When the school board of Mt. Vernon, Ohio told John Freshwater that creationism wasn’t an acceptable part of a science curriculum, they expected compliance. The creationist science teacher, however, had a history of taking matters into his own hands. As of Tuesday. a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court has hopefully set him straight.
Mt. Vernon is split over the creationist science teacher’s firing
Mt. Vernon is about as uniform — meaning white, Christian, and Republican — as any town to be found in the state. But John Freshwater’s insistence on bringing his religious beliefs into the classroom has split its population. Although he had been requesting permission to use religious materials in his classroom since the 90′s, it wasn’t until 2007 that his actions brought the issue to a head.
First of all, a student accused Freshwater of burning a cross onto his arm using a Tesla coil. Then the teacher was ordered to remove religious items, including a Bible and posters of the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, from the classroom. Instead, he added more materials. The student’s parents filed a lawsuit over the burning. Soon after, Mount Vernon’s school board decided to fire the creationist science teacher for numerous offenses.
Students came out in protest of the proposed firing. Pastors and congregations were divided as they debated the issue. The outcry prompted http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/08/04/22/freshwater_upd.html" target="_blank">Superintendent Steve Short to issue the following statement:
“This is not about his personal Bible on his desktop. It is about the totality of his conduct.”
The parents who brought the lawsuit were worried about a backlash against their son. They also issued a statement: “We are Christians who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.” In the end, the family packed up and moved because their child was being given a hard time in school for speaking up against the creationist science teacher.
Freshwater’s firing was affirmed by a state hearing and two courts
Freshwater asked for a state hearing that stretched out for almost two years. During that time, he ended up being suspended without pay. At the hearing, other teachers testified that Freshwater said “science is wrong” and told students to use the Bible for science research. The conclusion of the investigation came in 2010 and upheld the creationist science teacher’s firing. Freshwater then filed appeals to two lower courts. Both the Knox County Court of Common Pleas and the 5th District Court of Appeals also upheld his firing. So he went to the state’s Supreme Court. He argued that his ‘rights to academic freedom and freedom from religious hostility’ had been violated.
The school board’s attorneys filed a memorandum with the Ohio Supreme Court that said, in part:
Assigning the term ‘academic theory’ to one’s religious beliefs simply does not transform the nature of those beliefs, especially in the context of a science curriculum…
The Board does not condemn religion by solely teaching evolution as the origin of life in eighth-grade science class. Evolution is the predominate scientific theory on the subject. … Religious theories have no place in an eighth-grade science classroom because they are not scientific.