Ken Buck Opposes Separation of Church and State

Ken Buck accepts the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in a speech on Tuesday Aug. 10, 2010 in Loveland, Colo. Buck, CBS

Christine O'Donnell isn't the only Republican Senate candidate who disputes the notion that the separation of church and state is embedded in the Constitution: Democrats are today pointing to a video showing Colorado candidate Ken Buck a year ago stating that, "I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state."

"It was not written into the Constitution," Buck adds in the video, which was posted by the liberal blog ThinkProgress. "While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not gonna have a religion that's sanctioned by the government, it doesn't mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion."

The Constitution indeed does not include the phrase "separation of church and state," which was actually coined in a letter by Thomas Jefferson. But the First Amendment does say "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

This so-called "establishment clause" has been the legal basis for limits on government efforts to impose religion. Conservatives suggest, however, that while the establishment clause does prohibit an official state church, it leaves room for other incursions of religion into public life, such as prayer in schools.

Buck's campaign said via email in response for a request for comment that the candidate was "referring to the political correctness that has run amuck" before criticizing Democratic opponent Michael Bennet. Buck has taken heat in recent days to linking homosexuality to alcoholism as well as earlier in the campaign for calling those who question whether President Obama is American "dumbasses."

At a debate last week, O'Donnell, the GOP Senate candidate in Delaware, asked "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?," prompting laughter from the law school audience.

She later pointed to the language of the Constitutionto defend her position.

"Well I think it says exactly what it says: that the government will not create - will not dictate - that every American has to believe a certain way, but it won't do anything to prevent the free exercise thereof," she said.

"Christine O'Donnell was not questioning the concept of separation of church and state as subsequently established by the courts," her campaign manager added. "She simply made the point that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution."

Colorado Senate Election: Michael Bennet (D) vs. Ken Buck (R)










Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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