial.

    As AD says, a complete lack of standards.

    What’s interesting is that hundreds of comments are explaining the NPR story is wrong, and NPR is obviously aware the facts they cribbed from AP’s sloppiness have been corrected, but their smear is untouched.

    The story here is media bias.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  19. well…….i think you are missing the point here. it doesnt matter much to me that COD doesnt believe the words ‘separation of church and state’ is IN THE TEXT OF THE CONSTITUTION.
    it matters to me that she and Palin and DeMint and Eric Cantor and Glenn Beck seem to be advocating for some sort of American State Religion of “Judeochristianity”.
    As a Jeffersonian, I am very, very against that.

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  20. No you are just making things up, crazy troll.

    JD (2e7078)

  21. Nishi here, Moron over there…
    We are so Blessed!

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  22. wheeler

    i might regret asking. but can you actually substantiate any of your claims?

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  23. i think you are missing the point here. it doesnt matter much to me that COD doesnt believe the words ‘separation of church and state’ is IN THE TEXT OF THE CONSTITUTION.

    It matters that democrats were shocked at this very basic point, and that some democrat media outlets flat out lied about her point.

    O’Donnell’s position is that locals should decide, and she doesn’t believe a US Senator should have any control over public education. How is that setting up a state church, Wheeler’s Cat?

    You took a list of conservatives and described them as having a ridiculous position they’ve never expressed (and even expressed the opposite position).

    If you watched the debate, you’d see that Coons wanted to impose his views, not O’donnell. This isn’t the first time you’ve lied about someone’s position because you can’t win a fair argument.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  24. Backfill and rationalize all you want. Those law students came to see the trainwreck that is O’Donnell and they weren’t disappointed. She’s entertainment, just like “Elvira,” but, as Elvira might point out, with smaller t-ts.
    “Open exhange of ideas,” indeed.
    I expect O’Donnell could speak at a geologists’ convention and argue the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and you’d say they should respect her opinion.

    Larry Reilly (ae99e7)

  25. I expect O’Donnell could speak at a geologists’ convention and argue the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and you’d say they should respect her opinion.


    That’s because you’re lying to yourself. I’m no shill for anybody, let alone O’donnell. She was right, and the law students moaning were wrong.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  26. Larry there is a slight difference from your analogy.

    Law isn’t a science.

    What she said was right. and insulting her only makes you look stupid.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  27. A.W. – It’s impossible to make Larry look more stupid than he already does every time he comments. He doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to even defend his inanities.

    daleyrocks (940075)

  28. He doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to even defend his inanities.

    It’s true. I’ve read him drop some nasty claim dozens of times. He has never been able to stay in a thread and defend the points.

    Always nice when a progressive’s mask slips, such as his hatred of O’Donnell’s breasts, of all things.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  29. You know what, i shouldn’t have personalized it that way with larry. i apologize.

    But larry, she was absolutely right.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  30. Aaron, you’re a nicer person than me. It’s hard not to personalize a rebuttal to “she’s entertainment with small t*ts!”

    No wonder these people think opposing Hillary is sexist and Obama is racist. They really think we’re all bigots like they are.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  31. Aaron.
    House whip Eric Cantor states judeochristianity must inform American FP.
    Palin rejects separation of church and state.
    DeMint rejects separation of church and state.

    Do you, Aaron Worthington, also reject the separation of church and state as interpreted by Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founders?

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  32. Dana: I hate to say it, but Ace’s comments about Widener were pretty much my first thought when I read the headline. (I hate to say it because it’s kind of rude, and because I’m sure there are some students there who will make good lawyers … but the reputation of the school is hard to get past).

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  33. wheeler

    First, Jefferson was a founder of this nation, but not a framer of the constitution. he didn’t write a single word of it.

    Second as for your evidence.

    Cantor saying our nation policy should be based on a morality founded on JC principles is nothing new. What do you think the 13th Amendment is based on? the 14th? the 15th?

