Freshwater: The Rutherford Appeals Court Brief

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As I noted in October, 2011, John Freshwater’s termination by the Mt. Vernon City Schools was appealed to the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. That court denied Freshwater’s request for additional hearings and ruled that “…there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Board of Education’s termination of Freshwater’s contract(s) for good and just cause,…”.

Subsequently, the Rutherford Institute announced that it would support Freshwater’s appeal of the Common Pleas Court’s decision to the Ohio 5th District Court of Appeals. Now the brief supporting that appeal is available on NCSE’s site.

The brief purports to be from R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s lawyer, “in conjunction with The Rutherford Institute.” Having read way too much of Hamilton’s prose over the last three years, I’d say that Rutherford Institute staff wrote the brief and Hamilton’s main contribution was to sign it.

More below the fold

The brief makes four basic arguments.

Teaching “alternative theories” is OK

The first argument of the brief is that teaching about alternative scientific theories is justifiable and appropriate, and that’s all Freshwater did. The brief argues that “The fact that one competing theory on the formation of the universe and the beginning of life is consistent with the teachings of multiple major world religions simply does not transform good teaching practice into a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause” (p. 10). It argues that for Freshwater to “simply [inform] students of various alternative theories without regard to those theories’ religious or anti-religious implications” (p. 10) was an appropriate pedagogical practice in a public school science class. Consistent with Freshwater’s claim that he taught “robust evolution,” this argument translates to ‘Creationism is a valid scientific alternative to evolution, and therefore it’s OK to teach it in the public schools.”

Throughout this argument, the brief refers to multiple “theories”–it refers to “popular alternative theories” (p. v); “various alternative theories” (p. 10); “competing theories” (twice on p. 10); “alternative theories” (p. 12, p. 14); “alternative origins of life theories” (p. 14); and “widely-accepted theories on the origins of life” (referred to as consistent with “the views of multiple world religions” on p. 14). All the references are attempts to represent Freshwater’s presentation of creationist materials as “a permissible and valuable pedagogical exercise” (p. 15) in a middle school science classroom.

But of course Freshwater didn’t teach “various alternative theories.” As the record in the administrative hearing and his public statements show, Freshwater presented various creationist critiques of evolution, period. This argument on the part of the Rutherford Institute is a disingenuous attempt to bamboozle the appeals court into sanctioning a long-discredited creationist tactic: ‘teach the evidence against evolution,’ which Freshwater thinks is “great evidence”.

Freshwater had a free speech right to teach “alternative theories”

The second main argument of the brief is that the termination violated Freshwater’s First Amendment right to free speech, calling academic freedom a subsidiary right of that Constitutional protection. The brief goes on to argue as though academic freedom for a middle school teacher is tantamount to the right to teach whatever damn fool notion the teacher might wish to introduce in class. The brief says, “While these concepts have been expounded in a variety of factual contexts, the High Court has extrapolated from them a specific, First Amendment-based right to academic freedom that applies in the public school context.” The brief goes on to say “The official suppression of ideas is precisely what the Board has undertaken in this case, and its action is thus utterly repugnant to the First Amendment and the Board’s own policies,…”. A flat earther could make exactly the same argument.

At base, the Rutherford brief re-argues part of Rodney LeVake’s failed argument, and it should fail here for the same reasons. LeVake,like Freshwater, argued that requiring him to teach evolution and to eschew teaching so-called evidence against evolution was unconstitutional, violating both his free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment. LeVake’s suit was dismissed by the federal district court in a summary judgment which was upheld by the federal appeals court, and his appeal to the Supreme Court was declined by that court. Both the free speech and free exercise arguments for teaching creationism in public schools have been rejected by federal appeals courts. Freshwater is essentially arguing that he has a free speech right to teach whatever glop he wishes if he only calls it an “alternative scientific theory.”

