Freshwater: A Sad Footnote

| 33 Comments

In a Columbus Dispatch story we learn that John Freshwater has recently sold his home and small farm to pay legal costs associated with his effort to retain his job as a middle school science teacher in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. That saddens me. While I disagree vehemently with the various shenanigans in his classroom described during the 38 days of administrative hearing on his termination, it gives me no pleasure at all to know that Freshwater is no longer on his land tending to his apple trees and evergreens and selling apples and Christmas trees in town in their season.

33 Comments

As ye sow, so shall ye reap?

I don’t get any pleasure from it either and I’m not about to make a snarky comment about it. However, he has nobody to blame but himself.

The sad fact is (and sadder for many others) that you need to have a home you can sell, or the monetary equivalent, if you hope to end up in a half-decent retirement home. So this is not just a matter of sentimental attachment to his home, it is a potentially serious matter later on.

On the scale of people deserving of sympathy, I’d put Freshwater rather lower than the taxpayers of his district and the children to whom he misrepresented science.

Obviously, he really didn’t have to hire a lawyer to contest the issues in which he really was and is at fault. He brought the cost of legal representation upon himself, and he appears to have spoken less than the full truth in various hearings.

Naturally, he didn’t wish to be without a decent income, which presumably is why he incurred his legal fees. However, he is likely to lose in the end simply because he did misuse his position, and to end up without a decent income as well as the equity he had built up.

He has cost relatively innocent people a good deal in misplaced trust and in legal costs. One may well feel sorry for him somewhat, yet what matters more is that he has done wrong and cost others a rather large amount due to wrongful actions that he initiated.

Glen Davidson

Think of Freshwater the same as we (well, I) think of Amy Winehouse: it’s very sad, but ultimately they were both fools who brought about their own downfall.

I tend to agree with Glen. I’m not convinced that people with ideologies that are totally out of touch with reality, and who engage in premeditated wars against others at great expense and inconvenience to those others, really deserve the same degree of sympathy as those they have harmed.

If I am not mistaken, Dover and every school district or state board of education that have been dragged down this path by ID/creationists have paid the price with taxpayer money. The ID/creationists have usually managed to foist the costs of their attacks onto those they attack.

There were other players egging Freshwater on who have themselves escaped any of the pain yet continue to wallow in a whiny persecution complex while suffering no financial loss whatsoever.

Ultimately, Freshwater was duped by bellicose sectarianism. But presumably he was supposed to be an adult; and I would find it hard to believe that he never was exposed to the laws forbidding the use of secular institutions to advancing sectarian dogma.

I still think the pain of sectarian attacks on secular society should be borne only by the sectarians themselves. If this incident sends that message, so much the better.

So, if there is any sympathy that could be extended to Freshwater, it would be that he was taken in by constitutionally protected sectarian fraud. Let others take a harder look at sectarianism.

Sorry, but I will be snarky.

“A fool and his money are soon parted”

While I agree in general with Glen and Mike, I’d much prefer it if the outcome was Freshwater tending his farm to pay his legal bills and unable to teach, rather than the other way around.

I don’t feel any joy in this news. But there are degrees of sympathy, and because Freshwater willingly initiated the events that inevitably lead to this situation, he’s hardly in the same category as someone who lost his home in an unpredictable earthquake or something.

His stated determination to return to “teaching” and repeat exactly the mistakes that put him where he is now, is what bothers me. Teacher, educate thyself.

And the good lord didn’t save him from this? He must belong to NOT EXACTLY the right fundamentalist church!

Or no, wait…he’s being given a “cross to bear”. Yeah, that must be it.

Just Bob said:

And the good lord didn’t save him from this? He must belong to NOT EXACTLY the right fundamentalist church!

Or no, wait…he’s being given a “cross to bear”. Yeah, that must be it.

This kind of “logic” comes up so often when someone goes through rough times.

A dumb kid sets off a pipe bomb on a playground, and another child sitting on a swing on the far opposite side of the playground gets a fragment of the pipe bomb embedded in her brain.

Someone’s father suddenly dies of a heart attack.

A severe storm blows a tree down onto a house.

And then a fundamentalist neighbor comes up with “comforting” words like, “Oh bless you, God must be testing your faith.”

He didn’t learn the First Rule of Holes.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is…stop digging!!!

Lots of people miss this one.

It’s a bit predictable, if dismaying, that his coreligionists haven’t done much for him. Automartyrdom isn’t all it’s reputed to be.

And the good lord didn’t save him from this? He must belong to NOT EXACTLY the right fundamentalist church.

More likely his propaganda value is almost over with.

There must be any number of private xian schools in the area. They could hire him on, which is exactly where he belongs.

They didn’t do it.

Seems like martyrs are good, but the best ones are someone else.

“Oh bless you, God must be testing your faith.”

??? Why would he bother? Isn’t their god supposed to be omniscient? He should already know that!!!

