A report from the front lines

In classical education, one of the essential thinkers we study is Euclid. He is not only the Father of Geometry, he is one of the patriarchs of logic. A student of Euclid quickly gains an appreciation for ordered thinking, paving the way for the study of philosophy. Geometry literally means the measurement of the earth, and measuring the natural world is the basis of all the physical sciences.

G.K. Chesterton points out that we cannot measure anything without a standard, that is, something that does not change. Geometry also defines proportion, which is the basis for art. Chesterton says proportion is the essence of beauty.

So, let’s just say that Euclid is connected to almost every discipline. You would think that a city named for Euclid would have some appreciation not only for education, but for ordered thinking, for logic, for reason, for firm standards, for things being in their proper place. But this is not the case in South Euclid, Ohio.

The city council there is in the process of passing a “non-discrimination ordinance” that adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected classes. It would affect hiring, firing, bakeries, bathrooms, and the usual suspects, but also what could be taught in private schools, even a school that teaches the Catholic faith. It would have already passed unnoticed, as it has in other cities in Ohio and across America, if not for a sizable group of citizens who showed up at the third reading of the proposed ordinance and articulately and assertively noted their objections. The council tabled the matter and decided they’d better re-group. Politicians don’t like it when a possible majority of voters might disagree with them.

The argument of the activists pushing for this non-discrimination ordinance is, of course, one of justice: the recognized rights of a certain group of people. It ignores, of course, the rights of another and larger group, the rights of those whose freedom to practice their religion is supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Catholic Church teaches that immorality is not a right but a sin and that confusion is not a right but a real problem that should be and can be corrected.

There is a conflict between sexual freedom and religious freedom. Chesterton says the conflict of the world “is chiefly a conflict of goods.” The group defending homosexual and transgender rights believe they are, in fact, promoting a good. But they are not willing to examine the consequences of their ideas, which would show those ideas to be not only not good, but evil, doing damage to those around them and to their own souls. But, as Fr. James Schall says, “No evil is chosen except in the name of some real good, which turns out to be and is chosen to be out of order.”

The ordinance is not based on logic or on any form of ordered thinking. Hence the need for South Euclidians to study Euclid. One of the citizens arguing against it said the ordinance does not even have the nature of a law. It is not reasonable, nor is it for the common good.

The Catholics who showed up at the meeting discussed—among themselves—the possibilities of getting an exception. However, one participant responded, “But it’s an unjust law. It would be wrong to allow an unjust law to be passed.”

This brings up the real issue here. There is a growing trend that will get worse before it gets better, of the State increasingly interfering with the free exercise of religion. It will directly affect what we can teach our children, how we can raise them, how we can conduct our schools, our businesses, and our lives. What are Catholics supposed to do about it?

Here’s the first thing: We have to stop imagining that we are fighting a defensive battle.

Our enemies have no desire to live peacefully with us. They have already stopped letting us have our own quiet corners to ourselves. We have to go on the attack and fight them with every possible weapon available. The activists have shown us how effective they can be with persistence and—with being active. They make noise. They go public. Why don’t we?

We have to run for public office, at the municipal level, at the county level (which is much more important and influential than most people know), at the state and federal levels. We have to take a seat at the table where public policy is fashioned. This demands sacrifice and thick skin.

We have to put the courts to work. There are many people and institutions and government bodies that will go right on with their insane infringements on the normal unless they are challenged and put into check. Lawsuits are expensive. More sacrifice.

We have to boycott big businesses that have caved in to the activists. Target lost $15 billion after a boycott over its bathroom policy. Boycotts demand little sacrifice, but some discipline. And we should support small businesses anyway. They tend to listen to their neighbors.

We have to make use of publicity, which these days is cheap and effective. The sacrifice is in taking the time and effort to state our case, to show what is being destroyed, to show the virtue of the normal, and to do it without looking like reactionaries or hicks. We have to demonstrate truth, beauty, and goodness. Although these are repellent to some, they are still attractive to most.

And in our schools, we have to keep developing students whose feet are firmly planted on earth but whose souls reach for heaven. By sending good people into the world—honorable, virtuous, intelligent, articulate, wholesome, and happy—we shut the mouths of our critics. It is the best way to give the enemy no advantage.

The faithfully Catholic schools that have sprung up around the country are targets. But we must not regard ourselves as citadels to be defended but as the front lines on the attack. We are counter-cultural just by teaching Euclid.

We must stop acting like we are in retreat, or circling the wagons, or barricading the fort. We are storming the gates of hell, which will not prevail against us.

See how my enemies turn back,
how they stumble and perish before you.
You upheld the justice of my cause;
you sat enthroned, judging with justice. Psalm 9:3-4

DALE AHLQUIST is President of the American Chesterton Society, editor of Gilbert!, host of the EWTN series The Apostle of Common Sense, and chairman of the Chesterton Schools Network.

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