Thursday, June 18, 2009

John Freshwater Didn’t Call Media for Gathering on Square

The following testimony took place on 3/27/09—this article relies on the official hearing transcript for details of the testimony.

The Mount Vernon middle school teacher who refused to remove the Bible from his desk has been criticized by some as trying to seek attention. During testimony in March in an ongoing hearing, information came to light that it was another local resident who called the media.

Jeff Cline, who described himself as one of John Freshwater’s “Christian brothers,” said that he was the one who called the media. The television stations he said he called were “Four, six, and ten.” He also said he thought he was the one who contacted the Associated Press.

The gathering was held April 16, 2008 on the public square of downtown Mount Vernon, Ohio. Freshwater read a statement explaining why he was not going to remove his personal Bible off his classroom desk. Mount Vernon News reported on the gathering in the article “Crowd shows support for MV science teacher.”

(It wasn’t until after the gathering that other allegations against the teacher emerged. See Mount Vernon News article “Teacher conduct subject of investigation” )

Attorney for Freshwater, R. Kelly Hamilton, asked Cline what his impression was—based on observation, experience and discussion—of whether or not Freshwater would have participated if he knew the media would be there. “John wouldn't have been there that day,” Cline said. “John wouldn't have put that together.”

Cline also stated that Freshwater had no role in inviting people to attend the gathering. Cline said he had no knowledge of whether or not it was Freshwater who wrote the statement that Freshwater read to the crowd.

It was from having a conversation with Freshwater that Cline learned Freshwater was being ordered to remove his Bible.

On the day of the gathering, Cline described Freshwater as not being his usual cheerful self. “John's always pretty much happy, smiling, just very upbeat and positive type person,” Cline said. “That day I could tell just the -- he looked terrible. The sight of him, just the tears in his eyes and the quivering in his voice, just a total different John that I'd ever seen. He was fearful.”

Cline explained the reason for Freshwater’s demeanor as being the concern over the Bible. “[He was fearful of] Losing his Bible from his desk, somebody taking that prize possession of his, that Bible,” Cline said.


Anonymous said...

He had full knowlegde when there was a "rally" on the square and Bob Burney was there, who is part of the media. He had full knowledge when he appeared on Larry Elder Live
He allowed the publicity to happen. He is not inocent in that.

mountvernon1805 said...

He was already fully in the media spotlight by that point.

Anonymous said...

My point is he could have stopped it. He did not have to participate!

Anonymous said...

Great Article! Freshwater seems like a simple man who just loves being a teacher. He doesn't come across as a person who wants attention. I am glad Cline called the Press as this needs some attention; however, it seems to have put a lot of pressure on Mr. Freshwater. -

mountvernon1805 said...


It is true that at any point in this controversy Freshwater could have stopped talking to the media.

I’m not sure what his current stance on that is. I know that at one of the hearings one or two of the reporters were complaining about Freshwater not talking with them anymore. The way one of them explained it was, “If he doesn’t talk to us then we can’t tell his side of the story.”

mountvernon1805 said...


Thanks! It has been my impression from talking with him, during this controversy, that what you said is true.

Anonymous said...

The gathering on the Square was a Minutemen United press conference as proof of the cross caps surrounding John Freshwater. John Freshwater wanted the media attention as he was given something to read to the gathered cameras. John Freshwater, when he doesn't have something in front of him to read from, comes off as aloof. On April 16, he had a prepared statement. That shows intent. The selling of the t-shirts for his "legal fund" that just goes to show you more intent. What is missing is the reason for the removal of the bible off the desk. John Freshwater treaded dangerously close in his classroom with religion and science. Had he just put the Bible in the drawer for the last six weeks of the year, he'd be teaching still. I would think if you were to have your Bible on your desk for 21 years and you were asked to put it away while students were in the room for six weeks, isn't having your constitutional rights taken away. But that's the problem with fundamentalists... there's no room for common sense or flexibility.

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