Insubordination

The brief argues that Freshwater was not insubordinate in refusing to remove all religious articles displayed in his classroom. It reclassifies the poster depicting George W. Bush and Colin Powell praying as a “patriotic” display, and argues that the Bible and “Jesus of Nazareth” book that Freshwater brought into his room and placed on his lab table after he was instructed to remove religious materials were merely a couple of library books that happened to be in his room.

The brief claims that it is “nonsensical for the Board to terminate a teacher’s employment based on the presence of school library books in his classroom” when Freshwater displayed a second Bible and a book titled “Jesus of Nazareth in his classroom. But by collapsing the chronology of the appearance of those two books–Freshwater brought them into his room after he was instructed to remove religious materials–the brief misrepresents Freshwater’s defiance. It ignores testimony that Freshwater knew that refusing to remove religious materials would be considered to be insubordination, according to Principal William White’s testimony cited in the Referee’s recommendation (pdf).

Religious animus the motivation for termination

The brief ends its argument by alleging that Freshwater’s termination was the result of religious animus against him, that “each and every cited basis for the decision was connected to the religious faith for which Freshwater had become infamous as a result of the rumors and speculation that stemmed from the sensationalized Tesla coil incident.” In fact, Freshwater has claimed in public statements that he has been targeted for removal ever since his 2003 proposal to adopt the Intelligent Design network’s “Objective Origins” policy (see, e.g., this Thumb post. The link in the post is now dead, and I don’t recall where the interview was–possibly Bob Burney’s radio program.) Somewhere in this rural, conservative, and heavily churched (59 identifiable churches) school district, with a Nazarene University, the district headquarters of the 7th Day Adventist Church, and two parochial schools, somewhere there’s a cabal of anti-Freshwater activists sufficiently powerful to infuence two different school boards (2003 and 2011) strongly enough to get John Freshwater fired. Sure, and if you buy that I’ve got a bridge for sale, cheap.

There’s another explanation for the fact that the various bases for termination were related to Freshwater’s religious beliefs: He was incapable of operating in a public school science classroom without allowing those sectarian beliefs to influence the content he taught. He found it impossible to teach science as it is, but rather imported into his classroom a range of anti-science and anti-evolution materials having their origin in clearly fundamentalist Christian dogma.

I recommend the Board’s termination resolution for the complete story on why Freshwater’s teaching contract was terminated and for comparison to the Rutherford Institute’s highly selective and cherry-picking misrepresentations.

62 Comments

I don’t understand.

Besides that all of those arguments do not fly at all, why isn’t the fact that he branded children not the #1 issue.

Seriously that’s child abuse. Case closed. Of all the times where “think of the children” is abused why in the name of all that is sane is it not mentioned here?

Did I misunderstand the case? I thought the cross (Or X if you prefer) was visible on the children arms for some time?

I am not trying to minimize the fight against creationism but it seems that the priorities are a bit off. Or do I just misunderstand the whole thing?

All I can gather is Freshwater really enjoys wasting money. First he has wasted all his own for no good reason. He then went on to cost his school district and their liability carrier millions and now he is happy to cost all of the taxpayers in his state millions, again for no apparent good reason. Freshwater surley is a fine example of Christian conservatism.

So now he admits to teaching creationism and is trying to say that it’s just fine to do so. Great. So that means he was lying when he claimed he didn’t teach creationism. Of course, he is also lying now and will continue to lie in the future. After all, he is desperate to preserve the morals of the young children. What a role model.

It just never ends.

I get a 404 error on the second link above (“Rutherford institute announced”) at

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_[…]ticle_id=972

DS said:

So now he admits to teaching creationism and is trying to say that it’s just fine to do so. Great. So that means he was lying when he claimed he didn’t teach creationism. Of course, he is also lying now and will continue to lie in the future. After all, he is desperate to preserve the morals of the young children. What a role model.

It’s not a lie if you lie with Jesus in your heart, just as it’s not a sin if you sin with Jesus in your heart…

Nevermind that the Bible said that Jesus hate hate hate hates such behavior to begin with.

