John Freshwater Still Causing Trouble in Ohio January 19, 2010

John Freshwater Still Causing Trouble in Ohio

The New York Times has an update on Ohio teacher John Freshwater, the public school teacher who doesn’t even try to keep his Christian beliefs to himself, opting instead to hinder their education with it:

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

But no one is denying that he shares his Christian beliefs with students, telling them the science they learn is incorrect and they should look to the Bible for “real” information.

“Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

That should not be happening in a public school. You should have to pay good money at a private school to get corrupted at that level.

This man has no business being in a classroom. He’s just wasting taxpayer money by keeping this issue going when he ought to know that he crossed a line many times over.

Thankfully, a few Christians are well aware of this:

The family of Zachary Dennis, one of the two students who say they were branded by Mr. Freshwater, said they were eager for the matter to be closed. “We are religious people,” Jennifer Dennis, Zachary’s mother, said in an interview. “But we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child.”

After teachers and students criticized Zachary for speaking up, she said, the family sold its house and moved.

“We are Christians,” she said, “who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

Let’s hope the jury has enough sense to keep this man away from children who deserve a proper education.

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  • Epistaxis

    This man has no business being in a classroom.

    Naw, he just needs to go to a private school. The pay’s probably better anyway.

  • Valdyr

    Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher

    “Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying

    How did this…why would…

    I think I just felt brain cells die.

  • Matt D

    Clearly the guy shouldnt have a job on the basis that he is teaching outside the curriclum – forget that it happens to be Xian woo.

    If he were a geography teacher who insisted the world was flat he wouldnt be fit to teach, so how can he get away with this bullshit in science.

    it’s like Hemant telling his kids that 2+2=5.

    My fundie wife wanted to send our 2 kids to the school run be her church, but I simply refused to move from my position. It’s bad enough that she teaches that crap to my kids, but I dont want it reinforced at school.

  • JD

    Where is the prosecution charge of child abuse? Has it even been investigated? Seems like he’s being protected. If he’s really deliberately exposing children’s flesh to Tesla coils, I’d suggest that he’s not only unfit to teach, it’s not safe to have him physically near children/teens.

  • Alec

    “Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

    In honor of this statement, I’ll post another with the same amount of relevancy between the two things.

    My bed cannot understand calculus because there is snow on my roof.

    Thank you, that is all.

  • My bed cannot understand calculus because there is snow on my roof.

    It all makes perfect sense now Alec, thanks!
    I read that NY Times article. The quotes from the teacher’s supporters are a frightening example of how extreme christians will turn anything into an attack on themselves. On the other hand, some believers are on the side of, well, the law. I wonder if we’ll see more infighting in the believer’s community.
    .-= SeanG´s last blog ..The Future You Were Waiting For part 2 =-.

  • Has anybody considered the possibility that this guy is insane? Seriously, if he were teaching in a more secular community he’d be in a 72-hour hold.

  • Neon Genesis

    How did this guy even become a science teacher if he doesn’t even think science is true in the first place? Who gave him a degree in teaching?

  • Matto the Hun

    Religion, the “Get Out of Jail Free” card of life.

  • I’ve been following this case via Richard Hoppe’s posts at Panda’s Thumb. IIRC the current litigation is an administrative action to confirm Freshwater’s firing. It’s astounding (I know, it shouldn’t be) how much flat-out lying this servant of the God of Truth has been doing. Ditto his lawyer, and a few of the witnesses in Freshwater’s favour.

    Re, the brave new updated comment system: how come I see a link below this box, for the latest post on my blog? This thing auto-links to whatever the commenter just blogged? Cool!
    .-= Eamon Knight´s last blog ..Origin of Species: The Chick Flick =-.

  • Alice

    BURNING crosses onto students? Why isn’t that the main focus here? I mean… what? Is this even in English? BURNING?! Who is encouraging this guy?

  • Indigo

    I’m still struggling with the fact that teachers get canned for patting their students on the shoulder in some places, yet this guy BURNED his and there’s still debate about whether or not he should go.

  • That was my reaction, too. And the parents are “offended”? That’s it? How about shocked, appalled, outraged…?

    Obviously the anti-science religious nonsense is, well, nonsense–but what really concerns me is the physical harm to students.
    .-= twaddleoranything´s last blog ..In Which I Find An Excuse To Devote An Entire Entry To Law & Order: SVU =-.

  • The sad part about all of this is that if he hadn’t burned a cross into a couple of students’ arms he would probably still be teaching Creationism in his science class. It scares me to think how many more teachers like him are out there.
    .-= Iason Ouabache´s last blog ..The Known Universe =-.

  • Claudia

    Sorry, but I still can’t get my head wrapped around this. He burned a cross on his students arms? Forget creationism, that’s child abuse dammit! I don’t care if he was teaching the very best science classes and every one of his students excelled in evolutionary knowledge, he should be a- fired and b-prosecuted.

