John Freshwater is a science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School in Ohio. A public school.

He preaches his Christian beliefs in class.

He teaches Creationism/Intelligent Design.

He kept the Ten Commandments on the door of his classroom until he was finally forced to take it down.

He failed to remove a Bible from his classroom even after he was asked to get rid of it.

He gave his students extra credit if they saw the sham that is Expelled and completed an assignment explaining “why it is important to examine this objectively and not let bias affect your observations.”

Oh… and he burns crosses into his students arms:


Only today is a report from independent investigators finally coming out about this guy.

The report comes one week after a family filed a federal lawsuit in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child’s arm that remained for three or four weeks.

Freshwater’s friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

With the exception of the cross-burning episode … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,” he told The Columbus Dispatch in a story published Friday.

Right… and except for the times I beat my wife, I love her.

It doesn’t matter what the parents’ values are. If their values call for abstinence, it doesn’t mean you ignore sex education. If they are overwhelmingly Muslim, it doesn’t mean you stop class to pray to Allah. And if their values include a belief in Creationism, your job as a teacher is to educate the students on what real scientists have to say about evolution and not on what the Bible has to say.

By the way, Daubenmire was sued back in 1999 by the ACLU because he “led his [football] players in prayer at games, practices and meetings.” That case ended with the district (and its insurance company) paying the ACLU $18,000 in court costs.

While the family in question filed a lawsuit against the teacher last week, it’s not the first time Freshwater’s been in trouble:

… Lynda Weston, the district’s director of teaching and learning, told investigators that she has dealt with complaints about Freshwater for much of her 11-year term at the district…

And yet the school district never disciplined him in all that time.

That’s shocking considering what he’s said to his students:

“Mr. Freshwater advised his students that although he is forced to teach from the textbooks, the teachings are wrong or not proven according to the Bible,” the suit states.

Freshwater apparently used a “BD-10A High Frequency Generator” when he branded his students with the cross. He says he just wanted to demonstrate the device — one which is “the same size and shape as a power screwdriver, its tip [putting] out up to 50,000 volts of electricity.”

Of course, that device comes with an obvious warning:

Never touch or come in contact with the high voltage output of this device.

In case there’s any doubt as to what he was doing, check this out:

“He said out loud, ‘Satan be removed from this man,’ ” said Jessica Philemond, an attorney representing a Mount Vernon Middle School student who witnessed the event.

Why this man is even allowed near children amazes me.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • I hope this means the end of his career.

    If their values call for abstinence, it doesn’t mean you ignore sex education.

    Um, I think you’re mixing up the separation of church and state issue here. While I don’t favor abstinence-only education (because it doesn’t work), the nature of sex ed in schools is more of a policy decision for elected officials. It’s not a strictly religious viewpoint like creationism or compulsory prayer in the classroom. If a school board decides that abstinence-only education will be taught in their schools because they think it works best (it doesn’t) then I can’t see where that violates separation of church and state.

  • cipher

    Why this man is even allowed near children amazes me.

    Tenure, Hemant. Public school teachers are like gophers in a hole – once they’re in, you can’t get ’em out. Tenure is responsible for more institutionalized mendacity than just about any other factor you can name, and is, I think, at least partly responsible for the fact that we lag behind virtually all other industrialized nations in quality of education.

  • Amber

    Wow. What a nightmare. I would have loved his class..

  • Gabrielbrawley

    If a teacher burned a cross into the arm of my child I would have done several things. I would have started by taking my kid to the doctor. Then I would have contacted the police to file a criminal complaint. Then I would get a restraining order to keep the teacher as far from my kids as legally possible. When all of that was done I would find the teacher and beat him badly enough to put him in the hospital. I would systimatically break every finger in both of his hands. Then I would sue him and the school district.

  • TL

    It’s important to emphasize that this Freshwater character was a SCIENCE teacher on top of everything else. (You briefly mentioned him teaching evolution, but I just wanted to underline this significant fact).

  • TL — I made an addition in the first sentence to note this. Thanks 🙂

  • Siamang

    While I sympathize with Gabrielbrawley, being a parent myself, I think that even that wouldn’t bring me what I’d want…

    What I’d want is for something to pierce Freshwater’s armor of always thinking he’s right. Anything you do to this guy will only make him more sure of himself, and more self-assured that he’s being persecuted for his beliefs.

    He’ll have enough people telling him he’s right and a hero for standing up for the bible. Even if his whole town turns their back on him, they’ll be some community somewhere that he can escape to.

  • stephanie

    Oh, goodness. I realize that Mt. Vernon is a little backwater (I grew up in Ohio, so this isn’t an assumption but an observation) but Freshwater’s actions are beyond unacceptable and into the realm of criminal harm. What exactly is it going to take to get that school board to react?

  • Mark

    This teacher burned a student intentionally and while ignoring the safety instructions that came with the device???

    Why is he not up on criminal charges of child endangerment??

    Why do Christians think they are above the law?

