Palin and Biden on Separation of Church and State

Katie Couric: Thomas Jefferson wrote about the First Amendment, building a wall of separation between church and state. Why do you think that's so important?

Sarah Palin: His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on the people. And Thomas Jefferson also said never underestimate the wisdom of the people. And the wisdom of the people, I think, in this issue is that people have the right and the ability and the desire to express their own religious views, be it on a very personal level, which is where I choose to express my faith, or in a more public forum. And the wisdom of the people, thankfully, engrained in the foundation of our country is so extremely important. And Thomas Jefferson wanted to protect that.

Biden: The best way to look at it is look at every state where that wall's not built. Look at every country in the world where religion is able to impact on the governance. Almost every one of those countries, there's real turmoil. Look, the founders were pretty smart. They had gone through, you know, several hundred years of wars—religious wars. They were in the midst of religious wars in Europe. And they figured it out: The best way to do this is keep the government out of religion. They took religion out of government, but they didn't mean religion couldn't be in a public place, in the public square.
So, nothing particularly controversial or shocking here. Pretty standard talking points of both parties, with the biggest distinction arising from a curious inflection in Palin's response: "His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on the people," clearly suggesting that she believes (which is, again, standard GOP dogma) that the government cannot mandate one religion, but can mandate law rooted in religious beliefs—which is why they always say "Judeo-Christian" teachings, to inoculate their legislated morality against the charge it's rooted in a single religion.

Most informative, IMO, is that, while they both successfully deliver their respective talking points, one of them clearly looks more comfortable and confident doing it. I don’t know if it's an accurate glimpse into what the debate may look like tonight, but it could be.

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