Freshwater knew that he was risking a lawsuit when he made his classroom a place of worship, so to speak. He knew that losing a lawsuit would cause risk to his personal fortunes and holdings. Yet he decided to not only continue in clear violation of the rules, he did so in a “in your face” manner. He lied and misled, well knowing that if his lies were believed, then someone else’s money would be forfeited, or if they were found out, then it would cost himself the money. Yet he decided to lie by his own free will. Freshwater further knows inside that god doesn’t answer him when he prays, and he knows that there is not sufficient evidence for the god he proposes, yet he continues to put his stock in with the other religious con artists. For such a dishonest and mean man, I think he came out way too well. I would have preferred prison time for him.

He can raise $40,000 (undoubtedly tax free) a pop for talking to teabaggers. He’s starting capitalize on his infamy and I’m not feeling sorry for him at all. http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com[…]01/107260301

anonatheist said:

He can raise $40,000 (undoubtedly tax free) a pop for talking to teabaggers. He’s starting capitalize on his infamy and I’m not feeling sorry for him at all. http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com[…]01/107260301

I read that as Matolyak claiming that $40K total has been raised, not $40K on that occasion. The latter would be ridiculous from 60 people–$666/head average in a collection bucket? Not a chance.

raven said:

“Oh bless you, God must be testing your faith.”

??? Why would he bother? Isn’t their god supposed to be omniscient? He should already know that!!!

No, no! Part of God’s favorite pastime is putting temptations in front of people and “testing their faith”–so that he can send more of them to hell. Or to keep heaven from being so crowded. Or so that he had to kill Jesus (who was really himself, [suicide]), so that a few people who believe in special creation can be “saved”. Or something.

Richard B. Hoppe said: – $666/head average in a collection bucket?

“Charitable Donation Of The Beast.”

Freshwater gambled his fortunes on the next life. He’s convinced he’ll be getting the last laugh, though, and be justly rewarded like a faithful and obedient lapdog of the Lord. Even if he could go back and change things I doubt that he would. And I guarantee you he spends his fitful nights fantasizing over the ecstatic glee he will experience in Heaven when he can finally look down upon the eternal misery of all of his detractors. He appears about as repentant as Kent Hovind, and I don’t pity the fate of that man either. Freshwater remains monstrous even to me now.

If he were smart, he would invest some of that money into a Winnebago and take his story on the fundy Christian lecture circuit. Night after night, he could stand before a congregation and explain how the evil atheists stole his farm because he believed in God, and then wait as a collection hat was passed around on his behalf. The World Net Daily has been portraying John Freshwater as a modern day martyr who got in trouble because he kept a bible on his desk, so the dupes in the audience have already been primed.

It is a very serious matter.…

Religionists are willing to have you (you/me/anybody) suddenly accept as a guiding principle of life something that is (a) probably bogus and that (b) they have accepted on grounds more feeble than that supporting Lysenko-ism.

They are willing to do so because it *only* costs *you* your capacity to look clearly at the world. It costs the “christian” nothing, he’s already in the club and enjoys positive feedback on “conversions” due to his “witness”.

If a so-called “christian” is not willing to risk his personal prosperity on the validity of the grounds of each “conversion” he effects, what is it worth?

Perhaps some sort of examination is in order. “are you a christian for good reasons or because *it sounded good*?”

What penalty is due a person in a position of trust for burning crosses in the skin of people too young to give legal consent to such procedures?

I have no great amount of sympathy for freshwater. The more christians get burned inappropriately propagating their religion, the fewer will do so, as they are *not* the stuff of martyrs.

Rusty

At the individual I agree with RBH. It is a sad situation.

At the societal level, I have mixed feelings. I had a similar experience once when I saw a homeless man shouting anti-government Tea Party slogans.

For many years, the Joe the Plumber types have been relatively protected by their not-the-very-bottom status, and the reality denial impacted on someone else’s reality.

At this point, it’s hard to think of a scientific or basic economic issue on which the Theocracy/Tea Party types don’t deny basic reality.

At some point, the chickens come home to roost. They will continue to roost mainly on the impoverished elderly, children, marginalized and disabled.

It is only when the perpetrators, or enough previously non-marginalized people, begin to feel some real consequences, that this rampaging trend of reality denial will finally begin to subside.

If Freshwater is ultimately rewarded for what he did, it will become a national trend. If he breaks even, it continue to be a problem that pops up fairly frequently. If he ends up genuinely worse off, then some others might think twice.

I strongly agree with Midnight Rambler. The ideal situation would have been that he was removed from the classroom by professionally competent supervision, that ethics would have prevented any attorney from taking a case in which he is so clearly in the wrong*, and that he would have retained his apple trees but not any ability to cheat the taxpayer by preaching sectarian dogma as science. Unfortunately, we can only hope for a second best income.