    While I’m on my rant, why don’t Christian churches have to pay taxes like the rest of us???

    Why?? WHY??

  • He’ll have enough people telling him he’s right and a hero for standing up for the bible.

    And I’m sure he’ll have just as many people telling him otherwise. I don’t believe what he’s doing is right or even effective in sharing the message. I know there are plenty of Christians who would disagree with his conduct.

    And the purported burning episode… that is just unacceptable.

  • Siamang

    My point was that I expect that he will retreat into a group of people who will agree with his conduct, rather than reassess his views and actions.

    OF COURSE the vast majority of americans and indeed the vast majority of christians will see these actions as unacceptable.

    But I think that people like this guy are this way because they don’t listen to what the majority tells them. I think they see themselves as crusaders against a corrupt world, and anyone who disagrees with them is part of that corruption.

  • Richard Wade

    Astonishing, chilling and infuriating. The school board’s ignoring of this fruitcake’s behavior reminds me of the Catholic Church’s complacency about pedophile priests in their midst. They are clearly co-culpable and they all deserve punishment.

    My visceral reaction as a parent would have been similar to Gabrielbrawley’s with the exception that I would have used the high frequency generator on Freshwater. He’d have nothing to complain about, would he?

  • siamang

    He might deserve some sixes!

  • Loki H. Thor on a raft. This guy is friends with Dave Daubenmire?

    Dave “Homosexuality has a magnetism that will not let go” Daubenmire?

    Sheesh. It’s worse that I’d thought.

    Here’s my piece on Daubenmire. Sorry for the self-linkage, but I really think it’s relevant.

  • Ben


    Better than sixes, he deserves “I Deny The Holy Spirit” tattooed to his forehead.

  • Jen

    You know, people are always talking about how bad public schools are. I have to point out that I never had a teacher burn me.* I even learned how to think for myself, at least until I went to Catholic college.

    *I did have a teacher rip a band-aid off my arm without asking, to prove that virginity is important.

  • J Myers

    I think you’re mixing up the separation of church and state issue here.

    Not at all; quite apart from that issue, Hemant is addressing the particular “defense” offered by Daubenmire by pointing out that curriculum should not be based on “the values of the parents” in the first place. Public schools are not meant to serve as mere conduits for the propagation of community biases; in fact, this is precisely what they are intended to prevent.

    Richard, your plan would fail; Freshwater doesn’t conduct electricity 😉

  • Luke

    You don’t really strike me as a friendly athiest.

  • What exactly is it going to take to get that school board to react?

    He would have to be branding the students with a Wiccan symbol, instead of a Christian symbol.

    You see, when it’s a Cross you’re just harmlessly doing the Lord’s work. When it’s a heathen symbol it’s — hey, what the hell are you doing putting your hands on my child, you fiend! You fracking marked him! What the hell is wrong with you! Are you retarded?! Seriously, are you?!

  • Looks like a case of Christian privilege to me. What I mean by that is that if he were anything other than Christian, he’d have been fired long ago.

  • Coconut

    What a ridiculous mess this is. I actually came to this site from CNN where I first read the story. It is appalling what some nuts will do to other people and then claim that it is their right as Christians to do such acts when they could not be farther from the truth. I am not here to expound on anything, but I will say this: John Freshwater should actually read that Bible he has had sitting on his desk for so long. If he would, he would realize that it is his duty to obey the law of the land. He is not to push his beliefs on anybody for any reason, and there is a dire warning to those who would do malicious acts and then claim to be holy. By the way, if that was my kid I would press charges and file a report with the police. I wholeheartedly will tell anyone that no religion should be taught in school, and that the approved curriculum should be followed. Obviously unless it was some kind of optional class like ‘history of (insert religion here)’. Anyway, I just wanted to post my opinion on this since I myself am actually a youth ministry leader, so I have a little bit of knowledge on what the Bible has to say. The minute we start pushing our ideas or beliefs on other people, no matter what religion we claim to belong to, we take away people’s freedom of choice and we become no better than any other oppressive regime or peoples.

  • Steve

    The guy is an idiot and deserves to be fired. And I am a union man, a teacher heavily involved in the teachers union.
    For Cipher–please don’t jump on the “tenure” bandwagon–yes, there is tenure for teachers, but it allows for discipline for “just cause,” not just arbitrary reasons. My experience has always been that teachers are not disciplined due to either incompetence or laziness of administration. They have to spend some time documenting deficiencies in a teacher and won’t. Are there deficient teachers? Sure, just like cops, doctors, preachers, parents…but you need to take the time to prove the deficiencies and perhaps address them through counselling, course work, etc. Sounds like the administration chose to ignore the situation here, for at least the last 11 years…
    Again, please don’t blame tenure for this guy still teaching–tenure is set up to force admin to prove just cause (something they had for years on this dude), most of which can be done with a bit of legwork.