    As for Palin, i am given zero context of the actual quote, just a radical group complaining that palin is less radical than they would like.

    and your demint link has even less content.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  34. the separation of church and state as interpreted by Thomas Jefferson

    As many have noted, Jefferson believed in a Christianity and did not believe the government and religion have to be walled apart. He did not support a state religion or a state church, but he did support things like bibles in the classroom.

    I’m not saying I agree with Jefferson, but a lot of people want to pretend Jefferson agrees with them, even though he clearly was much closer to O’Donnell’s POV. If Wheeler thinks its extreme to disagree with Jefferson, there’s a huge list of reasons he should reconsider that dumb POV.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  35. nishi – What is your morality informed by – what is popular?

    daleyrocks (940075)

  36. Please don’t ask nishi for intellectual analysis, as it is incapable of adding 2+2, let alone discussing the progenitors of Constitutional thought.

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  37. thank you for your response, Aaron.
    however it is a non-answer.
    Cantor specifically said that America’s FP should be shaped by Israel’s right to Palestine, because of a National Religion– Judeochristianity.
    Palin specifically rejected the separation of church and state, as did COD, as did DeMint, and you weasel word your response and say you dont have enough data.
    it seems useless to engage with you, since you are dishonest.

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  38. Well if that is not rich in irony. Nishi calling someone dishonest while making things up.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  39. dustin, if i may quote?
    A wall of eternal separation.

    The modern use of the wall metaphor in American life can be traced to the 1947 Supreme Court decision in Everson v. Board of Education, a case that challenged whether it was legal for a New Jersey township board of education to reimburse parents for the expenses they incurred sending their children to parochial schools on public buses. Writing for the majority, Justice Hugo Black concluded, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” The decision became seminal for interpreting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when it proscribed state and federal government involvement in six broad areas of religious belief and practice.

    The “wall of separation” metaphor has not been static. It developed from Williams’ concern with the church’s corruption when the world breached its walls, to Jefferson’s concern for religious freedom vis a vis the state and an established church, to Black’s arguments that the U.S. government must not engage in religious establishment, preference, and taxation, or in matters of attendance, participation, and belief.

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  40. also, too.

    It’s certainly true that as a senatorial candidate, Christine O’Donnell has often appeared appallingly ignorant of a great many subjects, and I appreciate Larison’s criticism of her in this regard. However, I must take issue with the following statement of his: “The establishment clause has been wildly and mistakenly misinterpreted so that a restriction created solely to prevent the federal government from imposing a religion on the states has been turned into a general imperative for all levels of government.”

    With all due respect to Larison, the original purpose of the 1st Amendment has been modified by the 14th Amendment, making it applicable to every level of government, all the way down to school boards.

    It is true that the amendments to the US Constitution listed in the Bill of Rights, as they were originally written, were meant to apply to the federal government only. However, the Constitution has undergone subsequent amendment. Namely, the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause is specifically applied to the states themselves. The long-standing doctrine of Incorporation has applied “fundamental freedoms” found in the Bill of Rights to the states through that clause.
    This legal doctrine has not seen any sort of serious opposition from either political wing in this country in a long time; in fact the right-wing faction of the Supreme Court of the US recently utilized the doctrine of Incorporation to hold that the gun rights enshrined in the 2nd Amendment are a “fundamental freedom” in McDonald v. Chicago, curtailing states’ abilities to restrict gun ownership. Incorporation doctrine has been employed to apply the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments to the states. It’s neither a new nor a controversial legal doctrine, nor does it require new (mis)interpretations of the amendments themselves, merely that they apply to state governments.

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  41. Like I said, Aaron…..since the right has apparently become the New Christian Party of the Heartland….nearly all ‘conservatives’ being some stripe of christian….what do you think?
    Do you agree with the 14th amendment?

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  42. Wheeler /nishidiot likes to think that Jefferson shares her bugf@cknutz point of view.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  43. Wheeler

    Your quotes simply didn’t prove what you claimed. Deal with it.

    There is a world of difference between saying we should follow a religion in our national policies, and that we should declare an official religion.

