Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creationist Teacher Sues for Job

Former science teacher John Freshwater sued the Mt. Vernon, Ohio School District to get his old job back.

In August, Freshwater told the Ohio Supreme Court that,

1. He had a U.S. constitutional right to teach whatever he chose in his eighth grade public-school science classroom; and

2. The Mt. Vernon school district showed unconstitutional hostility to religion when it ordered him to dispose of the religious display in his classroom.

In 2011, R. Lee Shepard of the Ohio Education Department had advised the Mt. Vernon School District to fire Freshwater, and it took his advice. Shepard wrote, “John Freshwater was determined to inject his personal religious beliefs into his plan and pattern of instruction of his students.…Freshwater’s instruction included ‘evidence against evolution’…based, in large part, upon the Christian religious principles of Creationism and Intelligent Design.” Shepard’s report followed hearings that took place, on and off, for two years and involved more than 80 witnesses.

After Mt. Vernon fired Freshwater, he sued the district in state court. He lost in the trial and appeals courts. In 2012, he appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which took the case.

The Rutherford Institute, a Religious Right legal group, backs Freshwater.

Mt. Vernon replied, “Freshwater is not a private citizen when teaching in a classroom.…His teaching becomes ‘government speech.’ That speech may violate the Establishment Clause; when it does, and Freshwater refuses to stop the violation himself, the Board has every right to remove him from the classroom and cure the violation.”

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) submitted a brief in support of Mt. Vernon. It offered an exhaustive history of creationism, explaining its religious and anti-scientific character. NCSE appended a whole book on the subject by the National Academy of Sciences.

In its brief for Mt. Vernon, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) stressed the wider goals of Freshwater’s backer. The brief says, “Freshwater seeks nothing less than to have this Court bless the teaching of religious beliefs in Ohio’s public schools.”

AU emphasized that Mt. Vernon had a U.S. constitutional duty as well as a right to halt Freshwater’s advancement of religion.

The case is Freshwater v. Mt. Vernon.

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