Tuesday, June 15, 2010

School Board Witness Says She ‘Heckled’ John Freshwater

The following testimonies took place 9:09 a.m.—9:33 a.m. and 11:33 a.m.—11:50 a.m. on 6/08/10.

The witness, Marcia Orsborn, said that she “heckled” John Freshwater about the need to bring a Catholic priest to speak at the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Mount Vernon Board of Education attorney David Millstone brought Orsborn and another witness to the hearing to testify about Freshwater’s involvement in FCA and to testify about an alleged statement made by Freshwater about Catholics.

A previous school board witness, Simon Souhrada, testified that he overheard part of a conversation in which he believed that Freshwater said “Catholics aren't Christians.”

Marcia Orsborn

Orsborn, a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School for the past 29 years, said that her relationship with Freshwater was one in which they both engaged in “good natured teasing.”

Someone told her that Freshwater did not like Catholics, to which she said her reply was that she had no reason to believe that. The complaint did get her to thinking about who the speakers at FCA had been and that none of them had been from her church, St. Vincent de Paul.

Orsborn said that she went and asked Freshwater, one of the club’s monitors, why he had not brought a Catholic speaker to FCA. Freshwater’s response, according to her, was that he would have to check his Bible. Orsborn then asked him what his Bible would say about that. Freshwater replied that he wasn’t sure that she was a Christian, Orsborn said.

After Freshwater’s reply, Orsborn said that she made the “L” loser sign with her hand and said, “Whatever, John.”

As time went by, she kept, in her words, “heckling” Freshwater about having a Catholic speak at FCA. Eventually, she said, Freshwater told her to go ahead and contact a priest about speaking.

Orsborn said she called the church and spoke with Father Mark Hammond’s secretary Shirley Lower. When Hammond did end up speaking at FCA, she said that she didn’t attend the meeting but that she did go to the room and thank him for coming.

Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, showed Orsborn a speaker request form filled out by a couple of students regarding having Hammond speak at FCA. Orsborn said that she doesn’t know what transpired after her initial call to the church and that she has no reason to dispute that the students sent an invitation to Hammond.

Orsborn said that she did not do any research into how FCA was run but that she assumed Freshwater was responsible for the speakers. (Teachers that monitor FCA are supposed to leave the inviting of speakers to the students.)

Hamilton asked Orsborn several questions about her knowledge of Freshwater and his family’s interaction with Catholics.

Orsborn said that she did not know that Freshwater’s daughter Jordon had dated someone from her church. She did not know that Freshwater transported someone to her church that needed a ride. She also did not know that Freshwater’s son Luke went to a Catholic college.

Freshwater never talked about his church background but Orsborn said that she knew where he attended because she taught Freshwater’s three children.

Orsborn said that Freshwater never made the statement “Catholics aren’t Christens.”

According to Orsborn, the Dennis family—who brought the primary complaints against Freshwater that resulted in the hearing—also attends St. Vincent de Paul.

Father Mark Hammond

Hammond said that to the best of his recollection it was Freshwater who asked him to speak at FCA. He did not recall Orsborn or any students talking with him about coming to FCA.

Hammond admitted that his recall of the events is not good.

Although he schedules his own calendar, Hammond said it was possible that someone contacted one of his secretaries.

Hammond said that Freshwater either called him or approached him at a banquette that was held for Care Net Pregnancy Services. He did not recall whether Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, introduced him to Freshwater.

No one told him what to say at FCA, Hammond said, but he believed that he was there to share about the Catholic faith. He said that when he spoke he tried to clear up misunderstandings about Catholicism and help the students understand that Catholics believe many of the same things as Protestants.

Hammond said that of the three sessions he held at FCA, Freshwater only attended one. Hammond said that he was the one that prayed and that he does not recall Freshwater praying at the meeting.

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