Freshwater’s Absurd Defense

Former Ohio science teacher John Freshwater’s case for wrongful termination is currently being considered by the Ohio Supreme Court and his attorneys have filed their briefs in the case. Richard Hoppe looks at the most recent brief, which makes some really bad argument. First, as Hoppe noted a few weeks ago, the arguments they’re making are entirely different than the ones they used in their request for the court to hear the appeal.

It’s interesting how Freshwater’s claims have, ironically, evolved in the case. As one of the defense motions noted:

Freshwater has never made the argument that his teaching of intelligent design and creationism was acceptable as scientific theories. Indeed, Freshwater’s argument in this regard has evolved over time. Freshwater adamantly denied teaching intelligent design and creationism during the administrative hearing. (Tr. 376, ln. 14 (“I do not teach intelligent design”); Tr. 377, ln. 9(“I teach evolution. I do not teach ID or creationism”); see Bd. Exs. 19-20). Freshwater then claimed in his Complaint that he taught “about some commonly held beliefs of at least three of the world’s major religions.” (Compl. at 4 59). Then, at the Court of Appeals, Freshwater argued that he simply sought to “encourage his students to differentiate between facts and theories, and to identify and discuss instances where textbook statements were subject to intellectual and scientific debate.” (Appellant’s Appellate Br., at 9). He also claimed that he simply facilitated “classroom discussion concerning popular alternative theories to the Big Bang theory.…” (Id. at v). Yet, in his Merit Brief, Freshwater argues that he did teach creationism and intelligent design since they are permitted concepts (“creation science”). (Appellant’s Merit Br., at 16-18). Thus, Merit Brief Proposition of Law II asks this court to review an issue not raised by Appellant in the lower courts or administrative hearing.

Now he’s claiming that he didn’t teach creationism or ID, but that he was merely exploring rival non-religious theories:

On this record, where Freshwater did nothing more than facilitate discussion and consideration of elements of the alternative theories to evolution (which happen to be consistent with several major world religions) as part of a secular examination of the weaknesses of evolution theory, it defies logic to argue that he violated Policy 2270. (p. 10-11; italics original)

But all of this is nonsense. In fact, what Freshwater did was hand out supplemental articles that he got from creationist websites that are just rehashes of old and long-discredited creationist claims. Hoppe wrote about this almost four years ago when Patricia Princehouse testified about those materials in an earlier challenge:

Under direct examination Princehouse first walked the hearing through handouts, the “giraffe” handout, the “woodpecker” handout, and the “Dragon” handout. Analyzing each item in turn, she showed that they misrepresent evolutionary theory in that the first two in particular suggest that an animal (yes, it used the singular) had to “realize” or “decide” to evolve in order to adapt. That is, they attributed conscious intentions to giraffes and woodpeckers, and claimed that their intentions were causal variables in evolution. She identified their apparent source as the All About God site that Charles Adkins testified the day before that he and Richard Cunningham had also identified as the source. Princehouse concluded that she could see no valid pedagogical reason for using the handouts. Referring to a question on the worksheet about “ID”, Princehouse said it was a theological concept and not a scientific concept.

She also had reviewed the Watchmaker video, and quoted William Paley’s famous ‘watch on a heath’ paragraph to show the antiquity of that argument. She also concluded that it was pure creationism, and identified the source as the ‘kids4truth’ creationist site.

Princehouse also reviewed Jonathan Wells’ “Survival of the Fakest” document used by Freshwater, and came to the same conclusion, identifying it as a summary of Wells’ equally deficient book Icons of Evolution. It’s worth noting that Freshwater used the same article as part of his supporting material when he unsuccessfully tried to get the Board of Education to incorporate ID creationism into the science curriculum in 2003.

So Freshwater asked to be allowed to use that same material and the school board said no. And then he went and did it anyway.

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  • What century is this, again?

  • Dago Red

    This is still going on? I would have thought Freshwater’s Lord would have transformed him to Stalewine by now!

  • unity

    the first two in particular suggest that an animal (yes, it used the singular) had to “realize” or “decide” to evolve in order to adapt

    Isn’t that the Pokemon Theory of Evolution?

  • dingojack

    Uh –


    Assault. No Brainer!


  • The degree to which these liars for Jeebus will go is amazing. They must honestly believe the rest of us (the courts) won’t see right through this, just like the judge in the Dover decision. This whole charade must be just a wingnut welfare check for Freshwater.


  • Sastra

    I think they’ve watched too many courtroom dramas. Not even recent ones. The Hollywood ones in the 30’s and 40’s where people got up, made long-winded impassioned speeches, and immediately won over the judge and jury. “Case dismissed!”

    Maybe Freshwater is hoping that minions from the Post Office will march in and dump a bunch of letters to “John Freshwater, Classroom Discussion Facilitator” on the judge’s desk, thus solving the issue and allowing the court’s real sympathies to trump a law made for smaller men than he.

  • bmiller

    I’m with dingojack. This LOON burned the cross into a kid’s arm. Why is there still a legal discussion underway? This is incomprehe

  • Doc Bill

    Alas, the Burning Man episode was settled between Freshwater, the School District and the parents. I don’t recall if a private suit is still pending between the parents and Freshwater or if that got resolved, too.

    I don’t know and can’t imagine why Freshwater wasn’t fired on the spot for the coil incident other than the administration was lazy, lax, apathetic or non-confrontational, but the good ole boy Freshwater seemed to rule that chicken coop.

    What also got me watching this case unfold in the early years was that Freshwater was written up for having a Bible and other religious stuff in his classroom and was told to remove it. Freshwater wrote back that he would comply but the “Bible stays” and something like “if I’m insubordinate than so be it.” He was openly defiant of the administration and should have been sacked for insubordination, again, on the spot. I’ve known teachers run off campus after they got crossways with an administrator who used the insubordination clause.

    All in all, the “system” has bent over more than enough to accommodate Freshwater, has wasted huge amounts of money and time on that moron and it’s just never ending.

  • grumpyoldfart

    He’s not trying to win a victory or get his job back. He’s in the process of making himself a martyr. Just like Jesus, he is a prophet not accepted in his home town.

  • bradleybetts

    @b m miller

    “I’m with dingojack. This LOON burned the cross into a kid’s arm.”

    He did WHAT!?! Why is he not in jail already?!

  • rbh3

    Doc Bill wrote

    . I don’t recall if a private suit is still pending between the parents and Freshwater or if that got resolved, too.

    All the federal suits have been dropped or settled. The Dennis family’s suit was settled by the District’s insurance company (which covered Freshwater in his role as a teacher) for just short of $500K–see here.

  • baal

    “consideration of elements of the alternative theories to evolution”<–These don't exist in the realm of accepted science. Evolution is right up there with gravity in terms of what is real or say, math.

    This doesn't mean that folks aren't learning more about evolution or math or gravity. There are (were?) disputes within science about punctuated vs gradualism in evolution but that's details on mechanism (best route to drive from here to the grocer?) and not about validity of the overall theory. If the ID folks had a clue, they'd just overemphasize the real discussion points and let the kids infer that the whole thing is bunk. Of course, to do that they'd need to understand evolution and admit they are lying for jesus.

    Closer to home for me, my 11 year old son has a social studies teacher who suggests that 'fox news is the only channel to tell the other side of the story' and every now and then he recites bizarre right wing talking points. My wife and I are somewhat torn. We explain that the ideas are wrong and why but also tell him to not contradict the teacher on exams or make a big fuss in class. It's asking too much of a 6th grader to run a political battle and deal with whatever fall out happens. OTOH – there are the Freshwaters out there that are a more extreme but the issue is one of degree and not of kind.