After Lengthy Legal Battle, School Board Emerges Victorious Over Creationist Science Teacher

In a case that’s lasted more than five years, there’s finally a happy resolution in the legal battle between Creationist teacher John Freshwater and the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education.

A quick refresher: In 2008, school board members voted 5-0 to fire Freshwater, a Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher, after learning that he had preached Creationism to the students, handed out flyers in class urging kids to attend a presentation by the “Answers in Genesis” ministry, left the Bible out on his desk during class even after being told to stop, hung a Ten Commandments sign in his classroom, offered extra credit to students who watched the Ben Stein pro-Intelligent Design movie Expelled, and burned a student in the arm with a Tesla coil… in the shape of a cross:

That set off a long appeals process that culminated with a 4-3 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday in favor of the district. The Court said the district was right to fire Freshwater for his insubordination.

The decision holds little back:

Freshwater not only ignored the school district’s directive, he defied it. After he was directed to remove the items, Freshwater deliberately added to them, incorporating the Oxford Bible and Jesus of Nazareth into the classroom. He then refused to remove his personal Bible from his desk, and refused to remove a depiction of former President George W. Bush and Colin Powell and others in prayer from his wall.

Freshwater is fully entitled to an ardent faith in Jesus Christ and to interpret Biblical passages according to his faith. But he was not entitled to ignore direct, lawful edicts of his superiors while in the workplace.

It’s a victory for anyone who opposes proselytization in public schools:

John Freshwater (via the Columbus Dispatch)

“Public schools are for teaching, not preaching,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Freshwater not only violated that principle, he openly defied the orders of his superiors. That’s not what freedom of religion is about.”

Americans United added, however, that the dissenting justices did us all a disservice by suggesting that teaching Creationism was all a part of “academic freedom”:

“It is shocking that any judge would conclude teaching creationism is part of ‘academic debate’ in 2013,” Lynn said. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled long ago that creationism is a sectarian idea that does not belong in public schools, and I am alarmed that jurists would buy into the bogus claims of creationism proponents.”

Regardless of the dissenters, the fact is that Freshwater won’t be back in a public school classroom anytime soon. He was unqualified to teach science and it’s about time the courts recognized that.

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.


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