Delaware House Candidate Questions Church, State

By Ben Evans | October 21, 2010 | 6:39 PM EDT

Wilmington, Del. (AP) - A Democratic congressional candidate's ad is reminding voters that Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell isn't the only Delaware Republican who has questioned the idea of separation of church and state.

Republican Glen Urquhart likened the concept to Nazism at a campaign event in April, and his remarks, captured on video, are being used by his opponent John Carney. The men are running for the state's lone House seat.

"The exact phrase 'separation of church and state' came out of Adolf Hitler's mouth," Urquhart told his audience. "That's where it comes from. So next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of church and state, ask them why they're Nazis."

At a Senate debate this week, O'Donnell created a stir by challenging opponent Chris Coons to show where the Constitution requires separation of church state, repeatedly questioning Coons' response that the First Amendment prohibits the government from making laws establishing religion. She later said she was questioning only whether the exact words "separation of church and state" are in the Constitution. They are not.

Urquhart has expressed regret for what he called a fumbled effort to make the point that tyrants tend to abuse the separation of church and state.

His spokesman, David Anderson, said Urquhart firmly supports the First Amendment's ban preventing the government from establishing religion or interfering with religious freedom.

But he said Urquhart also believes the government has gone too far in limiting people's rights to express their religion by restricting athletes from holding prayers at high school football games, for example, or blocking public schools from teaching alternative theories to evolution such as creationism.

"The pendulum swung the other way," Anderson said. The real question is if Carney supports "the founder's notion of free expression of religion and the expression of faith in the public square or does he want to drive it out of the public square?"

James Allen, Carney's spokesman, responded that Urquhart's comments were "very clear and his statement speaks for itself."

"Delaware voters don't want extreme ideologues like Mr. Urquhart," Allen said.

Carney and Urquhart are running for the seat held by Rep. Mike Castle, the Republican who gave up his spot to run for Senate, only to lose the primary to O'Donnell.

Castle's seat is a rare pickup opportunity for House Democrats, who are widely expected to lose dozens of seats in an anti-Washington wave.

Carney's ad seeks to tie Urquhart to O'Donnell, showing the two tea party-backed candidates arm-in-arm in the opening frame and referring to O'Donnell as Urquhart's "pal." O'Donnell is lagging in polls.