Three Branches

Tres poderes

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
Publication Date: October 20, 2003

If you take a tour of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, you eventually reach a relatively small room in the basement. It is the old Supreme Court. Prior to getting its own building across the street, the Supreme Court used to be housed under the building in which our federal lawmakers gather, deliberate, and vote. The symbolic significance of this, of course, is that we govern ourselves. Our elected representatives, who are accountable to us, pass laws. Judges don't. They simply judge whether an existing law has been violated in a particular case, by particular parties.

Or at least that's what they're supposed to do.

We live in an age of judicial activism, or as some have called it, judicial tyranny. Judges are striking down laws and writing new ones left and right, without precedent and without reason. For example, the Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale in 1962 attacked the longstanding tradition of school prayer, declaring that a voluntary, non-denominational prayer in a public school was unconstitutional. The Court failed to cite a single precedent to justify its prohibition. "For 170 years following the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, no Court had ever struck down any prayer, in any form, in any location" (Barton, Original Intent, p. 159).

Things went downhill from there, in many different decisions. In 1973, the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions unleashed the abortion holocaust. In his dissent, Justice Byron White issued the famous assertion that the Court delivered "an exercise of raw judicial power…an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review."

Now the Courts are tampering with the very nature of marriage as a union between man and woman.

The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of a Court system that would try to take control of the rest of the government. Thomas Jefferson wrote, "[T]he germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary;…working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped" (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. XV, pp. 331-332).

The Founders established three distinct branches of government -- the legislative, executive, and judicial -- and made it clear that "each of the three departments has equally the right to decide for itself what is its duty under the Constitution, without any regard to what the others may have decided for themselves under a similar question" (Thomas Jefferson, ibid., p.215). In other words, the President and members of Congress pledge to uphold the Constitution, not the Court's opinion of the Constitution.

Little by little, Americans are waking up to judicial tyranny, and are calling for a change. It is time to make this a key election issue and to choose leaders who understand that the people, not the courts, decide the direction our national policies will take.

Priests for Life
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