Thursday, October 6, 2011

Press release: Rutherford Institute Will Appeal Ruling Against Teacher Fired for Urging Public School Students to Think Critically About Evolution

The following press release was provided today by The Rutherford Institute:

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio— The Rutherford Institute has announced its intention to appeal to the 5th District Court of Appeals in Ohio on behalf of John Freshwater, a Christian teacher who was allegedly fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school's science curriculum, particularly as it relates to evolution theories. Freshwater, a 24-year veteran in the classroom, was suspended by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in 2008 and officially terminated in January 2011. The School Board justified its actions by accusing Freshwater of improperly injecting religion into the classroom by giving students "reason to doubt the accuracy and/or veracity of scientists, science textbooks and/or science in general." The Board also claimed that Freshwater failed to remove "all religious articles" from his classroom, including a Bible.

"The judge's ruling is unfortunate because academic freedom is the bedrock of American education," stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don't need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves."

In June 2008, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education voted to suspend John Freshwater, a Christian with a 21-year teaching career at Mount Vernon Middle School, citing concerns about his conduct and teaching materials, particularly as they related to the teaching of evolution. Earlier that year, school officials reportedly ordered Freshwater, who had served as the faculty appointed facilitator, monitor, and supervisor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes student group for 16 of the 20 years that he taught at Mount Vernon, to remove "all religious items" from his classroom, including a Ten Commandments poster displayed on the door of his classroom, posters with Bible verses, and his personal Bible which he kept on his desk. Freshwater agreed to remove all items except for his Bible.

Showing their support for Freshwater, students even organized a rally in his honor. They also wore t-shirts with crosses painted on them to school and carried Bibles to class. School officials were seemingly unswayed by the outpouring of support for Freshwater. In fact, despite the fact that the Board's own policy states that because religious traditions vary in their treatment of science, teachers should give unbiased instruction so that students may evaluate it "in accordance with their own religious tenets," school officials suspended and eventually fired Freshwater, allegedly for criticizing evolution and failing to teach the required science curriculum.

Freshwater appealed the termination in state court, asserting that the school's actions violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and constituted religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Knox County Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster upheld the School Board's decision in a ruling issued on Oct. 5, 2011. Rutherford Institute attorneys have announced their intention to appeal the county court's ruling.

For more information on this story, see the Oct. 5, 2011 article "County judge rules against Freshwater’s appeal."

5 comments:

Ichthyic said...

Teacher Fired for Urging Public School Students to Think Critically About Evolution

strangely I never knew "God did it" is now considered to be thinking critically, about anything.

In fact, Freshwater is a clear case on point for how NOT to think critically.

it is, of course, how he got into this mess to begin with.

bachfiend said...

The press release from the Rutherford Institute is unfortunately formulated '... was allegedly fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and ...'

He wasn't allegedly fired. He was fired.

To make some little sense, the sentence should read '... was fired for allegedly keeping religious articles in his class room and ...'

He was also fired for physically injuring his students by burning a cross on the students' forearms with a Tesla coil.

Ichthyic said...

"He was also fired for physically injuring his students by burning a cross on the students' forearms with a Tesla coil. "

well, technically, he stopped doing that when they asked him to, so while it was, in fact, assault, it wasn't actually included in the reasons they fired him.

Instead, he refused to remove obvious religious sectarian materials from his classroom, and stick to the assigned science curriculum, and that's why he was rightly fired.

FWIW, I really do hope the Rutherford Inst. keeps going with this. Each progressive judge's satirical responses to the shenanigans these guys pull is comedy gold.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

bachfiend said, “He was also fired for physically injuring his students by burning a cross on the students' forearms with a Tesla coil.”

As Ichthyic pointed out, the Tesla coil burn allegation was not included by the school board as a reason for firing Freshwater.

Additionally, I would note that the state administrative hearing referee, R. Lee Shepherd, effectively dismissed the allegation:

“Due to the sensational and provocative nature of this specified ground, it and the facts and circumstances surrounding it became the focus of the curious, including those in the video, audio, and print media. Once sworn testimony was presented, it [became] obvious that speculation and imagination had pushed reality aside.”

For more information, see the article, “School board votes 4-1 to fire Freshwater.”

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Ichthyic said, “Each progressive judge's satirical responses to the shenanigans these guys pull is comedy gold.”

Perhaps you are referring to the statements by Judge Gregory Frost. If so, I can see how some of his statements are “comedy gold.”

See the article, “ What’s in the Trash, Stays in the Trash, According to Judge”

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