I would love for the court to ask Freshwater to describe the alternative theories he taught, and what source materials he used to teach them. If he thinks they’re legitimate, he has no reason not to simply describe them. Of course, he’ll lie, but it never hurts to put yet another inconsistent statement of his on the record.

I am not a lawyer, so I have a few questions:

1. I don’t recall the details of his administrative hearing but I assumed he testified. If he did, he admits in this briefing that he perjured himself during the original hearing. If the original hearing was a trial, he would be in legal trouble. Has he caused himself any legal trouble in this case?

2. If this was an appeal of a trial verdict, he would only be able to argue an error was made during the trial which hindered his ability to defend himself. But it appears he is trying to retry his case by bringing up new arguments. Is that permissible?

3. What First Amendment rights do teachers have in the classroom? I would assume they are required to teach any subject to a certain curriculum standard. I don’t see how a teacher can ever invoke a First Amendment right while teaching core curriculum subjects. During classroom instruction time, they are either teaching the subject or not doing their job.

The Bible is just a library book that happened to be in his room? I guess the Bible is only religious when you want it to be, and not when you don’t! Just like ID itself.…

alicejohn said:

3. What First Amendment rights do teachers have in the classroom? I would assume they are required to teach any subject to a certain curriculum standard. I don’t see how a teacher can ever invoke a First Amendment right while teaching core curriculum subjects. During classroom instruction time, they are either teaching the subject or not doing their job.

As far as I know, you can not legally invoke your First Amendment rights to excuse yourself from doing the job you are contractually obligated to perform, nor are you allowed to invoke your First Amendment rights to infringe upon other people’s rights or wellbeing.

In other words, if you got a job as a taste-tester at Mary’s Porkchop Emporium, management is within their legal rights to fire you if you convert to Islam and adhere to halal rules.

And, you can not legally invoke “freedom of religion” if you exercise your religious freedoms by turning your classroom into a captive audience to preach religious propaganda at.

Leszek said:

I don’t understand.

Besides that all of those arguments do not fly at all, why isn’t the fact that he branded children not the #1 issue.

Seriously that’s child abuse. Case closed. Of all the times where “think of the children” is abused why in the name of all that is sane is it not mentioned here?

Did I misunderstand the case? I thought the cross (Or X if you prefer) was visible on the children arms for some time?

I am not trying to minimize the fight against creationism but it seems that the priorities are a bit off. Or do I just misunderstand the whole thing?

With such weak arguments it is indeed hard to see what meaningful results Rutherford and Freshwater are trying to achieve especially as Freshwater is easily discredited as a witness. It almost appears they are trying to fail - are they that stupid or do I misunderstand the situation??

Roger said: It almost appears they are trying to fail - are they that stupid or do I misunderstand the situation??

They are creationists…they really are that stupid.

What First Amendment rights do teachers have in the classroom?

There is no First Amendment right to teach whatever you want in a public school. If you are contracted to teach science, you are supposed to teach science.

This defence has been tried before and it failed rather quickly. Some social sudies teacher in Indiana (??) decided to teach the kids creationism because he was a kook and claimed it. It didn’t work.

Religious animus the motivation for termination

All of their claims are bogus. But this is probably the most outrageous. Chances are, the vast majority of the school district people involved were…xians. They do make up 76% of the US population.

With respect, there are other explanations than stupidity.

I agree, simple stupidity often suffices. After all, I have been dealing with people like Byers and Biggy here for some time, and they really are stupid. How much of this is nature and how much is nurture - the propensity creationists have for crippling their own intellect to defend their values - is moot, though.

Because they’re not all stupid, and in some of the aspects of their intellect they’re not deliberately self-destructive. The essential fact that must be understood about them, incredible as it may seem, is that they know they’re right.

