My Grandmother Oakford had sayings for nearly any situation in life. Whenever I got upset with traumas facing a young lad, she would always console me by saying, "Allen, it's an ill wind that blows no good." I learned my grandmother's adage well, because I heard it every time that I would complain about my brothers, my parents, or my grades in elementary school.

For the past couple of weeks, I have watched the Terri Schiavo story play itself out in countless courtrooms, both houses of Congress, and on television. As I watched, I felt the growing annoyance listening to people with their inane banter regarding this tragic situation. Then I recalled my grandmother's words of wisdom: "Allen, it's an ill wind that blows no good."

I finally found some good that has been blown our way due to this sad controversy-aside from the obvious that we all need living wills. But first, I want my readers to know that I have some very strong feelings about Mr. Bush's 21st century version of Manifest Destiny (the notion that God selected America to bring our culture, values, and understandings to others regardless of where they live or whether or not they wish our ideals). While we didn't find WMD in Iraq, we did finally find a reason for our invasion. We are in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East. To assure democracy can grow and flourish, Mr. Bush is concerned that Iraq and Afghanistan have a secular government-not one run by the religious establishment. He doesn't want the religious right of Iraq or Afghanistan dictating how either government should operate.

The carnival-like fiasco surrounding the Schiavo situation in Florida has provided a tragic foretaste of why there should be a strict separation of church and state not only in foreign countries but also back here in America. I have no problem with differing religious or political views. However, I resent someone imposing their religious beliefs on others. I absolutely affirm that those who believe in the right to life have the right to that value system. What I object to is having their values system imposed upon Terri Schiavo or the rest of America. Those in the religious right that hold these views will stop at nothing to bypass years of court hearings, medical findings, and Terri Schiavo's own desire not to live in this less than human existence for over fifteen years. Since all the courts have been unanimous in their findings, the religious right went to Congress to circumvent the courts. When that didn't work, death threats were made against Judge Greer, who has dealt with this case for years and also against Terri's husband.

If this wasn't enough, the judge, who was threatened, was kicked out of his Southern Baptist denomination for not following the party line. To the credit of the vast majority of Americans, they overwhelmingly understand that this is a family matter and don't want religion and politics morphed together.

Innuendos have also been circulated that Mr. Schiavo wanted his wife dead to cover up any traces of his physical abuse against her. Innuendos aren't usually considered proof unless one is looking for witches in Salem. No evidence has ever been presented in this case that supports that contention that Mr. Schiavo ever abused his wife. Apparently, the religious right can lie if the cause is just. Again, the religious right is wrong.

Then there is the matter of the conversation between Terri and her husband about her desire not to be kept alive in this manner. The courts have looked at this issue repeatedly and have found convincing proof that she did make her wishes known to her husband and others.

The final example of interference from the religious right is the suggestion that Terri should be given over to her parents so that they could take care of her. What sense did that make? The courts have found that she didn't want to go through this type of medical hell. Doesn't her desire trump what her parents and the religious right want?

The religious right sees itself as God incarnate in America, and therefore they have the right to do whatever it takes to get their way. To add to the tragedy, the Congress and the Florida legislature have also wrapped themselves in the flag while clutching the Bible over this issue.

Our Founding Fathers tried to keep the church and state apart since the beginning. With varying degrees of success, they have attempted to follow that wise and necessary concept. If you didn't see the danger in mixing the church and state, look at the religious right's attempt at turning America into a de facto theocracy.

Terri Schiavo has provided a clear and frightening example of why the separation of church and state is so vital to our freedoms. My grandmother had it right, "Allen, it's an ill wind that blows no good." The Terri Schiavo situation will be forever tragic tableau of what an American theocracy would be like.