Ohio Supreme Court Will Hear Case from Creationist Teacher Wanting ‘Academic Freedom’ in Science Class

I thought we heard the last of John Freshwater, the Creationist middle school teacher who branded his students with a cross, after he got fired and his appeal was rejected last November.

John Freshwater (via Columbus Dispatch)

But his lawyers filed another appeal and the Ohio Supreme Court has elected to hear it.

Freshwater openly admitted to teaching Creationism in his Science classes and the Court may give him the opportunity to do it again:

This Court must intervene if students and teachers in America’s public schools are to remain free to engage in open, respectful dialogue about competing academic theories and their respective merits. Nowhere is such freedom more crucial than in a science classroom, where the asking and answering of questions is the very basis of the universally acknowledged “scientific method,” Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton argued in his request for the court to hear the case.

This isn’t a matter of free speech and academic freedom. This is all about treating the classroom like a church. If you want to preach bullshit, church is a perfect place to do it. If you want to learn proper science, the classroom should be your haven. Freshwater has never understood that and he’s bought into a whole host of lies as a result:

That all questions are good questions.

That any gap in our knowledge automatically means “God Did It.”

That he is qualified to teach science.

If the Court rules in Freshwater’s favor, they would be opening the door to a further dismantling of science education, courtesy of a Christian who doesn’t understand a damn thing about it.

(Thanks to Dan for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    The man is a hack. He has no business teaching anything to anyone anywhere.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Now be fair. There are religious schools that specialize in teaching bullshit, and this guy seems eminently qualified for a job at any of them.

      • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

         Lol, were I a conservative Christian YEC with a lifetime subscription to Worldnet Daily, I would not let this man near my children.

        • Coyotenose

           Sadly, yes you probably would. Consider that he’s likely getting high five-figure legal representation free from one or more anti-Science, anti-Women, anti-Thought religious groups. Those groups make their profits through contributions made by exactly the people you describe.

          • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

             It is amazing to see how the christian right throws so much support behind their worst representatives. Barton has made quite a career out of it, so I suspect you are right about this guy.

            • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

              it’s called “pushing the Overton window” and they do it because it works. 1 out of ten times they find a court corrupt enough to let one of these extreme cases thru. they get free publicity, everyone is forced to talk about the “legitimacy” of an extreme perspective, and 1 out of 20 times they actually win, maybe all the way to the SCOTUS, like with Citizens v United. the left has consistently failed to play this game and win. mostly because it lacks money, but about a decade ago they still had a chance and blew it. “it’s too mean and not intellectually honest, we can’t do that!” look where that got them. for the record i’m a far left sort and i’m speaking here of professional activists and lobbyists and media figures on the left, not real people with leftist views. but once again too many on the left fail to recognize that bringing a knife to a gun fight is stupid. 

    • Spherical Basterd

      This sadist is only qualified to teach the social dynamics of Formicidae colonies under a magniyfing glass on a sunny day.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        *laughing*

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com/ GDad

    I would hope that the Ohio Supremes would handle this appropriately.  My rose-colored glasses tell me that they just want to put this to bed once and for all, but I may be a bit naive.

    • Mike_holloway

      No.  If they wanted it put to bed they wouldn’t have voted to have to brought to the OSC.  That this 6 to 1 Republican and highly political court voted to have the case means that they see some validity in the arguments to appeal.  There is almost zero chance now that this is not going to the majority far right SCOTUS.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Thank you for not calling him a science teacher. I guess you have to call the classes “science classes” just because the time is allocated for that purpose, but obviously the name isn’t very descriptive.

  • JamesM

    Academic Freedom? In high school? Because high schools are academic research institutions with tenured professorships?

    • Emb

       and not to mention how is there Academic Freedom when you have no choice but to take the religious approach to the subject?  separation of church and state.  if he wants to teach a specialized “science” then do it so in a specialized school.  for public education, science needs to be taught by the standards of SCIENTISTS!  not religious hacks.

    • Conrad Zaar

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought this.  Middle school teachers are not academics and making original contributions to academic debates is not something that they are paid or qualified to do.

      Freshwater’s statement is also very stupid.  Even if we were to grant the moronic premise that academic freedom is important in the middle school classroom, it is not “more crucial” for science than it is for any other discipline, any and all of which can be characterized by the vague phrse, “the asking and answering of questions.”

  • thompjs

    open, respectful dialogue?  

    About something that is known to be total nonsense?  How many crackpot ideas do you have to subject students to?

    • Randomfactor

      Only the one. 

      He wouldn’t tell the Inuit creation story, or the Babylonian myth.   He wants freedom only for HIS nonsense.

  • Phil Rounds

    “Freshwater has never understood that and he’s bought into a whole host of lies as a result:
    That all questions are good questions.”
     
    Wellll….all questions ARE good questions. That’s one of the basics
    of good science. This should have read “That all answers are good
    answers.”

     

  • Onamission5

    And here I thought academic freedom applied to students’ right to learn facts, not to teachers’ rights to indoctrinate other people’s kids into their religion against the parents’ wishes.

  • Alan Williamson

    God made man from dirt and cloned another from a rib.  It makes perfect sense.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Why isn’t he in jail?

  • unclemike

    I’m pretty sure Ohio has state standards for science, and I’m pretty sure god isn’t mentioned therein.  I don’t understand why, if he’s not teaching the standards, he could go back to his job.