They know they’re right on a level far more profound than the rational. That’s why rational argument, facts and evidence simply make no impression on them at all. Those things are entirely irrelevant before their certain knowledge that they’re right.

And not only irrelevant. Contrary facts and opposing evidence simply doesn’t exist. As one of our little crosses, Athenoclast, has shown over and over, it’s perfectly possible for the brighter ones to read a scientific paper and draw from it a conclusion exactly opposed to that of its authors after peer review, and when this fact is pointed out, to simply behave as though those very words do not exist.

So it’s impossible for Freshwater and his cohorts to believe that there is no court that is going to vindicate him, because he knows he’s right. He’s been unfortunate so far to meet with people who do not recognise God’s truth as he does, but sooner or later he will find an upright judge who will rule according to the plain rightness of his case. It cannot occur to him that his prevarications and flim-flam on the stand will cause any judge to throw him out of court. Such minor quibbles are completely immaterial. He was right. That’s all that matters.

And he can hold that attitude while being perfectly able to reason on other matters. He is not necessarily stupid or self-destructive, even though his actions in this matter are plainly stupid and self-destructive.

This is definitely not promoting Christianity or at least faith anymore. For instance, I read this and thought “Please God, make it stop!” and He did not appear and stop it. Just very disappointing all around.

This is the case that never ends It just goes on and on, my friends Someone started it not knowing what it was And they’ll go on litigating it forever just because This is the case that never ends ,,,,

Roger said:

Leszek said:

I don’t understand.

Besides that all of those arguments do not fly at all, why isn’t the fact that he branded children not the #1 issue.

Seriously that’s child abuse. Case closed. Of all the times where “think of the children” is abused why in the name of all that is sane is it not mentioned here?

Did I misunderstand the case? I thought the cross (Or X if you prefer) was visible on the children arms for some time?

I am not trying to minimize the fight against creationism but it seems that the priorities are a bit off. Or do I just misunderstand the whole thing?

With such weak arguments it is indeed hard to see what meaningful results Rutherford and Freshwater are trying to achieve especially as Freshwater is easily discredited as a witness. It almost appears they are trying to fail - are they that stupid or do I misunderstand the situation??

What we have to realize is that to the people “in the trenches”, like Freshwater, these ARE compelling arguments in their side’s favor. While us in the PT community see this as a case of “trying the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”, they see it as patiently waiting for a righteous judge to come and vindicate their faith.

The more sophisticated anti-evolutionists at in places like DI, ICR, etc., know this isn’t going to work, but they do share the hope that one judge can change the game in their favor, so they don’t go into the spasms of embarrassments one might thinks they would over cases like this.

Their manifestation of the craziness is that they expect that there is out there some sort of lipstick they can put on the pig that will have the legal system fall in love with some version of anti-evolutionism as science. After that, its Wedge, Wedge Wedge, right back to 1066.

dpr

I think Dave Luckett is right: Clowns like Freshwater know they’re right, with all the faith and fervor with which they know that baby Jesus loves them. In addition, one cannot discount the possibility that they are fully aware of the exorbitant amounts of money which go into these kinds of legal proceedings – and they regard these grossly excessive costs as a feature, not a bug. After all, the more money a school district is forced to pour down the rathole of a case like this, the less money is available for the district to spend on teaching evilutionary lies, right?

Flint said:

I get a 404 error on the second link above (“Rutherford institute announced”) at

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_[…]ticle_id=972

Flint, try this link

It is not clear to me whether Rutherford is asking for money from Freshwater. After all, it should be pretty clear to them that he has none. And if they’re doing it pro bono, he’d be stupid not to appeal.

More speculation here…IMO their announcement makes it sound like they are really pushing the academic freedom angle. While that has never worked in the past, this may be an indication of a long-term, multi-case strategy by conservative christian legal organizations to shop around courts until they find one that buys it, just so it can be appealed up to the Supremes.

