Constitutional FAQ Answer #153
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Q153. "A friend of a friend is trying to convince
me that the United States' three branches of government was modelled on the
Holy Trinity of Christianity. Is there any truth to this?"
A. No, there is no truth to it. I can, however, see how someone could come
to that conclusion. First, there are three in the Trinity and three branches.
To most, that's just coincidence, but if you're looking for
similarities, that one is glaring. Second, in the Trinity, each part is coequal
with the others; in theory, the same is true in the three branches. Third, the
Trinity is said to give Christian belief stability — and the three
branches have lead to a stable United States for over 200 years.
But these points are only "proof" if you see them and ignore all else.
There are many things that come in threes that it could be said the three
branches are modelled upon. Three legs of a stool, for example — all
equal, all providing stability. But the three branches is not based on the
design of a stool, either. The fact is that the concept of three branches,
legislative, executive, and judicial, was not new when presented at the Constitutional Convention. Several well-read
authors, including John Locke and Montesquieu, published books many years prior
to the Convention calling for such a separation of
powers. The experience of the United States under the Articles of Confederation showed that a single branch
was insufficient. At least some of the states had three branches of government
prior to the Constitution (Vermont, for example, established a Governor and
House of Representatives, and required courts be created in all counties).
In the end, the coincidence of the three in the Trinity and the three in the
branches of the U.S. government is just that — coincidence.