Freshwater: Rutherford Institute joins the case

| 68 Comments

As I noted in a comment a few days ago, federal judge Gregory Frost remanded John Freshwater’s appeal of his terrmination back to the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. Now according to a press release today, April 11, the Rutherford Institute has agreed to assist Freshwater in the appeal of his termination.

The press release says

The Rutherford Institute is defending a Christian teacher who was allegedly fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school’s science curriculum, particularly as it relates to evolution theories.

More below the fold.

The Rutherford Institute is a conservative legal aid organization that (according to its self-description)

… provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

The Institute’s mission is twofold: to provide legal services in the defense of religious and civil liberties and to educate the public on important issues affecting their constitutional freedoms.

It has participated in a number of religious and non-religious civil liberties cases, even sometimes in alliance with the American Civil Liberties Union. (See also Sourcewatch’s summary.)

The Rutherford Institute’s roots are in part in Christian Reconstructionism–among its founding Board of Directors were Howard Ahmanson, Jr., a major funder of the Discovery Institute, and R.J. Rushdoony of the Chalcedon Foundation, also funded (at least formerly) by Ahmanson. Rushdooney was a prominent proponent of Christian Reconstructionism.

It’s not clear what specific role the Rutherford Institute will play in Freshwater’s appeal. According to the press release, its involvement is based on an academic freedom argument:

“The right of public school teachers to academic freedom is the bedrock of American education,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don’t need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

This echoes the recent push by creationists, most notably embodied in the Louisiana ‘Academic Freedom’ law passed in 2008.

As far as I know, no date for the commencement of the Common Pleas case has been set.

68 Comments

“Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

Or go to hell.

I will enjoy hearing the Rutherford Institute’s explanation as to why his critical thinking teaching methods required Freshwater to hide his teaching materials from the administration and the parents.

I guess ‘academic freedom’ in this case means no one has the right to critically analyze the materials Freshwater uses to teach critical analysis. :)

This will never end.….….…..!!!!!

“for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school’s science curriculum”

They may have a point there. Having a cross burned into your flesh would make you think critically about what they hell they think they’re doing.

What next? Fred Phelps?

How is it possible to mix Christian reconstructionism with human and constitutional rights?

Yet bizarrely, a lot of the stuff on their web site looks legit. Is it possible that they’re just making a horrible mistake this time? Where do they get their funding from? That would probably say a lot.

So, the Rutherford Institute is going to defend John Freshwater’s right to collect money for a job he was contractually obligated to do, while refusing to do what he was contractually obligated to do.

The Constitution guarantees such a right?

I don’t get it. I agree with every word on that Rutherford Institute site about freedom of religion.

That’s (one of the major reasons) why I am AGAINST Freshwater.

He’s trying to get the government to favor one religion (his own science-denying interpretation of the Bible) and to inhibit the rights of the students and families who believe anything else.

Although almost anyone would describe me as “liberal” (I’m moderate to mildly-more-liberal-than-average in places like Manhattan or Boulder CO), I often agree with “conservatives” (that’s “conservatives”, not “Republicans”) about human rights and freedom of religion (and a variety of other things). Again, that’s “conservatives”, as far as I can tell I don’t agree with contemporary Republicans on anything.

Either the Rutherford Institute is doing deep, deep cover, or they have been very badly misinformed and taken advantage of.

If that press release reflects what the Rutherford folks really think, then they are either hopeless (and unlikely) dupes, or else their site’s statements about freedom of religion are encoded in a way we’re not decoding properly. Because the press release goes beyond spin; it’s flat contrary to fact. He wasn’t fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom, and he wasn’t encouraging anything resembling critical thinking - he was doing exactly the opposite.

Maybe the Rutherford Institute should have a couple of discussions with the likes of Hamilton, or the Thomas More Law Center.

Flint said:

Maybe the Rutherford Institute should have a couple of discussions with the likes of Hamilton, or the Thomas More Law Center.

Yep; that aughta learn ‘em how to win in court. ;-)

At least, it might alert them to check if there’s any water in the pool before diving.

so is this new effort going to cost the school, i.e., the taxpayer some additional $$$?

harold said: I don’t get it. I agree with every word on that Rutherford Institute site about freedom of religion.

Reading some of the Rutherford Institute site, and the Wiki articles about Christian Reconstructionism and Theonomy (which I’d never heard of before), I think the difference is in the definition of “religion”. My guess is that to them, “freedom of religion” means that you are free (in the Calvinist sense) to worship Christ in whatever acceptable way that you see fit. It’s an interesting melding of Libertarianism and Theocracy. From this article:

Finally, a third American religious constituency emerged: the secularists, who claim no belief in the supernatural at all. Secularists generally claim human happiness as the sole measure by which to make moral, and thus religious, judgments.

