Editorial: Activist worked tirelessly for freedom

Marshall Fritz, a tireless activist for the cause of human liberty, died peacefully in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., earlier this month after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 65.

The founder of three different nonprofit organizations dedicated to furthering freedom in different ways, he was a genial giant with a booming voice and an inexhaustible font of kindness and understanding.

Marshall began his career as a salesman and development specialist for IBM, but as his passion for liberty grew he became convinced the freedom movement could benefit from his experience in business communications. In 1985 he founded the Advocates for Self-Government (www.theadvocates.org) to help libertarians express their ideas positively and persuasively.

He developed the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (more than 10 million copies distributed) to help people locate themselves in the political universe and to convey that positions beyond the usually sterile liberal/conservative dichotomy were possible and even widely held.

A devout Catholic, Marshall founded the Pioneer Christian Academy in the early 1990s to put his innovative ideas about high-quality education into practice. Although the school was endorsed by luminaries that included Milton Friedman and former New York state Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, it was not as successful as he had hoped. Yet he learned much from the experience and went on to found, in 1994, the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, dedicated to the idea that an endeavor as important as education could only flourish independently if it is independent of political control. This is a cause that has not yet triumphed, but the Alliance is still active (www.schoolandstate.org).

Unlike some who hold to strong principles that are not yet widely appreciated, Marshall Fritz, although he was always seeking to persuade people,

was unfailingly patient and civil, especially in discussions with people who disagreed with him. He would point out examples of fuzzy thinking or questionable premises, but always in a way that sought to get to the root of the thinking of those with different ideas and to deal with an adversary’s best arguments rather than straw men.

He was also strongly involved in his community, as a youth soccer coach and a volunteer at a homeless shelter.

He leaves Joan, his wife of 43 years, four children and 12 grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.