IOW RI may be using Freshwater, rather than the other way around.

eric said:

Flint said:

I get a 404 error on the second link above (“Rutherford institute announced”) at

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_[…]ticle_id=972

Flint, try this link

It is not clear to me whether Rutherford is asking for money from Freshwater. After all, it should be pretty clear to them that he has none. And if they’re doing it pro bono, he’d be stupid not to appeal.

More speculation here…IMO their announcement makes it sound like they are really pushing the academic freedom angle. While that has never worked in the past, this may be an indication of a long-term, multi-case strategy by conservative christian legal organizations to shop around courts until they find one that buys it, just so it can be appealed up to the Supremes.

IOW RI may be using Freshwater, rather than the other way around.

I sure hope so. It would be great if Freshwater took this all the way to the Supreme Court. What better way to show the public what religious fundamentalists are trying to get get away with in this country. Every teacher teaching creationism would be out on notice that this kind of crap isn’t going to be tolerated. The case would be a sure loser. WIth the history and testimony on file, Freshwater cannot possibly be vindicated by any court anywhere. Let the religious bigots use him all they want to. They are just whipping a dead, smelly, lying horse.

If by some miracle the Supreme Court did rule in his favor, that would mean the end of science in this country. At least then the fundamentalists would get what they asked for. In that case, I think I would learn Chinese and move real fast. Freshwater could stay behind and die from lack of fresh water, what irony.

eric said:

Flint said:

I get a 404 error on the second link above (“Rutherford institute announced”) at

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_[…]ticle_id=972

Flint, try this link

It is not clear to me whether Rutherford is asking for money from Freshwater. After all, it should be pretty clear to them that he has none. And if they’re doing it pro bono, he’d be stupid not to appeal.

More speculation here…IMO their announcement makes it sound like they are really pushing the academic freedom angle. While that has never worked in the past, this may be an indication of a long-term, multi-case strategy by conservative christian legal organizations to shop around courts until they find one that buys it, just so it can be appealed up to the Supremes.

IOW RI may be using Freshwater, rather than the other way around.

Rutherford is dead wrong in this case, but they are eccentric rather than hard core mainstream right wing (sometimes work with ACLU), and it is my impression that they genuinely represent their clients pro bono. Taxpayers still have to pay for the other side, though.

I am cautiously optimistic here. The main problem with the case is that, as has been documented on this site repeatedly, the Rutherford Institute does not seem to be working on the case that they think they are working on.

As noted above, Freshwater was not teaching “alternative theories”, he did not necessarily have the right to teach “alternative theories” that are not in the curriculum (*this in isolation is the least ridiculous argument in the brief, of course; a teacher fired for actually mentioning a valid alternative theory could have a strong case, but that isn’t at all what happened here, so it doesn’t apply*), and he was insubordinate.

The “religious animus” bit is especially funny, because, if I recall correctly, Freshwater previously argued (probably correctly) that other teachers were allowed mild Christian displays*. Another example of his contradictory claims. “It’s not fair that I was fired because other people are allowed to be religious, no wait, it’s not fair that I was fired because I was fired for being the only religious one”. And of course, his religion is essentially the same as that of the majority of the community.

(*As I’ve noted before, I strongly support the right of teachers to openly hold spiritual beliefs, if done in a way which carefully avoids any confounding of the teacher’s personal views with the curriculum, and which does not conflate, in the minds of students, a teacher holding a personal view with state favoritism for that view.)

ncse.org:

Webster et al. v. New Lenox School District et al. (Full title: Ray Webster and Matthew Dunne, by and through his parents and next best friends, Philip and Helen Dunne, Plaintiffs, v. New Lenox School District No. 122 and Alex M. Martino, and as Superintendent of New Lenox School District No. 122, Defendants)

In 1987, Ray Webster and Matthew Dunne sued the New Lenox School District of Illinois, as well as Alex Martino, the district superintendent. Webster was a junior high school social studies teacher in that district, and Dunne was one of his students.