So where does the breakdown of a religiously homogenous nation leave us? It leaves us in the midst of a spiritual vacuum, which the various religious perspectives today seek to fill by trying to dominate the cultural and political processes. In turn, each religious view, with its respective organizations, perceives this struggle for dominance by competing religious views as an all-out assault on its constitutional freedoms in general and on its freedom of religion in particular.

In the end, the question is not whether religion should be permitted a role in politics and culture. The question is what role it should play and why.

The most appropriate role of religion in politics lies in its ability to define moral issues and to provide the transcendent authority for their solutions. Religion provides the moral vision—the moral compass—for society. Whatever its tenets, religion explains the moral significance of social institutions such as family and law and, indeed, government itself. Religion provides the imperative for obedience or resistance to what the state accomplishes and what it orders. Religion can do this most effectively through the individual—and most durably apart from the power of the state.

The voice of moral authority raised without dependence upon the legitimacy of the state will always be the highest expression of true freedom. Such a voice denies the ultimate authority of the government to create or define right or wrong by its own power. The authority to raise the standards of moral right or wrong is defined by religion and, if consistently practiced, will eventually be reflected in government policies.

The voice of moral authority raised without dependence upon the legitimacy of the state will always be the highest expression of true freedom. Such a voice denies the ultimate authority of the government to create or define right or wrong by its own power. The authority to raise the standards of moral right or wrong is defined by religion and, if consistently practiced, will eventually be reflected in government policies.

And with something like 38,000 (and counting) sects within Christianity alone, we should be able to look forward to centuries more of wrangling and killing to sort out who has the highest moral authority.

Just ducky!

So,

would it be the constitutional right to not be pumped full of some zealot’s particular religious guff?

Or is it just the rather dubious “right” to pump such guff?

Sounds like they support some “rights” to exceed actual rights.

Rusty

“What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don’t need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

Which is why Freshwater shouldn’t be in the classroom; he was seeking to indoctrinate children.

Scott F and Mike Elzinga -

Deeper perusal does show some areas of disagreement, but the defense of Freshwater is still at odds with the claims.

The voice of moral authority raised without dependence upon the legitimacy of the state will always be the highest expression of true freedom. Such a voice denies the ultimate authority of the government to create or define right or wrong by its own power.

I prefer to use the term “ethical” rather than “moral”, but this part I have no problem with.

The authority to raise the standards of moral right or wrong is defined by religion and, if consistently practiced, will eventually be reflected in government policies

Here I am in complete and total disagreement. He declares religion as the only source of ethics. This is actually apparently disguised religious authoritarian cant.

However, even so, it’s not consistent for him to defend Freshwater. Freshwater acted against religious freedom and did not morally criticize the government, but rather, merely tried to bully students who weren’t of his particular religious sect and lie about science to make his particular sect seem more credible.

Okay, I know I’m Canadian, but I thought your gummint was “of/by/for the people”. In which case “the state” has a duty to uphold the definition of right and wrong determined by those who make up “the state”. No?

fnxtr -

It is obvious that all states on earth, including Canada, which I am also a citizen of (I am a dual US/Canadian citizen) have, at present, some tendency to occasionally abuse some of their citizens.

Private protest of government actions, rather than “if the government did it, it must be right”, is a critical human right. I have no problem with that part of the claims.

The Rutherford Institute states: “Freshwater’s students earned the highest state standardized test scores in science of any eighth grade class in the district. Moreover, according to a federal judge’s findings, Freshwater was the only science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School who achieved a “passing” score on the Ohio Achievement Test” I can’t find where a Federal Judge said that. Can anyone point me the right direction?

harold said: Where do they get their funding from? That would probably say a lot.

Guidestar tracks publicly available nonprofit tax forms. Unfortunately in this case, the ‘free service’ only allows acces up to (records from) 1999. Maybe some lurker has access to their for-fee data?

“The right of public school teachers to academic freedom is the bedrock of American education,”

I can’t wait to see them try to make that argument in front of a judge, as opposed to in a press release.

wgwII said:

The Rutherford Institute states: “Freshwater’s students earned the highest state standardized test scores in science of any eighth grade class in the district. Moreover, according to a federal judge’s findings, Freshwater was the only science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School who achieved a “passing” score on the Ohio Achievement Test” I can’t find where a Federal Judge said that. Can anyone point me the right direction?