  • http://www.hey-whichwayisup.blogspot.ca/2011/12/kill-apostates.html satinka

    If  he taught Creationism, and students started asking the hard questions, he would be unable to answer. Stalewater would be laughed right out of the classroom!!!

  • Miss_Beara

    “Academic theories”? There is nothing academic about creationism and has no place in a science classroom. 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      Exactly, and before any court agreed to hear his case, he should have had to prove that Creationism was an “academic theory.”  This court needs a crash course in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

  • Spherical Basterd

    If stupidity were a  criminally punishable crime this teacher would be sentenced to death. However, since the burning of students with high voltage is criminally prosecutable; why isn’t Professor Creepy on his way to the big house? Who is protecting this fuckwit?

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Yes, all academic THEORIES. Theories are things that have been tested and found to be true as far as we know. Such as evolution and gravity. They have been HEAVILY tested and proven to be true just about as far as we can go right now. Creationism is NOT a theory – It has never been tested, nor has it ever been proven in the slightest sense. It’s a myth. 

    He’s using the word “theory” to mean two things at the same time. A scientific theory can stand up to scientific testing and scrutiny. A layman’s theory is just a guess. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=628665833 Bill Santagata

    The Ohio Supreme Court cannot rule in Freshwater’s favor as the Supreme Court already ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that you cannot teach creationism in a public school classroom.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    Will they be teaching all of the creation myths?  We can’t teach just one.  Teach all of them and let the kids decide. 

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    “This Court must intervene if students and teachers in America’s public schools are to remain free to engage in open, respectful dialogue about competing academic theories and their respective merits. Nowhere is such freedom more crucial than in a science classroom, 

    News flash guys:  the science classroom is not some smoke filled room where matters of importance are engaged in open, respectful dialogue…

    The science classroom is for learning stuff…. not for debating things that far more intelligent and far more educated people are already done debating.

    USA = massive fail

  • Rich Lane

    If he wins, I would love to see a suit filed by the parents of a student his classes charging he is abusing the rights of their child. 

    If this was happening here, I’d do it in a heartbeat, and I’m a teacher. 

  • Dawny229

    Oh..My…God…when a man who burns crosses into children becomes a poster boy for creationism..you know that it’s turned a corner from “Crazy Town” to “Absolutely Insaneville”

  • blub blubber

    At the moment, Noah etc competes with the Hindu spider and the Spaghetti monster. Sadly and obviously,  Darwinian evolution has no competition. Lamarck’s theory is dead and ID/Creationism doesn’t logically address the question where the god came from and how he did the earth thing. Somebody will have to explain to them that if they went and found out something logical, they would automatically  “compete”. They’d only  have to scientifically prove that  an all-powerful entity (preferably with a will of its own but hey…) exists in the universe (maybe it’s made of dark matter?… go on, calculate…) and describe its properties. One of these properties could then be that it likes to make things in non-logical order. “Theomorphology” or so? could be a science. Maybe we’d get a new calculus from them? Only because they are believers doesnt mean they can’t find new things… I’d love to see these buns from “Liberty University” engage in the mathematical/scientific pursuit of truth.  Standards for all might be rising! Let’s demand science from their field and let them play along as soon as they have something.

  • Mike_holloway

    There is no reason to doubt that this is a very big deal, and will be taken to SCOTUS where Freshwater could very easily win.  The very well funded anti-science movement has been planning for this for years.  The decision is going to be driven by politics and only tangentially by the law, just as the OCS and SCOTUS are.  New Atheists joining religious fundamentalists in claiming that science teaches atheism will help put science education into the dark ages.

  • MichaelZWilliamson

    “Majority far right SCOTUS.”   Hah.  Thanks, Mike Holloway.  That may the most hilariously stupid thing I’ve  heard this decade, given their last 5 years of decisions.

    But I suppose if Howard Zinn is your baseline, even Marx looks right.

    You ARE aware that SCOTUS recently found against just such a case, right?  Kitzmiller vs Dover School District, IIRC, 2005.

    • Nobody

      Kitzmiller v. Dover did not go to the Supreme Court; it was in federal court and overheard by John E. Jones III and was never appealed beyond that.

      As for the biases of the Supreme Court, Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas are all notoriously far right with Kennedy frequently siding with them.  Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsbert, and Breyer are thus far only barely liberal.

  • Guest

    He is a high school teacher, not a scientist. A scientist deserves the academic freedom to discuss their finding, but as a middle school teacher with some training in science (and as a middle school teacher, he has no science degree I believe) his job is to teach the science that is given to him from his superiors. He is paid to teach, not to think or make academic decisions. Take the curriculum you are given, and teach it

  • Pete Baxter

    Atheists have perverted the truth to win their argument for example everything is chance which even Dawkins rejects. All matter is in motion so their cannot be a God is their argument? No one understands dark matter.Bacteria exists that acts as one.  Everyone needs to be open minded and atheism is having a closed mind to scientific discoveries.

  • http://twitter.com/JarlRarity Jack Henderson

    What a load of shit. Creationism simply can’t be taught in science classes, it’s no more a defensible alternative to evolutionary biology than alchemy is to chemistry, astrology to astronomy, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dumm.manny Dumm Manny

    Maybe he’s a member of a Christ science fiction book club?


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