September 30, 2004
Congress' grab for more power undermines the separation of powers.
Compromises on such values-tinged debates as gay marriage, abortion and the Pledge of Allegiance don't appear easily forthcoming in America's current highly partisan atmosphere.
What should be indisputable, however, is the value of the separation of powers that has guided the country through so many other contentious and trying times in the past 200-plus years.
The growing strife between judicial and legislative branches evinced itself last week in two headline-making cases.
In Florida, the state's Supreme Court struck down a law passed by the state's legislature last year. The measure tried to circumvent previous court rulings allowing Terri Schiavo's husband to remove the feeding tube of the severely brain- damaged woman.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, members passed a bill that would prohibit any federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, from removing any words from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Although the Supreme Court recently ruled against a petitioner who sought to remove "under God" from the pledge, the case was decided on a technicality unrelated to the pledge itself. Some people voice concern that future cases might succeed.
Although the courts, like any institution, are subject to legitimate criticism, safeguarding judicial author- ity should remain one of the abiding requirements of our nation's constitutional system. That system has served the nation well by allowing majority rule while protecting minority rights.
Often, as in the pledge bill passed by the House, the legislation gives every indication of being political pandering for votes. Voters should firmly reject such dangerous incursions on the judiciary.
The sheer number of such bills shows the danger of the movement. In the past two years, there have been national attempts to circumvent the courts from ruling on gay marriage, flag-burning and the pledge.