Tea Party Campaign Manager Jonathan Moseley has offered $1,000 to find a the exact phrase "separation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution, asserting that a wall of "separation" violates the constitution's mandated protection of religious expression.
Moseley, Christine O'Donnell's primary campaign manager, has resurrected her Oct. 19 debate question to question the public over reliance on the expression "separation of church and state."
"Despite the left's attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution by simply repeating [separation of church and state] over and over again, the phrase cannot be found in the United States Constitution," he said in a statement.
Instead, Moseley said, the constitution affirms Americans' right to free religious speech. Practicing separation of church and state, a statement not found word for word in the constitution, infringes on the real meaning of the constitution, Moseley maintains.
"Any rule that makes religion or religious people unwelcome in any place or any aspect of American life is a violation of the 'free exercise of religion' guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment," he said.
In recent years, religion has become an unwelcomed part of public schools, government buildings and even the American currency.
"It's not politically correct to be a Christian anymore," said Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead.
Christians argue that the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which proclaims "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion," is being misconstrued from its original intent. Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst of Focus on the Family's Citizen Link, said the clause was originally meant to prevent the establishment of a national religion or denomination.
"The original understanding of the Establishment Clause was to keep the federal government from establishing a national religion, or more particularly from choosing between the various Christian denominations and elevating it to a national status," said Hausknecht.
The clause is now commonly interpreted to mean that religion should be separated from the public sphere. Hausknecht blames this misinterpretation on the adoption of the phrase "separation of church and state."
"Bad metaphors make bad law, and the unfortunate 'separation' metaphor became the battle cry of secular organizations to beat school districts, local governments and other governmental entities over the head with threats of lawsuits for even giving a passing nod of accommodation to religion," he said.
Most recently the Freedom From Religion Foundation cited legal precedents established on the "separation of church and state" definition of the Establishment Clause to persuade schools in the Hamilton County, Tenn., school district to end prayer at sporting events and graduations.
"It's constitutional according to the Supreme Court, but if you studied the founding fathers, it wouldn't be," said Whitehead.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, meanwhile, stated, "We think it's worthwhile to protect our secular government." She maintained that the separation of religion from government-funded programming and institution is necessary to protect America from becoming a religious state.
"If people are unhappy, they are unhappy with the Constitution," said Gaylor.
But Hausknecht contends that if the original meaning of the Establishment Clause were being enforced today, it would "free people of all faiths to practice their religion in their everyday life, to speak about it, and live their lives in accordance with it, free from government interference."
In an earlier debate this month at Widener University Law School, O'Donnell, a Tea Party Republican running in Delaware for a U.S. Senate seat, questioned Democratic challenger Chris Coons, asking "where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" She posed the question after Coons said teaching creationism in public school would violate the Constitution.