Debate today between Christine O' Donnell and Chris Coons brought to light a common misunderstanding of the Constitution. Many people still believe that the Constitution (in the Bill of Rights) constructs a wall of separation between the Christian faith and public institutions like schools. The famous phrase "separation of church and state" was used in a Supreme Court decision in 1947 by a liberal court seeking to remove Christian influences from our public institutions. I say specifically Christian because this decision has almost exclusively been used to restrict Christian influence, which was THE underlying philosophical influence of our founding. The Founding fathers NEVER intended to remove Christian influences from public life. (A quick review of our national holidays will support this.) Also see David Barton's excellent review of this topic.
With this said, Mr Coons reveals his fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was not penned to establish the rights or structure of the GOVERNMENT, such as to be free from religious influences, but to articulate our God given, unalienable rights and the limits of government so as to preserve these rights to the PEOPLE. True, this clause establishes a wall, but it is a wall beyond which the government cannot go, not religious influence and expression.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
Like Ms O' Donnell said, where is the mention of a separation of church and state?