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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rev. Edmund Opitz, Long-Time FEE Staff Member, Dies at 92


Edmund A. Opitz
In Memoriam Edmund A. Opitz (1914ndash;2006)

Edmund A. Opitz, a long-time and beloved member of the FEE staff, died Monday evening. He was 92. Rev. Opitz was born in 1914 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Following his undergraduate education at Maryville College in Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1936, he moved to the west coast to study theology. He completed studies for the ministry at Pacific Unitarian School (now Starr King School) in Berkeley, California, in 1939. After his ordination he served churches in Beverly, Mass., Harrisburg, Pa., and Hingham, Mass., and also taught at a private secondary school and at Curry College in Boston. During World War II, Rev. Opitz served as a Red Cross field director in India. He joined the staff of Spiritual Mobilization in 1951 to organize and run a conference program and two years later he opened its eastern office.

In 1955 Leonard Read invited Rev. Opitz to join FEE's senior staff. In his 37 years at FEE, Ed was a popular lecturer at seminars in Irvington and around the United States. He was book review editor of The Freeman and was a regular contributor to the magazine’s pages. Over the years Ed wrote more than six dozen Freeman feature articles and almost as many book reviews. He also published scores of articles in other publications, including Faith and Freedom, The Contemporary Review, and The New England Quarterly. His July 1991 Freeman article, Biblical Roots of American Liberty, was awarded a $5,000 prize in the Amy Foundation Writing Awards for 1991.

He was the founder and coordinator of The Remnant, a fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers and a founder and secretary of The Nockian Society.

In the late 1960s Arlington House Publishers commissioned Rev. Opitz to write a book-length exploration of the relationship of biblical religion to free-market economics. The resulting volume, Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, was published in 1970 as a Conservative Book Club Selection. FEE became the publisher and distributor of the book a decade later. In 1994 FEE published 20 of his articles in an anthology titled Religion: Foundation of the Free Society, with a second printing in 1996. In 1999, Hallberg Publishing Corporation brought out his final book, The Libertarian Theology of Freedom.

In addition to his prodigious writing and lecturing, Rev. Opitz was a faithful correspondent with dozens of friends of FEE over the years. An Opitz letter was more often than not an elegantly crafted essay that gently brought his erudition to bear on the subject at hand.

Those who came to know him also soon learned of two important avocations: playing the French horn in local bands (which he continued well into his eighties) and cycling (before moving to Cape Cod in the 1990s he was a member of the Westchester Wheelmen in New York).

He is survived by his two daughters, Elaine and Claudia.

The philosophy Ed Opitz espoused is summed up neatly in these three sentences, taken from one of his essays: There is a place for government in the affairs of men, and our Declaration of Independence tells us precisely what that place is. The role of government is to protect individuals in their God-given individual rights. Freedom is the natural birthright of man, but all that government can do in behalf of freedom is to let the individual alone, and it should secure him in his rights by making others let him alone.