*The Rutherford Center is eccentric but often on the decent side of things for one reason or another. Their involvement, although of course I condemn it, did not cost Freshwater any money, and focused on what seems to have been a legitimate technicality. While I condemn both, this does contrast with the behavior of Hamilton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutherford_Institute

i’m happy that freshwater cops a degree of the fallout, but i too feel sad. even though he was widely rated as a good science teacher, freshwater is clearly far from very bright. knowing a bunch of facts and being able to teach them is not the same as having philosophical talent or being as squarely in the “should have known better” category as some would claim. my real anger is at the churches who confidently peddle bullcrap to people who don’t understand that they don’t have to listen. there are millions of victims with varying degrees of similarity to freshwater, and the most evil culprits are people like dembski and behe, and also history “scholars” like lee strobel and josh mcdowell, who know very well they haven’t answered their critics as thoroughly as they pretend they have when they’re gloating to trusting believers

I’m sorry, but I really can’t find any sympathy here. Not only were Freshwater’s actions wrong and harmful, he is totally unrepentant about the whole thing. He states in the Mansfield paper article:

Now it is down to the Constitutional issue of whether Christian beliefs are inappropriate in a school setting, Collier said.

“I want my job back,” Freshwater said. “I want my Bible put back on my desk. And I’d like to be able to critically analyze evolution.”

And his new legal team is taking the same approach. From the Columbus Dispatch article:

“Religious freedom is considered the first freedom,” said Rita Dunaway, staff attorney for the institute. “A big factor in the reason we got involved in this case … is that it looks like a lot of what happened to Mr. Freshwater dealt with him expressing his beliefs.”

As for allegations that Freshwater taught creationism over evolution, she said, “I think it’s a great teacher who encourages his students to think critically about everything they are taught.”

IIRC, Freshwater previously argued that he didn’t teach creationism or promote Christianity in the classroom. But now it seems he’s admitting that not only did he do both, he believes he was right in doing so and wants an opportunity to do it again. All that plus the amount of taxpayer monies the district spent on this whole fiasco, and the long-term damage he did to countless students makes it very, very hard for me to feel any sympathy for Freshwater at all.

Let’s see… he harmed young people, while bullying them with lies that he knew had no place in the classroom. He fought a court case that harmed his kids, his school, and the place he lived, and attempted to extort money by adding on more lies.

And he has learned nothing, as far as any comment he has made or action he has taken can show.

My pity for such a man is very, very cool at best, even abstract. I pity him for being unable to entertain a thought that his beliefs and actions absolutely deserve not simply bankruptcy, but much more, and for likely blaming others who have acted in the most balanced manner for the hole he dug and stands at the bottom of.

Fill it in, already.

eamon.knight, The two situations are not even remotely comparable. Shove it where the sun don’t shine.

A much better reckoning of Winehouse’s problems.

http://www.iwf.org/inkwell/show/25243.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100[…]4135712.html

eamon.knight said:

Think of Freshwater the same as we (well, I) think of Amy Winehouse: it’s very sad, but ultimately they were both fools who brought about their own downfall.

Calm, folks. Thanks.

Richard, you’re a far more charitable man than I. While it likewise brings me no real pleasure to see JF lose his farm and home, I’m flat-out lacking any real sympathy. What I DO find surprising is that the national christianist community didn’t organize a fund drive to pay his legal bills. It seems like they have mighty deep pockets when it comes to fighting science education or gay rights. I guess they collectively decided to take the Mother Teresa approach, which is that poverty and suffering are good things that bring us closer to gawd. Maybe they need martyrs more than they desire to actually help one of their own. I think pastor Don should do some serious soul searching. He won’t find one, but it bears suggesting.

“Let’s you be a martyr…”

Richard B. Hoppe said:

anonatheist said:

He can raise $40,000 (undoubtedly tax free) a pop for talking to teabaggers. He’s starting capitalize on his infamy and I’m not feeling sorry for him at all. http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com[…]01/107260301

I read that as Matolyak claiming that $40K total has been raised, not $40K on that occasion. The latter would be ridiculous from 60 people–$666/head average in a collection bucket? Not a chance.

I agree that would be an awful lot of money from 60 people! He’s still not getting an ounce of sympathy from me.

Maybe Answers in Genesis will bail him out !

Ian Derthal said:

Maybe Answers in Genesis will bail him out !

Hey, you know, they could hire him as a live display! They could put him in a diorama with a Bible on his desk, explaining to animatronic kids when to say “Hear!” Then he could bless them with cute crosses from his Holy Tesla Coil. A really mean-looking administrator (with horns) should be spying on him from the corridor.

It is sad indeed that Freshwater was tossed like the baby in the bathwater..without due process. Having to mortgage oneselves future instead of having the right to fight without having a flea market with his livelihood just seems wrong in so many ways. When I was Paintless Dent Removal tech, I went through something similar, and came out smelling like a rose, luckily. But, I didn’t sell the farm as Freshwater is being forced to do.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on July 25, 2011 6:12 PM.

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