As the Ohio Supreme Court prepares to hear the appeal of the firing of John Freshwater as a public school science teacher in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, several secular groups have filed briefs in the case arguing that the firing was entirely justified given Freshwater’s relentless abuse of his position to proselytize students for Christianity. Americans United for Separation of Church and State put out a press release about their brief:
“Public schools must remain focused on teaching, not preaching,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Freshwater violated that cardinal rule, and the board was right to fire him.”
Added Lynn, “If Freshwater prevails, public schools will have no way to stop teachers from bringing any topic they choose into their lessons plans. The result will be chaos in the classrooms.”
Freshwater handed out creationist material in class, which he always collected and refused to let students take home, and he passed out surveys to students, asking them if religion was important to them…“There is no legal authority of any kind for the suggestion that individual teachers can override or ignore a school district’s set curriculum,” observes AU’s brief. “Nor could there be: Public schools simply could not function on those terms.”
Elsewhere the brief asserts, “Although Freshwater apparently believes himself to have been acting in the service of Christianity, his actions disserved both religion and science education by placing matters of faith in competition with science in the classroom. Science instruction need not compete with theology, unless the teacher sets them at odds with one another – which is just what Freshwater did.”
You can read that brief here (PDF).