Chris McDaniel is the Tea Party candidate running in the Republican primary to unseat Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi. In a recent appearance at an event he said some really dumb and incoherent things about separation of church and state.
The Tea Party candidate noted that Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut referenced “a wall of separation between church and state.” He said the phrase was later elevated into law through “judicial fiat” by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who ruled that state-sanctioned prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.
“The court embarked on this terrible line of decisions,” he explained. “It started in ’47, then culminated in ’61 and ’62, even others up to the ’80s, where basically they shut down prayer in public schools. Prayer in public schools would not have been considered unconstitutional by your founders. It just wouldn’t have. If you’re an originalist and you look at the First Amendment, you understand the purpose behind the free exercise clause and the establishment clause, the government should be relatively neutral — particularly the federal government.”
He also suggested a prayer delivered by a teacher shouldn’t be considered a state-sanctioned prayer.
“The key is, the Supreme Court doesn’t want the state to put its fingerprint on the prayer, to okay it,” he explained. “Okay, fine. If my kid prays at school, how is that a state action? If a teacher prays in front of her classroom, some may perceive it as such, but that doesn’t make it an official state action.”
Great. So a Muslim teacher can do Muslim prayers in front of the class and that’s not a violation of the First Amendment at all, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.