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Civil authority

Civil authority

Civil authority is that apparatus of the State other than its military units that enforces law and order. Less often it is used (as "Civil authority") to distinguish between religious authority (for example Canon law) and secular authority. Thus three forms of authority may be seen in states:

  • Civil authority
  • Military authority
  • Religious authority (certain constitutions exclude the state having any religious authority)

It can also mean the moral power of command, supported (when need be) by physical coercion, which the State exercises over its members. In this view, because man can not live in isolation without being deprived of what makes him fully human, and because authority is necessary for a society to hold together, the authority has not only the power but the right to command. It is natural to man to live in society, to submit to authority, and to be governed by that custom of society which crystallizes into law, and the obedience that is required is paid to the powers that be, to the authority actually in possession. The extent of its authority is bound by the ends it has in view, and the extent to which it actually provides for the government of society.

In modern states enforcement of law and order is typically a role of the police although the line between military and civil units may be hard to distinguish; especially when militias and volunteers, such as yeomanry, act in pursuance of non-military, domestic objectives.

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