Preserving our freedoms

Ends, no matter how laudable, are no justification for using questionable means to achieve them. Either we engage in the delicate balancing act required to preserve our freedoms, or we do not. Either we follow our moral compasses in any situation, or we do not.

What brought all that up, you ask? Several things during the past month or so.

Let’s talk first about the rules of government, written and unwritten.

Our form of government is based solidly on separation of powers. The executive, legislative and judicial branches have certain responsibilities and powers. The system, intended to prevent any one branch from infringing upon our liberties, works only if the separate powers remain intact.

You remember the impeachment scandal involving West Virginia Supreme Court justices last year, of course. At one point in it, five circuit court judges had to be appointed temporarily to the Supreme Court to rule on a case involving impeachment of a regular justice.

Their ruling in essence stated that the Legislature could not constitutionally impeach and try a justice for alleged misbehavior because doing so would violate the doctrine of separation of powers. That was and is ridiculous. Without some power to remove judges and justices for misbehavior, there is no check on abuse of power by the judicial branch.

Legislators have fumed about that since the ruling was issued in October.

Now, a bill in the state Senate would allow lawmakers to slap back — in all the wrong ways. The measure, as amended, would suspend payments into the judicial retirement system until the controversial court ruling is overturned.

In other words, rule as we demand or we’ll kill your pensions.

That’s crazy. It really is infringing upon separation of powers. Legislators cannot dictate how the courts will rule on anything. Abandon that, and watch your liberties evaporate.

But some legislators apparently believe reversing the incorrect ruling on impeachments is important enough to be accomplished by any means.

Move on to the “border wall.” Preventing illegal immigration into the United States is important. Yet Democrats in the House of Representatives have refused to approve the $5.7 billion President Donald Trump wanted for new physical barriers along our southern border. A compromise to supply about $1.3 billion has been forged.

But for a time, Trump said that if Democrats refused to appropriate the $5.7 billion, he would declare a national emergency and spend the money without congressional approval. Now, he says he will declare an emergency to find money to add to the $1.3 appropriated by Congress.

Does the desired end, border security, justify the means — in effect overriding Congress’ constitutional authority over spending money?

No, it does not — any more than it justified former President Barack Obama’s executive orders to illegally spend billions of dollars to bolster “Obamacare.” Either we have rules, or we do not.

One cannot blame the politicians for bending the rules, however. We, the people, are doing the same thing. Our offenses are ethical, not political, however.

Millions have decided that taking a stand against racism is important enough to vilify high school students solely because social media deemed them guilty of bigotry.

Millions have decided it is so important to stop sexual abuse and harassment of women that we make examples of men without looking at the evidence. Ask Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh about that. Or try Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

Remember “innocent until proven guilty”?At least we’re nonpartisan. Kavanaugh was nominated by a Republican president. Fairfax is a Democrat.

We’re throwing away rules that have served us well as a nation for more than two centuries, and as human beings for much longer. Unless we change course, that will come back to bite us all.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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