Science Teacher John Freshwater Fired December 31, 2009

Science Teacher John Freshwater Fired

***Update***: It was correctly pointed out to me that the main link for this article is a year old. The information is accurate, but outdated. My fault for thinking it was recent news.

Thanks to Ed for letting me know!

John Freshwater is the 8th grade science teacher from Mount Vernon, Ohio who was all sorts of fundamentalist:

  • He refused to remove a personal Bible from his classroom
  • He preached his Christian beliefs in the classroom
  • He denounced evolution
  • He didn’t teach the proper science curriculum
  • He burned crosses onto the arms of some students, “causing swelling and blistering”
  • He said that homosexuals were sinners
  • He kept the Ten Commandments on the door of his classroom until he was finally forced to take it down
  • He gave his students extra credit if they saw the movie Expelled and completed an assignment explaining “why it is important to examine this objectively and not let bias affect your observations.”

This is not a man who should be involved in the education of young minds. He was incompetent in the one area in which he had to teach students.

Thankfully, after more than a year of discussing him, he has been fired.


High-school science teachers told consultants that Freshwater’s teachings were undermining science instruction in the district. They reported having to re-teach scientific concepts to students who took Freshwater’s class.

Complaints about Freshwater’s teachings were made by teachers and people in the community for at least 11 years, a school administrator told consultants. Freshwater has taught eighth-grade science in the district for 21 years.

In Mount Vernon, the public debate over Freshwater is reflected in signs on the road, one saying that if the school board made Freshwater remove his Bible from his classroom, the community would get rid of the school board.

“It saddens us that we’re at this point,” said Mary Lou Sinzinger, a Freshwater supporter. “This God-fearing community is one of the reasons we moved here.”

I don’t know how Christians could defend a man like this. They cling so strongly to their beliefs, they don’t care when he harms students or breaks the law, as long as it’s done in the name of their personal god.

Not every Christian supported him, obviously, but enough to make you worry about the education these students will be getting.

At least they can now get someone in the classroom who might know a thing or two about science.

(via Deep Thoughts)

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  • Woody Tanaka

    “I don’t know how Christians could defend a man like this.”

    You give the answer in the next sentence: “They cling so strongly to their beliefs, they don’t care when he harms students or breaks the law, as long as it’s done in the name of their personal god.”

  • David D.G.

    Finally, indeed! It’s high time he got fired, and then some. This man, for at least the last 11 years, has not been a “teacher,” but merely a demagogue masquerading as a teacher, insidiously perverting and undermining the very subject he was supposed to teach.

    He should consider himself lucky that being fired is his only serious consequence so far. He should also have been brought up on charges of child abuse/assault for burning crosses into the arms of his students.

    ~David D.G.

  • numsix

    ….Mary Lou Sinzinger, a Freshwater supporter. “This God-fearing community is one of the reasons we moved here.”

    Why would you fear a god of love and forgiveness?
    Me thinks the sky faerie is multiple personality; and a psychopath.

  • Trace

    Did Mary Lou have her arm burned?

  • It’s amazing how laws and human treatment are not an issue when it comes to defending another christian.

    But then again, isn’t that basis of many stories in the bible?

    Par for the course. At least this guy got fired for not doing his job.

  • Freshwater burned crosses onto the arms of some of his students and told them that gays are sinners, the school board said in a resolution the five members passed unanimously yesterday after meeting privately to discuss the results of an investigation.

    Freshwater’s actions became public in April after he refused to remove a Bible from his desk. Yesterday, his attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, focused on the Bible in characterizing Freshwater as a victim who’s being denied his Constitutional right to practice his beliefs.

    Does practicing his beliefs require Freshwater to inflict bodily harm onto his students? This man should be arrested, not just fired.

  • Jonas

    I wonder if there are former, or ‘liberal’ Christians speaking out against this man, and his actions – both ‘anti-science’ and abusive against children.

    Mary Lou’s “God Fearing” Reaction displays such a stereotypical ignorant attitude it makes me wonder if Christians can think for themselves at all.

  • DemetriusOfPharos

    numsix mentioned this already, but I have always found the phrase “god-fearing” incredibly confusing. Many times I have heard Christians talk about feeling the love of their “God” only to hear many of those same people talk about “fearing” that same “God”.

    These types of Christians conflate love and fear, and many times confuse respect and fear. These are all separate concepts and somebody really ought to help these poor people understand that.

    A thought just occurred to me, one I may have brought up before; this “relationship with ‘God'” strikes me as a very abusive relationship. Much like a battered woman (or man, pardon the gender-typing) these Christians somehow fear and love their captor and no matter how much psychological abuse they suffer at the hands of their “God”, they keep coming back for more.

  • Philbert

    I’m suspicious of the branding accusation, just because I’ve seen similar stories turn out to be fake so many times. For example, I suspected right away that an Obama-voting Zorro did not really carve a “B” onto Ashley Todd’s face before the election. More recently, there was a similar case in Switzerland where a woman claimed that skinheads scratched fascist slogans onto her body, but it turned out to be fake as well. Then there was that census worker who was found hanged with “fed” written on his body. The investigation concluded that it was likely suicide, made to look like murder.