Well if Freshwater was the best they had then they are royally screwed anyway. I’d still rather have someone who was actually trying to teach real science then someone substituting their pseudoscientific religious opinions. Maybe now they will be able to hire a competent science teacher to replace Freshwater. If they sued him for the court costs they could probably hire two or three.

“The right of public school teachers to academic freedom is the bedrock of American education,”

I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean.

Yipppeeee, just in time for the new levy vote. Interesting how the timing of all these events keep happening right before MVCS has a vote on funding. (BTW, has Mr. Thompson come forward yet with all the cases of mismanaged funds he said he was going to fix?)

My youngest was born just a few months before this fiasco began. I thought it would be over before oldest sibling finished kindergarten. Then I thought it’d be over before her middle sibling started kindergarten. Now I’m wondering if it will be over in time for her to start kindergarten.

The monstrosity that is Ohio SB 5 will do nothing about this waste of time and money - this whole process is not based on Mr Freshwater’s union membership as he was not a member of the teacher’s union. That to me is the kicker - several people have used this case to firm up their support for SB 5. BLAH!

I sent this email (with the typos, yes, bad editing day) to “[Enable javascript to see this email address.]”.

Dear Staff Member -

Please forward this email to Mr Whitehead.

Mr Whitehead -

I became aware of your institute when I learned of your pending advocacy for John Freshwater.

Although we differ somewhat in philosophy, I noticed that your Institute is dedicated to the defense of individual human rights. We have strong agreement in this area, and I was impressed by the non-partisan, independent decisions you made, with regard to the past cases you have chosen.

I am very familiar with the John Freshwater case.

The theory of evolution is the fundamental theory of mainstream biomedical science. No-one needs to “believe” in it if they don’t want to, but when biology is taught in taxpayer funded American public schools, it is mainstream, experimentally-supported biology which should be taught.

Sectarian religious denial of evolution should NOT be taught in public schools as “science”. This violates the rights of all students to practice religion or not as they and their families see fit without government interference. Public school teachers are government employees in a position of authority. Of course they should not in any way have their own religious freedoms compromised, but they should not teach sectarian dogma to students as “science”.

Mr Freshwater was actually terminated for shocking a student with an electrical apparatus, but he also had a long history of using creationist materials and showing implied discrimination toward students who were not of fundamentalist Protestant faith.

How much religious material a public school teacher (or police officer, etc) should display is an intriguing question, as it is very much at the intersection of their personal rights, versus the rights of those over whom they have legitimate government authority not to told, directly or indirectly ,by government agents, which religion to follow. However, this is irrelevant to the Freshwater case. He was asked to remove religious items only after his misuse of the classroom to create government favoritism for his own religious sect (with himself as the agent of government) had become problematic.

harold said:

fnxtr -

It is obvious that all states on earth, including Canada, which I am also a citizen of (I am a dual US/Canadian citizen) have, at present, some tendency to occasionally abuse some of their citizens.

Private protest of government actions, rather than “if the government did it, it must be right”, is a critical human right. I have no problem with that part of the claims.

Yes, of course. In a truly democratic society, dissent is your duty.

I’m thinking more of the rule of law and protection of constitutional rights. It’s government’s job, through police, courts, etc., to uphold these. Laws are, ideally, a reflection of the population’s ideas about right and wrong.

And yes of course there are abuses that need to be addressed. Last years G20 fiasco is a fine example, and I asked both my elected representative and the leader of an opposition party to explain what happened. Guess who responded.

cwj said: I can’t wait to see them try to make that argument in front of a judge, as opposed to in a press release.

That could be said of all creationist arguments. Having put all their effort into building arguments to confuse and mislead, they have made themselves into cripples when the time comes for them to actually deliver the goods.

CMB said:

What next? Fred Phelps?

Interestingly enough, according to the website, TRI apparently filed in support of WBC’s rights.

“Snyder v. Phelps (US): In a case that tests the limits of the First Amendment’s protections for free speech, TRI urged the Court to “protect the equality of ideas in the public square,” even when those ideas may be disagreeable to society at large.”

As always Richard - thank you for your quick access to background information. My man has been long familiar with TRI and its deep pockets. I am just beginning my journey into the hell of research.

