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Originally published Friday, March 25, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Lance Dickie / The Democracy Papers

A Good Friday to talk about Terri Schiavo

The lesson of this and every Good Friday is that life is changed, not ended, by dying. All of the political and emotional turmoil surrounding...

The lesson of this and every Good Friday is that life is changed, not ended, by dying. All of the political and emotional turmoil surrounding Terri Schiavo has made this Holy Week especially poignant.

Unfortunately, my flush of piety is dulled by a fierce anger at the despicable intrusion of Congress in this Florida woman's tragic circumstances.

I am sorry, but I get the unmistakable whiff of American Taliban in the swift Republican response to its core, Christian political base.

My faith and beliefs and my family's experience tell me the parents have to let go of their brain-damaged daughter trapped between life and death. For her spiritual journey to be complete in this season of life conquering death, they have to let go.

This is a tragedy that inspires deep sympathies for the husband and the grieving parents and siblings. I am also mindful this is none of my business.

Terri Schiavo's husband has acted on her behalf for 15 years, and the state courts of Florida give him good marks for his dutiful performance as her guardian. His in-laws are understandably upset as their intensely personal drama has been fought out in state court, where painful matters of marriage, child custody and mental capacity are argued every day across the nation.

Americans know the heartaches of intimate enemies. And they know the wrenching choices of whispered conversations in hospital corridors. That is why polls reveal overwhelming support for the husband's decision in this case.

Poll respondents show an even stronger preference for the removal of life supports, including nutrition and hydration, if they were in the same situation.

These are decisions families and appointed guardians make under the watchful eyes of state courts. Congress only got involved because a potent political constituency did not like the results. They and a willing cast of supporters, including the reptilian, ethically challenged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, were eager to make hasty accommodations.

Last Sunday and early Monday, they passed what the courts refer to as an "extraordinary piece of legislation." Extraordinary, indeed, for its wholesale disconnect with the law and past legislative experience.

The Republican-led Congress, which struggles and fails to accomplish its constitutional duties of passing budgets and performing oversight of the executive branch, threw all its bullying weight behind an assault on local decision-making.

Though, according to the GOP talking points that circulated Sunday, it was all jolly good politics.

Displaying genuine religious zeal, the leadership of Congress was caught up in long-distance medical evaluations and judicial interpretation. If they strike out with the courts, well, it won't even be the fault of their own hubris and arrogant overreaching.

Nope, blame those activist judges. Again. We live in a nation of laws, as federal judges reminded us, not that their detractors were paying attention.

Let me offer a public apology for private thoughts. I've had the facile expectation freshman Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, would be the epitome of go-along-to-get-along in the House Republican caucus.

Instead, he cast a rare GOP "no" vote on Schiavo because he said Congress was overstepping its bounds — a strong, independent showing in difficult circumstances. So what if the 8th District never sees another dime of highway money.

The willingness of Congress and President Bush to eagerly embrace a potent blend of politics and brand-specific religiosity is deeply troubling.

For one of the most spiritual and world-wise people I know to refer to this past weekend as a "giant step toward conservative theocracy in this country" was sobering.

Terri Schiavo has been artificially sustained for 15 years. She is cared for and loved. A bitter family battle has ensured the courts have been mindful of her rights. Respect for those rights, as articulated for her by her husband and guardian, dictated a wretched decision.

Mercifully, the choice was not mine. The test for me this Good Friday is to know she will not die, regardless of the cynicism of politicians or the decisions of a court of law.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is

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