After complaints about proselytizing in his class, Webster had been advised by the district to refrain from religious advocacy in his teaching, and in particular to refrain from teaching creation science. In the suit, Webster argued that he had a first amendment right to determine his own teaching curriculum, and that it was necessary to teach creation science in order to balance pro-evolution statements in the social studies textbook.

Dunne, for his part, argued that he had the right as a student to hear about creation science in school.

On May 25, 1989, US District Judge George Marovich dismissed their complaint, ruling that Webster could not teach creation science without violating the first amendment, and that the district had a right to require Webster to teach within its established curriculum framework. Marovich also ruled that Dunne’s desires to learn about creation science in school were outweighed by the district’s interest in avoiding the violation of the estalishment clause or other students’ first amendment rights. Webster appealed, but on November 6, 1990, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court decision.

All the legal documentation available to us for this case is provided at the bottom of this page. It is arranged in chronological order.

There is a lot of case law on the First Amendment issue. Freshwater will lose and probably in a summary judgement.

Here is one case from the National Center for Science Education, the good people who are part of the Reality Based Community.

(*As I’ve noted before, I strongly support the right of teachers to openly hold spiritual beliefs, if done in a way which carefully avoids any confounding of the teacher’s personal views with the curriculum, and which does not conflate, in the minds of students, a teacher holding a personal view with state favoritism for that view.)

Out of curiosity, why do you support this? A public school teacher’s job is to teach the subject matter in accordance with the approved curriculum. There is no pedagogical benefit to allowing personal religious displays and such could easily make children with different beliefs feel excluded or unequal, in the eyes of the teacher, to their peers who share the teacher’s beliefs.

patrickmay.myopenid.com said:

(*As I’ve noted before, I strongly support the right of teachers to openly hold spiritual beliefs, if done in a way which carefully avoids any confounding of the teacher’s personal views with the curriculum, and which does not conflate, in the minds of students, a teacher holding a personal view with state favoritism for that view.)

Out of curiosity, why do you support this? A public school teacher’s job is to teach the subject matter in accordance with the approved curriculum. There is no pedagogical benefit to allowing personal religious displays and such could easily make children with different beliefs feel excluded or unequal, in the eyes of the teacher, to their peers who share the teacher’s beliefs.

I would suggest that “personal religious displays” is not synonymous with “openly hold spiritual beliefs”. If the latter were not allowed, can you imagine the fun all those narrow-minded extreme Protestant bigots would have hounding Catholic teachers who dared to openly attend mass on Sunday?

Leszek said:

I don’t understand.

Besides that all of those arguments do not fly at all, why isn’t the fact that he branded children not the #1 issue.

Seriously that’s child abuse. Case closed. Of all the times where “think of the children” is abused why in the name of all that is sane is it not mentioned here?

Did I misunderstand the case? I thought the cross (Or X if you prefer) was visible on the children arms for some time?

I am not trying to minimize the fight against creationism but it seems that the priorities are a bit off. Or do I just misunderstand the whole thing?

I can understand PT and RBH emphasiing the “creationism” part because the rest is off-topic here. But it seems that that has been the emphasis for both prosecution and defense too, which I find as mind-boggling as you do. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that misleasing students about evolution does more long-term harm than the minor burn, but there are, and ought to be, clear laws against physical abuse, so I’m amazed that this was not settled immediately.

BTW, even though Freshwater comes across more as a severely-compartmentalized Biblical literalist rube than, say, a DI fellow who seems to know that he is deliberately misleading his audience, Freshwater apparently knows well enough to keep it all about “weaknesses” of evolution, and omit any details of his own “theory” whereby students can see where the real weakesses lie. I understand that church-state issues are necessary to keep ID/creationism out of public school science class, but I for one see more than enough reason to ban them even if they did not violate the Establishment clause.

patrickmay.myopenid.com said:

(*As I’ve noted before, I strongly support the right of teachers to openly hold spiritual beliefs, if done in a way which carefully avoids any confounding of the teacher’s personal views with the curriculum, and which does not conflate, in the minds of students, a teacher holding a personal view with state favoritism for that view.)