    I’m not saying that this guy is innocent, just that accusations of “branding” raise a red flag with me. I hope the lawsuit gets to the truth of the matter.

  • Philbert: There’s not much of a question here, the guy admitted to it. He tried to claim it wasn’t too bad and was really an X when the photos were clearly of a cross. There were also witnesses to it happening in front of the entire class.

  • Trace

    Comment at DT:

    “THe electrostatic device that you say he used to “brand crosses into students arms” was mearly a science demonstration. the cross was really an x and was to show at what point the electricity would pass into the body. as for it leaving any mark at all or causing severe lasting pain; that is total bull. Yeah it hurts and shocks a little at first but thats what electricity does.”

  • Philbert

    Thanks, Noadi and Trace. I did some digging via the DT links, and found more information. I am now more creeped out that it took a year to fire this guy.

  • The Other Tom

    Frankly, if he had burned a cross into me, my father would have put the fear of something a heck of a lot more real than God into him. And I had childhood friends whose fathers would, I think, have started the discussion by simply breaking the idiot’s arm. He should count himself lucky that he did what he did and got away unharmed.

    Firing this guy should have been step one. What I want to know is, why he isn’t in jail for injuring children.

  • David D.G.


    Your skepticism is understandable, especially since, as you point out, several similar-sounding incidents did not pan out.

    However, please note that I was not calling for Freshwater to be lynched or otherwise punished without due process; it would remain for a judge and jury to weigh the details of the case. But multiple accusations of such branding have been brought, along with some credible evidence and testimony (including Freshwater’s own words), that would seem to justify charges and a trial.

    EDIT TO ADD: Ah, I see that more has transpired while I was writing.

    ~David D.G.

  • “why it is important to examine this objectively and not let bias affect your observations.” If he was a real science teacher, critical thinker, he probably wouldn’t be a believer. Good for the students of that community.

  • JimboB

    A year?! It took them a year to decide to let this guy go after the branding incident?

    This guy was supposed to be a science teacher, not a science suppressor.

  • Erp

    They fired him June 2008. Freshwater is appealing and that process is still going on. Latest on Tuesday was that he surveyed students on whether religion was important to them.

  • Richard P

    Okay, so he is not working there as a teacher anymore. Probably will have a hard time finding another teaching job……..

    The scary part….
    What the hell is he going to be doing now?

  • fletchka

    Richard P
    Don’t they want to open a creation museum in Ohio? I’d love to know if Ken Ham would hire someone who abuses children for god.

  • Angie

    This man clearly needs a psychiatric evaluation, if what we’re hearing is true.

  • fletchka

    Oops the “museum” is just outside Ohio. However the original point stands, I’m sure this guy is more than qualified to work at the “museum”.

  • Jeff B

    I live in Cincinnati, real close to this “museum”

    There are road signs along 275 advertising the “museum” with a dinosaur coming off the sign. This is in reference to the fact that they think Noah had dino’s on board the arc. They even have a statue of Adam (yeah…that one) with a saddle riding one.

    It’s both hysterical and really fucking embarrassing at the same time

  • IMO, the first list item, “He refused to remove a personal Bible from his classroom”, is not something he should have been required to do. However, the other seven list items should have got him booted out as soon as they were noticed. Burning crosses on kid’s arms? Why, oh why? That should have been enough.

    He had a bible. So what? So do I. It’s the best weapon against dogma that I have.

  • My thoughts as I read this:

    * He refused to remove a personal Bible from his classroom

    Meh, I’ve seen worse.

    * He preached his Christian beliefs in the classroom

    Okay, that’s more the kind of thing that would bother me, but still not *too* crazy. More like just really annoying.

    * He denounced evolution

    Don’t really care, as long as he teaches the curriculum correctly…

    * He didn’t teach the proper science curriculum

    …so yeah…

    * He burned crosses onto the arms of some students, “causing swelling and blistering”

    That’s….okay, wait, what now?! That’s completely insane! How did he not get fired the *first* time this happened?

    * He said that homosexuals were sinners

    That’s really just petty douchebaggery; yeah, it sucks and I would call him on it, but it’s nothing I don’t see or hear every day already. Doesn’t exactly surprise me.

    * He kept the Ten Commandments on the door of his classroom until he was finally forced to take it down

    Meh, it’s been done. Freshwater missed the boat on this particular attempt at martyrdom.

    * He gave his students extra credit if they saw the movie Expelled and completed an assignment explaining “why it is important to examine this objectively and not let bias affect your observations.”

    Okay, yeah, I’m glad he got fired 😀

  • What’s going on? I think there may be a mistake, your link to “voted to fire him” is from June of 2008. I’ve been following this fairly well and don’t think it’s over yet.

  • J B Tait

    Shouldn’t one fear one’s God only if they have sinned? The honest, upright, commandment-obeying would not, should not, have anything to fear from their God, if he is a just God.
    Thus I would not want to live in a God-fearing community as it would be full of sinners.
    Or I would not want a god who saw fit to terrorize the good citizens along with the evil ones.