  • BooYah

    There are places in this world where religious zealotry is the rule in public education; where it justifes all behavior; where science is over-ruled by the most outlandish superstitions of blind faith, and the truth is routinely perverted and then presented as fact. Afghanistan is such a nation. (Maybe not actually Afghanistan, though. Cross-branding might not go over well with that schoolboard, either.)

    This man and those like him…these American Taliban…should save their souls and live in such a nation, for yea, verily, they belong not amongst the “heathen.”

  • Michael

    1) Fired with no rehire.
    2) Arrested for child abuse.

    TA DAH! All over!

  • RBH

    Greta C wrote

    Loki H. Thor on a raft. This guy is friends with Dave Daubenmire?

    Dave “Homosexuality has a magnetism that will not let go” Daubenmire?

    Don’t forget that Daubenmire’s son, a special ed teacher, was convicted of possession of child porn on the family computer in Daubenmire’s home. See http://tinyurl.com/59nhj3

    The Mt. Vernon Board of Education has started termination proceedings against Freshwater. See here: http://tinyurl.com/45c8ye

  • cipher

    For Cipher–please don’t jump on the “tenure” bandwagon–yes, there is tenure for teachers, but it allows for discipline for “just cause,” not just arbitrary reasons. My experience has always been that teachers are not disciplined due to either incompetence or laziness of administration. They have to spend some time documenting deficiencies in a teacher and won’t.

    Steve, my experience has been that when an administrator doesn’t act in a case of incompetence, it’s because the school district is afraid of a lawful termination suit. When I was a boy (admittedly, some three to four decades ago), I had a few teachers who weren’t as disturbed as this fellow obviously is, but who still had problems and were poor teachers, in any case, and the school didn’t do a thing about them, because of tenure.

    In fact, you’ve put me in mind of something I hadn’t thought of in years- when my younger sister was in middle school, she had a teacher who had always been highly unstable, and who had some sort of breakdown during the year my sister was in her class. She was “teaching” during the day, then spending the night in the psychiatric ward of our local community hospital. She terrorized the kids, but the school either couldn’t or wouldn’t remove her, because of tenure. It might have been due somewhat to sympathy on the part of the superintendent, but it certainly wasn’t due to lack of documentation.

    And I didn’t grow up in the rural South or Midwest; I come from the suburbs of godless liberal Boston.

  • cipher

    I’ll add one more thing – for a college professor to gain tenure, he/she has to exhibit a sufficiently high level of performance that the school considers him/her an asset worth retaining. For a public school teacher to gain tenure, all he/she has to do is to last for three years, which isn’t hard, given the current shortage.

    I will be the first to agree that the way in which we treat teachers in this country is an abomination (yet again, we’re the laughing stock of the industrialized nations), and, if we were willing to pay them more, we’d attract people of a higher caliber. However, you won’t get me to agree that tenure is a good thing. No one other than teachers and judges has that kind of embedded job security.

  • cipher

    I meant “unlawful” termination suit.

  • Really? This is a joke right?…. Please, let it be a joke… I mean, there wasn’t really a science teacher that did things like burned students, was there?

  • What do u mean Frank?
    What does it have to do with the article?

  • Richard Wade

    Luke said,
    June 21, 2008 at 2:48 am
    You don’t really strike me as a friendly athiest.

    Are you speaking in the context of this particular posting? What, in your opinion would be the friendly way for an atheist to respond to this story? Approve of it? Accept it as the teacher’s right to express himself? Say, “Oh ha ha, those fundamentalist-creationist Christians sure can come up with some clever ways to teach science, like burning crosses into kids’ arms with high voltage. I wish my science teacher had been so innovative. While I might be confused about biology I sure would understand electricity better.”

    Luke, don’t just toss in your one-sentence opinion like a hand grenade and take off. Come back and we will have a friendly (read respectful while not necessarily approving) discussion about the issue.

  • Dyanna

    Greetings, and thanks for the background info about the piece of hardware this nut was using for branding “demonstrations” (OF #%$&^!! WHAT!!?? — I have no recollection of learning about branding or second-degree burns in science class…).

    While nothing I’m about to say is intended to defend or minimize this nut, I suspect the issue may not entirely be tenure. School districts are mirrors of the individual communities whose taxes support them. It looks like the area is heavily Fundamentalist/Evangelical, and it’s unfortunate but entirely possible this nut has been acting this nutty for years WITHOUT CHALLENGE simply because he’s a member of a Fundamentalist Christian majority. I feel deeply sorry for any gay kid or any kid from another faith (or avowed lack of faith) in that community–I imagine any such kids know a hell of a lot more about persecution than this nut and his nutty friends do. School administrators do not have to be located in nutty districts, to look the other way when students and teachers behave inappropriately, sometimes even criminally.

    I get so sick and tired of reading stories like this about nuts, like this guy, who are an embarrassment to my faith.

  • Rafael Tages Melo said

    What do u mean Frank?
    What does it have to do with the article?

    Just a response to the article… It is a little surprising, that all…