Out of curiosity, why do you support this? A public school teacher’s job is to teach the subject matter in accordance with the approved curriculum. There is no pedagogical benefit to allowing personal religious displays and such could easily make children with different beliefs feel excluded or unequal, in the eyes of the teacher, to their peers who share the teacher’s beliefs.

Just a guess, but Harold was probably talking about letting teachers say grace before meals (in public) and other such displays. While having nothing to do with science pedagogy, I think letting kids see that reasonable adults can switch between “personal hat” and “represent the state hat” without Freshwater’s problems is an excellent lesson. It teaches them that people can keep personal and professional conduct separate, and directly undermines fundie claims that one’s personal religious beliefs “must” be allowed a voice in one’s professional conduct. It also gives the kids an example of how mature adults handle such context-based differences.

Frank J. said: I can understand PT and RBH emphasiing the “creationism” part because the rest is off-topic here. But it seems that that has been the emphasis for both prosecution and defense too, which I find as mind-boggling as you do.

The school district did not fire him for burning students, so his appeals have no reason to bring it up. You can boggle at the school’s decision to drop that matter, but once it was made, there was simply no reason for Freshwater to contest the fact that they dropped it.

Kevin B said:

patrickmay.myopenid.com said:

(*As I’ve noted before, I strongly support the right of teachers to openly hold spiritual beliefs, if done in a way which carefully avoids any confounding of the teacher’s personal views with the curriculum, and which does not conflate, in the minds of students, a teacher holding a personal view with state favoritism for that view.)

Out of curiosity, why do you support this? A public school teacher’s job is to teach the subject matter in accordance with the approved curriculum. There is no pedagogical benefit to allowing personal religious displays and such could easily make children with different beliefs feel excluded or unequal, in the eyes of the teacher, to their peers who share the teacher’s beliefs.

I would suggest that “personal religious displays” is not synonymous with “openly hold spiritual beliefs”. If the latter were not allowed, can you imagine the fun all those narrow-minded extreme Protestant bigots would have hounding Catholic teachers who dared to openly attend mass on Sunday?

At the risk of going off topic, I want to respond to this – the distinction between “openly religious” and “having personal religious displays” is important.

I am a professor at a public university. I am also openly Christian. Some of my undergrad students might know this (it’s never been a point of discussion in or out of class). Some, perhaps all, of the graduate students in my research group know I’m Christian – it’s been a topic of several mutually enjoyable and enlightening discussions with with some of my Muslim students.

Anyone who knows who I am can see my religious affiliation by looking at publicly accessible information (for example, on Facebook), and I’m willing to discuss my beliefs with people who ask as long as it’s outside the classroom. (There are already precious few instructional hours and I can’t afford to waste any of them with off-topic discussion.) I neither hide nor advertise my faith in my workplace. I don’t have a Bible in my office. I don’t wear religious symbols as jewelry. I don’t invite students to church events.

I judge this all to be within the bounds of proper behavior, and were I to become a high school teacher in a public school, I would follow the guidelines. Were I to write a math textbook with a creationist Appendix and require my students to use the book for a class I taught, or to use my university web page to promote my religious beliefs, I think that would cross a line. YMMV

Richard Hoppe:

In fact, Freshwater has claimed in public statements that he has been targeted for removal ever since his 2003 proposal to adopt the Intelligent Design network’s “Objective Origins” policy (see, e.g., this Thumb post. The link in the post is now dead, and I don’t recall where the interview was–possibly Bob Burney’s radio program.)

