SEPARATION. NO, NOT “SEPARATE BUT EQUAL”—SEPARATE AND BALANCED

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In some instances, I suppose, the word separation could be viewed as negative.  However, when it comes to the Constitution of the United States, it most definitely is NOT.  The Constitution, along with its amendments, lays out very clearly two specific areas of separation in our democracy.

The separation of church and state—of religion and government—is laid out in the First Amendment and has been reinforced repeatedly by court decisions.  The principle is directed at religion—not A religion.  Tempting as it is for “true believers” of any sect to try to impose their views on the rest us—that just is not the American way.  Whether it is Sharia law or the Beatitudes, the Torah or the Koran—political policy is not to be shaped by religious doctrine.  This is a basic principle that certain evangelicals need to relearn—Mike Pence comes immediately to mind.  Bottom line: Keep your religion out of the government we share.

Another “separation” principle that is currently being trampled upon is the Separation of Powers.  The Constitution draws distinct lines in terms of the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government.  These distinctions give us the “checks and balances” which have, heretofore, served us so well.  But when one branch overreaches in defining its own powers—as in Nixon’s “imperial Presidency”—the balance is severely disrupted.  Likewise, when one branch refuses to do its job—as the Republican-controlled Congress has done for years—chaos threatens.  Occasionally, even the judiciary—that bastion of objectivity and fairness—is open to accusations of “legislating from the bench.”  Maybe that’s why the Court reverses itself every twenty years or so.

Usually a “rogue branch” that overreaches itself is quickly brought back into line by one or both of the others.  Separation of Powers.  Checks and Balances.  These are good things—no?  It remains to be seen how that works when one party is more or less in control of all three branches.

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