    And again, there is no substance to the Palin or Demint claim.

    Btw, an interesting factoid, via volokh:

    > Separation was a crucial part of the KKK’s jurisprudential agenda. It was included in the Klansman’s Creed (or was it the Klansman’s Kreed?)… New members of the KKK had to pledge their allegiance to the “eternal separation of Church and State.”

    And of course who authored the opinion in everson which first said that the first amendment included separation of church and state? Hugo Black. You know, the former klansman.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  44. JESUSLANDERS !!!!!!!!!!! Take your meds, whackjob.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  45. and that klansman thing is not unrelated. The most strident desire to have separation of church and state, including infamous blaine amendments, was in fact designed to specifically harm the catholic church, which the klansmen despised. i am not sure why they hated the catholic church. maybe something to do with robert the bruce and so many undesirable immigrants from germany and ireland were catholics. but they did hate the catholics, for whatever reason.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  46. wheeler

    do i agree with the 14th amendment. yes. but as i interpret it. i have no idea what you think you are implying into it.

    What i find amazing is that you apparently hate it, given that it was motivated by religious faith.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  47. AW – though honorable, nishidiot does not care to have an actual discussion. She will simply move on to the next of her Memes. It is what she does, she is the very definition of a crazy bad-faith troll. Ask her about her lurv of eugenics, and genetically engineering away conservatives.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  48. I meant AW was honorable in his efforts.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  49. JD, we always knew that you had a secret thing for nishi, you devil.

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  50. The Klan just hates Aaron, first Blacks and Catholics, Jews (remember the Leo Frank case, that helped send Watson to the Senate)the modern incarnation is the likes of David Duke, and Matt Hale, who Greenwald has defended unsuccessfully against murder charges

    ian cormac (6709ab)

  51. ian

    > The Klan just hates Aaron

    Wait, what did I do to them? Look, i have already pissed off the entire country of Pakistan, i don’t need the KKK idiots after me, too.


    i know what you mean. you are saying they just hate in general, they are haters. i just thought it was funny the way that sounded. “they hate blacks, jews, catholics, blacks (i said it twice for emphasis), and you Aaron, in particular.”

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  52. I think that most people know the words separation of church and state are not in the fact I think that most of those students know that too, they were laughing at her because she was supporting ID and that made her seem like a weirdo to them.

    In fact, Coons was arguing legal intent and she was arguing exact phrasing..not even the same topic.

    I just wish she had made her point in such away that it did not need explaining later. The press is biased, we all know it, don’t make it easier for them to take advantage of the situation.

    Terrye (84455a)

  53. yup, JD, we are all stuck in Jesusland until the demographic timer goes off.

    so…..Aaron….are you arguing that Palin, Demint, Cantor, COD, etc DO believe in the Jeffersonian eternal wall?
    im confused.

    the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause is specifically applied to the states themselves. The long-standing doctrine of Incorporation has applied “fundamental freedoms” found in the Bill of Rights to the states through that clause.

    i agree with that interpretation.
    How does your interpretation differ?

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  54. The Framers never intended no public space for religious expression, they were opposed to an
    official State Church, like the Church of England,
    that is the point, unlike Obama and Coons who want
    to subjugate the Church to the State, in keeping with that new Tides Foundation project

    ian cormac (6709ab)

  55. I have a question regarding the part on Widener’s web site about “Open exchange of ideas”.

    Are those scare quotes, or just quotation marks meant to indicate irony?

    malclave (1db6c5)

  56. What i find amazing is that you apparently hate it, given that it was motivated by religious faith.

    why would you say that?
    All america’s laws is informed by anglo-saxon protestantism.
    American democracy == judeochristian democracy.

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  57. Wheeler

    > im confused

    No kidding.

    > are you arguing that Palin, Demint, Cantor, COD, etc DO believe in the Jeffersonian eternal wall?