I just looked at the transcript I did at the time:

http://fascistoar.blogspot.com/2010[…]nscript.html

I think Richard is right:

Freshwater:

Started, I believe, in 2003. At that time President Bush did No Child Left Behind policy came out and Santorium[sic] out of Pennsylvania senator there he attached to No Child Left Behind policy the, the, to critically analyze evolution. I, I was studying it very closely through the years I’m kind of watching the process of all this and at that time I brought a proposal to the school board to critically analyze evolution. And I followed the Administration’s steps that they wanted me to follow and I went to the science, science committee and then I, it did - didn’t fly there and so I asked the principal at that time his name was Mr. Kuhns and he said, well, take it to the school board, so I proceeded to go to the school board, that would be my next step.

Burney:

So this was following the guidelines of federal legislation.

Freshwater:

Yes, yes, yes.

Burney:

Okay. Alright.

Freshwater:

And it - we worked through the process, it took two, three months and was very, it was very outspoken then. It was, a lot of people showing up at the meetings, hundreds were showing up there, and giving their..

Don Matoilyak:

Support of you, John.

Freshwater:

Thanks, pastor. In support there was a, it was, it ended up not passing, and all I wanted to do was critically analyze evolution. And I was tagged then, I believe, and let’s use the word that they used on me, branded, that was the word that they you know they attached onto me, I’ll use it, I was branded and at that time and,

Burney:

Even though, even though I don’t want, and we’ll back up because I want to make sure this is clear, you were asking the school board to follow federal guidelines in the No Child Left Behind legislation

Freshwater:

Yes, Mmm hmm.

Burney:

Okay

Freshwater:

At that time it was a 10th grade standard to critically analyze evolution in biology at the 10th grade and I was trying to bring it down to the lower grades and be able to critically analyze evolution. And at that time there was some letters to the editor some different things out there and they started branding me some religious freak, you know, they sort of attaching onto me oh he’s trying to teach creationism, he’s trying to teach intelligent design, and no I don’t teach creationism, I don’t teach intelligent design, just let’s examine evolution, and let’s look at evolution and what’s out there, what, what are the facts out there with evolution, what does the scientist, dig em up, and let’s examine them, let’s use the scientific method.

So that, that was the beginning of it

Flint said:

I get a 404 error on the second link above (“Rutherford institute announced”) at

http://www.rutherford.org/articles_[…]ticle_id=972

Hm. That link seems to have gone dead. Wonder why–it was good for me when I wrote the earlier post, and also for NCSE when it posted its story.

The alternative link given above has a good summary, also from the Rutherford Institute.

marion.delgado said:

Richard Hoppe:

In fact, Freshwater has claimed in public statements that he has been targeted for removal ever since his 2003 proposal to adopt the Intelligent Design network’s “Objective Origins” policy (see, e.g., this Thumb post. The link in the post is now dead, and I don’t recall where the interview was–possibly Bob Burney’s radio program.)

I just looked at the transcript I did at the time:

http://fascistoar.blogspot.com/2010[…]nscript.html

I think Richard is right:

Many thanks!

Professor Bob Altemeyer, psychologist, has studied the authoritarian personality for 30 years and gives the best explanation of the fundy Christian mindset that I have ever read. He has made his book available on PDF file:

http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeye[…]itarians.pdf

His writing style is quite conversational and makes for an enjoyable read.

RBH: “Sports programs require parental consent. That was not the case here.”

BTW, PE classes, which typically involve sports activities, do NOT require parental permission. Instead, participation is required for graduation, AFAIK, in most states. And injuries way more serious than the so-called “branding” are not uncommon. My personal score was one cracked tailbone (excruciating), and one broken finger (just inconvenient). But I still mostly enjoyed PE.

And thanks so much, RBH, for all your time and effort in following and summarizing this Kafka-esque nightmare for us!

RBH,

You might be interested to know that there is a debate going on between some enlightened citizens and Freshwater’s No. 1 fan Sam Stickle.

http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Def[…]x?id=1493088

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 14, 2011 4:27 PM.

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