I do not think a classroom should contain materials unrelated to teaching the subject at hand. No pictures of your family, sports equipment, or stuffed animal toys. I don’t think any distracting material is appropriate and don’t remember my teachers having any. Except for a bottle of perfume on a desk that was accidentally knocked over by a student who caught Hell! And the picture of George Washington on many walls and I spent way too much time wondering why the artist didn’t finish it and why the school hung an unfinished portrait of the guy – see what I mean about distracting?

The Rutherford Institute’s roots are in part in Christian Reconstructionism–among its founding Board of Directors were Howard Ahmanson, Jr., a major funder of the Discovery Institute, and R.J. Rushdoony of the Chalcedon Foundation, also funded (at least formerly) by Ahmanson. Rushdooney was a prominent proponent of Christian Reconstructionism.

These are christofascist theocrats. Rushdooney is the founder of xian Dominionism and Howard Ahmanson was one of his acolytes and financiers.

Rushdooney’s theocratic fantasy involves overthrowing the US government, setting up a theocracy, and killing roughly 297 million Americans, 99% of the population.

These are not nice people. Rushdooney was a psycopathic loon. He was also a prominent wingnut xian theologian and Pat Robertson’s mentor.

bcseweb.org Rushdooney: Our list may not be perfect but it seems to cover those “crimes” against the family that are inferred by Rushdoony’s statement to Moyers. The real frightening side of it is the interpretation of heresy, apostasy and idolatry. Rushdoony’s position seems to suggest that he would have anyone killed who disagreed with his religious opinions. That represents all but a tiny minority of people. Add to that death penalties for what is quite legal, blasphemy, not getting on with parents and working on a Sunday means that it the fantasy ideal world of Rushdoony and his pals, there will be an awful lot of mass murderers and amongst a tiny population.

We have done figures for the UK which suggest that around 99% of the population would end up dead and the remainder would have each, on average, killed 500 fellow citizens.

Chalcedon foundation bsceweb.org. Stoning disobedient children to death.Contempt for Parental Authority: Those who consider death as a horrible punishment here must realise that in such a case as ….cut for length Rev. William Einwechter, “Modern Issues in Biblical Perspective: Stoning Disobedient Children”, The Chalcedon Report, January 1999

Some more information on Rushdooney and the Chalcedon foundation. Their big thing is biblical law, which has around 20 capital crimes. These include what are today, noncrimes including heresy, apostasy, idolatry, atheism, being gay, adultery, breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, and being a disobedient child. It’s a good example of a fundie xian death cult.

The Chalcedon foundation has serious discussions on such trivia as just how disobedient your kid has to be before you stone him to death.

Sigh. When you are violating the human rights of others, you have to do it on your own time. Not during the time you are representing the SECULAR STATE.

That was Freshwater’s mistake. He decided to violate the human rights of his students, for years, during his time of representing the State.

It was both illegal and immoral and there is no defense. Even if I were a Christian, I would find it repulsive because I know my version of (from when I was growing up) Christianity is far different than the one he is purported to practice. So much so that if we weren’t in a secular state where our religious freedoms are protected from a neutral position, we’d be killing each other off as heretics.

Something that, btw, did happen in this country. Even to some of the siblings of my ancestors.

Show the math or shut up.

This kinda sounds like the state of Georgia putting a sticker inside their biology texts warning students/readers not to take the contents regarding evolution seriously, no?

…working on a Sunday…

OOPS!

Working on Sunday = OK.

Working on Saturnday (the actual Sabbath) = DEATH.

They really need to get their dire penalties straight before some deity (Ninhursag would be my choice) comes and beats the tar out of them.

If you ever do write a book (and it can be a small book, a lot of NCSE type books are small, and not novel-y), you should call it “The Thing That Would Not Die.”

Although, the good people of Mt. Vernon might think I mean Freshwater, not the undead monster that’s the Freshwater case. Anyone know how much money Freshwater’s already cost the school? Have insurance premiums gone up? What legal fees weren’t covered. Are we looking at at least a milliion, just like Kitzmiller v. Dover?

Because if it ever gets to that level, I’m calling it as a tactic - intimidation by lawsuit, successful or sucidal. Let us teach creation (or at least “evolution bad!”) or we’ll run down your budget for the next year or two.

Marion Delgado said:

Because if it ever gets to that level, I’m calling it as a tactic - intimidation by lawsuit, successful or sucidal. Let us teach creation (or at least “evolution bad!”) or we’ll run down your budget for the next year or two.

They’re like bargain-rate mafiosos: instead of all of your money, they just want your school district’s budget, and your children’s souls.

And the best part is that your children aren’t get any science education, either.

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