The man Republicans lionized as a wellspring of conservative wisdom and scourge of government tyranny saw it coming.
Beware, Sen. Barry Goldwater warned: the country is being pushed into a theocracy by overbearing religious extremists who'll suffocate individual freedom.
Did Goldwater, who died in 1998, foresee the sort of politicians and "religious" fanatics who turned Terri Schiavo's tragedy into a circus?
Listen to what he had to say decades ago:
· "The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both."
· "I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?"
· "And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'"
· "When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye."
Foretelling things to come, televangelist-politician Pat Robertson wrote in 1991, "By the end of this decade control of the major institutions of society will be firmly in the hands of those who share a pro-family, religious, traditional value perspective."
Nine years later, George W. Bush was president. Stem cell research banned. Evolution discredited in education. PBS browbeaten by "moral values" Education secretary William J. Bennett. Broadcast language policed. Sex education textbooks censored to include only abstinence. Aid to foreign agencies involved in abortion cancelled. The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives created. The Justice Department forms the "religious rights" unit. Attacks launched on same-sex marriage. Pharmacists refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.
Coming soon: hand picked "moral values" judges to enforce America's conservative political pact with religion.