    But to qualify for a real estate certification, I had to answer a personality quiz and one of the questions was: Are you God-fearing?
    I count myself among the innocent (though of course I am imperfect), so even if there were a just and loving God, I would not fear Him, only try my best to be moral and ethical. I had to either lie, or fail a test of honesty.

    They also asked: Are you good at math?
    I wanted to answer “no” because I struggle with advanced tensors. My classmate answered yes because she could balance her checkbook.

    Some people believe a phrase means something it does not because they have heard it misused so often.
    And some questions cannot be answered as stated. For example: Have you stopped beating your grandmother yet?

    This has changed, however, since then, especially after following The Friendly Atheist for a while. Now I really ~am~ God-fearing. I fear what people do because they believe they know what their God wants them to do. I fear what is being taught in the name of God. I fear the God culture and the harm that comes from it. I fear the people who claim to speak for God. I fear the stupidity of those who claim that their God (or His Word as published in their Bible) trumps reality. I fear Islam and their version too. Any group who can perpetrate evil acts in the name of a god or his will makes the very concept of god a fear-filled one.

    So let us have a town full of atheists and then we can say it is also a God-fearing community.

  • muggle

    A year doesn’t surprise me. My ex was arrested for several counts of child molestation. It took 18 months of plea bargaining before jail and he was still getting visitation with his toddler son. (I’m trying not to judge the mother of my daughter’s half-brother but I for the life of me can’t understand how she would allow that. There isn’t a law on the books that would have gotten me to turn my daughter over to him once I learned he was a perv.)

    It’s amazingly horrendous what you can get away with doing to kids. They’ve very few rights. Ever notice that when you see a person charged with child abuse on the news, the kid’s usually already dead if they’re the parent? Teachers, coaches, babysitters, preists, etc. have usually had some kind of sexual relationship with them? And if the sicko having sex with a teen is a woman, it’s not treated seriously?

    For all the threats of taking kids away, they rarely do unless the abuse is utterly horrible and blatant. They have to be raped or murdered or within an inch of either. It’s depressing.

    The thing is — this I learned when my daughter accused her father — the innocent until proven guilty thing, in the case of child abuse, is a tough hurdle to overcome. To have physical evidence, the abuse has to be extreme. My daughter couldn’t testify against her father because, in NY at that time, a child had to be 10 to do so because the theory was that they could be coached. Now I ask you, who can lie better? A three year old or a 10 year old?

    As for the “God” fearing thing, my former rabbi told me that it meant more to be in awe of him rather than quake with fear. Even as he said this, I thought well this must be one of the differences between Christianity and Judaism because that’s sure not how I was raised. I was supposed to love “God” while trembling in fear of what he would do to me if I sinned.

    Pretty twisted. I think DemetriusOfPharos pretty much has it called. Rather an abusive relationship.

  • Michael

    It sounds to me that being Christian must EQUATE with being STUPID!!!!

  • Baconsbud

    Micheal I don’t equate christians with being stupid, I equate christians as being willfully ignorant.

  • Brian Macker

    Hal lay Lew, ya!

  • I went to Mount Vernon Middle School and had John Freshwater as a teacher (1998-1999). A lot of the issues involved at in this case came after I was a student. Also, I was still in my “Youth Group” phase at that point, so a lot of his points of view don’t stand out TOO strongly, because they probably coincided with mine at the time. That being said…

    He was an intimidating person. He had some sort of device that would give a shock (different than the one that made the crosses) and he would make different students touch it and would not take no for an answer. There was no lasting damage done, but as a timid 13-14 year old it was quite scary.

    Also, he taught evolution from a “this can’t possibly be correct” standpoint. I remember walking away from class thinking that no rational individual would ever endorse evolution. Fortunately, my stance has since changed, but his teaching was harmful in these areas.

  • RBH

    I’ve been blogging this at Panda’s Thumb for nearly two years. This search will find all the posts.

  • I have a friend who got an “F” on an assignment to write about a book by a Lesbian advocating homosexuality. The terms of the assignment had a directly implicit requirement to speak his views on the subject, so he did. This is a published book writer and newspaper reporter who in a fair evaluation would have gotten an A every time.

    The teacher told him he “didn’t understand” what they were trying to say. In this case he went against principles and rewrote to her pleasure and got an “A”.

    That kind of thing is rampant in university academia.

    My freshman high school biology teacher, first class, blasted every Christian’s religion in the class as he emphatically stated he would not tolerate dissent to darwinism, ever.

    If it’s religious freedom to suppress offense to atheism, why is it religious freedom to promote offense to a religious assertion under color of science?

    Especially such an unsupported re-invented ancient pagan dogma like darwinism.


  • Hemant Mehta,

    Mr Freshwater has not been fired—he was placed on unpaid leave back in the summer of 2008. The hearing is still in progress. It is possible that Mr. Freshwater will be reinstated as a teacher.

    The allegation of the burn is at most just an allegation. Actually, it was an issue that was officially resolved by the school in January 2008. (See my article “Tesla Coil Matter Was Officially Resolved January 2008.”)

    As far as his teaching abilities go—Mr Freshwater’s students met and exceeded state standards on the OAT test. (See my article “Re-teaching John Freshwater’s Ace Students.”)

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