    That’s sort of a “when did you stop beating your wife” kind of question. There is no wall of separation in our precedents. I do acknowledge you can reasonably think there is—so I don’t ding coons for saying that–but its not actually there. When the state can provide free busing, books and even sign language tutors to people going to parochial schools, or even in the case of the interpreter, as they study to become a clergyman, its very hard to characterize it as a wall of separation.

    As for what these politicians believe? Not completely sure. I have noted that COD says you can teach creationism in public school, which is unconstitutional without us claiming there is a wall of separation. What the others believe, I don’t know. You certainly haven’t proven they believe that a certain religion should be declared the official religion.

    > How does your interpretation differ?

    Well, for starters, I tend to think incorporation was done through the privileges and immunities clause, but the difference is largely academic. But the problem is that you are not clarifying, even in the limited context of the first amendment, what you think is being incorporated.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  58. Comment by Terrye — 10/21/2010 @ 2:27 pm

    Those goal-posts must be hollow, and filled with Helium, or else you wouldn’t be able to move them about so easily.

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  59. O’Donnell was so explicit that the point she was making was a specific phrase not being in a specific amendment.

    The reason she is being bashed is not because she was unclear. It’s because she was smeared with a misquote and a lie.

    It’s a shame debate formats can afford more detailed discussion… and coons and O’donnell were not trying to dialogue. But O’donnell improved her standing in my book.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  60. INAL.
    i’ll just roll with the 14th informing Kitzmuller vs. Dover.

    “Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” said Palin.

    DeMint scores 0% by the AU on church-state separation interprets the 2006 AU scores as follows:
    0%- 20%: opposition to church-state separation (approx. 232 members)
    21%- 79%: mixed record on church-state separation (approx. 79 members)
    80%-100%: support of church-state separation (approx. 153 members)
    About the AU (from their website,
    Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. AU is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.

    we shall judge Demint by his voting record. :)

    America is not actually a secular nation– the judiciary is made of elites that enforce (quasi)secular law, and protect non(white christians) from the majority (white christians).

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  61. Wheeler/nishidiot is off its meds again, and is in one of her feedback loops. STFU Jesuslander racists.

    JD (35df65)

  62. Wheeler now you are just repeating yourself.

    An article that spends more time having people denounce palin, than actually letting her give enough of her speech to put it into context is nothing more than an expression of your prejudice.

    I mean try this question for me. Does Palin believe in abstinance education?

    yes or no?

    and as for demint, you are reduced to saying, “i think he wants to establish Christianity as the official religion because these other people believe it to be the case.” its an appeal to authority–indeed the palin one is, too–and therefore fallacious.

    Aaron Worthing (f97997)

  63. Isn’t it interesting that one of the great legacies of the generation that revolted against authority in Hashbury and the streets of Chicago,
    is an appeal to authority by their descendants now that the Aging Hippie Cohort is “the authority”?

    AD-RtR/OS! (a1a38a)

  64. I am glad nishi appeared to present us with serious analysis from TPM and Andrew Syllivan, always among Barcky’s go to sources these days. No wonder this country’s so screwed up.

    daleyrocks (940075)

  65. so you wont admit that Palin rejects separation of church and state?
    the GOP/teaparty is nearly wholly christian at this point.
    is that a good idea?

    Does COD reject separation of church and state?

    wheeler's cat (4d5a18)

  66. The endless mendoucheous feedback loop continues apace.

    JD (eb1dfe)

  67. Wheeler

    > so you wont admit that Palin rejects separation of church and state?

    For the hundredth time, the constitution rejects the concept of a wall of separation between church and state. And so has the supreme court, in deeds if not by words.

    A wall of separation would require the government to positively discriminate against religion. The courts have not required any such thing.

    > the GOP/teaparty is nearly wholly christian at this point.

    Not much more than America is.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  68. Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, no? :)

    JD: good work, but it looks like Aaron will continue to f@#$ that chicken (the troll)

    Lord Nazh (0d312a)

  69. the GOP/teaparty is nearly wholly christian at this point.
    is that a good idea?


    What a bigot.

    This is the one who wants to ethnically cleanse conservatives from the living population?

    Dustin (b54cdc)

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