Ohio Supreme Court to rule on teacher with Bible case

Attorneys for a fired public school science teacher who kept a Bible on his desk plan to argue before the Ohio Supreme Court that the teacher's dismissal was unconstitutional.
Associated Press
Feb 27, 2013

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio

The Mount Vernon School Board dismissed John Freshwater in 2011 after investigators reported he preached Christian beliefs in class when discussing topics such as evolution and homosexuality and was insubordinate in failing to remove the Bible from his classroom.
 
Freshwater also was accused of using a science tool to burn students' arms with the image of a cross, but that allegation was resolved and was not a factor in his firing.
 
Two lower courts previously upheld Freshwater's dismissal, but the state Supreme Court agreed to hear a portion of his claims over his firing. The hearing was to be held Wednesday.
 
The court said Freshwater can argue it is unconstitutional to fire someone without clear guidance on what teaching materials or methods are acceptable. Freshwater also can argue it is unconstitutional to fire someone over the mere presence of a religious text such as the Bible in a classroom.
 
As an eighth-grade science teacher, Freshwater tried to encourage his students to examine facts and theories and hypotheses and then question them and differentiate between them, his attorney said in a court filing last year.
 
A voluntary discussion of creationism or "intelligent design" as part of the mandatory discussion of evolution is unquestionably part of a secular education program, attorney Kelly Hamilton wrote.
 
"Freshwater did not engage in religious proselytization — he discussed a scientific theory that happens to be consistent with the teachings of multiple major world religions," Hamilton wrote.
 
The board's actions, he concluded, were nothing less "than the censorship of ideas."
 
Freshwater is getting legal backing from the Charlottesville, Va.-based Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group.
 
Attorneys for the school board countered that Freshwater had long tried to push religion in the classroom.
 
As far back as 1994, a middle school principal told Freshwater to stop distributing an "Answers in Genesis" pamphlet with information about a creationist organization's upcoming seminar, according to a filing by board attorneys asking the court to uphold Freshwater's firing.
 
Freshwater also used a handout titled "Survival of the Fakest," to teach his students to doubt science, the board's attorneys said.
 
"Whenever Freshwater was told by a superior to cease using an inappropriate handout in class, he would simply find another one to use," the board's attorneys said in a filing last fall.
 
Science education and humanist and secular groups have joined the side of the school board.
 
The board once concluded Freshwater had used a high-frequency generator, which other teachers have used to demonstrate electrical current, to burn a cross onto a student's arm. The cross lasted a few weeks.
 
The student's family settled a federal lawsuit against the district in an effort to move on.
 
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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus

Comments

Contango

He burned a student?

Reads like a nut job hiding behind religion. He needs to get a job in a parochial school.

coasterfan

Agreed!

meowmix

That or take a time machine back to the good old Salem witchcraft days...

SamAdams

I don't have a problem if a teacher has a Bible in or on his desk. I have a BIG problem when, as an attorney suggests, the teacher discusses "a scientific theory" that isn't. Creationism isn't a scientific theory. The attempt to call it one by relabeling it "intelligent design" is both transparent and, again, not a scientific theory.

This teacher obviously has a past history of making his religion a part of the classroom curriculum. If a Native American teacher incorporated HIS mythology, or a Hindu incorporated HER mythology, the Christians would be complaining like crazy. This really isn't any different, you know...

BW1's picture
BW1

One more reason the government shouldn't be running schools - everything teachers say becomes a political football.

coasterfan

Agree 100% with Sam.

rjk1915

Arguments like this are useful in enabling one to classify people.

swiss cheese kat

The funny part is the school district used $900,000 to get rid of him. Oh! my sides are hurting from all the laughter!

Vizegoth

This is manure. The whole story is ridiculous and a waste of resources, just rubbish. Only reason its gotten any attention is because it was a religious text and a religious symbol. Perhaps if he would have burned the Illuminati triangle on their arms, it would have been fine.

rjk1915

Do you think a preacher should teach science ?