    Of course there should be a presumption of innocence, however as trials take some time, if there is at least some credible reason to believe allegations may be true, the teacher should be given a position not in contact with students until the court decides.

    Mind you, just saying “science is wrong” and that kids should go to the Bible for their science and proclaiming homosexuality a sin and a choice (must have been fun for the gay kids in class listening) warrants being fired all by itself, but its all overshadowed by physical abuse.

  • RPJ

    I really don’t understand. Surely even the most hardcore religious districts in the US could not protect him from charges of criminal child abuse if the accusations of burning crosses are correct. That’s not even a matter of religion, any more than murder or rape. I’m with Alice – his religious views shouldn’t even be relevant at this point.

  • @JD and Alice
    I agree, he should be in jail for child abuse…
    .-= dantresomi´s last blog .. =-.

  • Jude

    “it’s like Hemant telling his kids that 2+2=5.”

    Actually, it would be more like Hemant telling his kids that “Math is wrong.” 😀

    (Come to think of it, that would make a good Malibu Stacey soundbite!)

  • turkey

    I can’t believe he actually burned crosses into children’s arms. It’s like a parody of Christianity a la an atheist version of Jack Chick.

  • Gabriel

    See the burning has always been the biggest part of the story to me. When the mother says they were offended I can’t believe how subdued the response is. I would be furious. I would have pressed criminal charges and a civil lawsuit against him and the school. I would have requested a restraining order that would require the teacher to keep 1000 feet from my child. I would have been after the school administration to make sure non of its teachers would dare bother my child. And, in all likelyhood I would have beaten the crap out of this guy and paid the fine for the class C misdemeanor assault. He used a weapon to burn my child. That is felony assault.

  • littlejohn

    If this guy were advocating any religion or philosophy other than christianity (atheism or islam, e.g.), he would already be on death row.

  • Claudia

    Freshwater’s preacher gives some indication of just how much of a fundie he is:

    Miles away, Mr. Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, posited that the criticism of Mr. Freshwater was part of a larger trend toward bigotry against Christians.

    Yes, because you can just feel the bigotry towards Christians in America. I mean, everyone knows that Christians are a minority, and that being overtly Christian effectively disqualifies you from elected office. Seriously, I’d love to understand just where these people get their martyr complex from.

    “If he had a Koran on his desk, he’d be fine and no one would say a word to him,” Mr. Matolyak said. “If he had ‘Origin of Species’ on his desk, they would celebrate that.”

    Oh I’m betting that a Koran would go down fine…sure, just ask any visible Muslim in America how people don’t dare object to them.

    Comparing Origin of Species to the Bible is the icing on the cake. I really think that this pastor, and probably this teacher, truly cannot see a difference between a science teacher having a religious text on his table and a science teacher having a scientific text on his table.

    Those poor kids…

  • Alex

    The people we should be championing are the family of Zachary Dennis. They do their religion the way we want everyone to do it – in private. I wish they would have stood up for what they believe instead of running. I don’t know how they would feel about support from the atheist corner, but they should get it. I don’t want to hang Mr. Freshwater but I want him to know the legal boundaries and his obligations as a teacher, or I want him to go somewhere where he can be a nutcase without endangering anyone but himself.

    On a sidenote, the story makes clear that Freshwater claims he did not intend to burn crosses on to his students. True or not, we can’t really say. (Is there any testimony from the students?) But if it were a simple case of no one denying the intent, we would probably have a clearer case of willful abuse and an easy dismissal of a lunatic. There is, however, a strong undercurrent of a religious community waffling about attacking one of their own, even if they might all agree in private that he is BSC.

  • Oh my heck!

    If anyone from any background burned my child for any reason, I would lose it. Whether he intended to burn them or not. What the hell was he doing so close to a childs arm with something that could harm them? Does he have no regard for safety either?

    Unforgivable. If my child comes home from school and tells me that her science teacher told her to reference the bible for science, wow… I’d be one livid parent. The bible was written before the age of science, I would LOVE for someone to show me ONE bit of science in the bible.

    I have yet to see a modern day Christian persecuted for their beliefs. Especially in a country that is like, what, 78% Christian? (that number is from Wikipedia).

    I’d have shot him. Probably in the kneecap. But that’s just me; I still have lingering anger issues from childhood. 🙂

  • RBH

    Alex wrote

    The people we should be championing are the family of Zachary Dennis. They do their religion the way we want everyone to do it – in private. I wish they would have stood up for what they believe instead of running.

    They have stood up for what they believe, to the point that their children were taking shit in school from other students and reportedly from at least one coach and one teacher. It was the pressure on their children that led them to leave the district. It’s easy to say one should do this or that, but Mt. Vernon is small–15,000 or so–and full of conservative Protestants (the Dennis family is Catholic), and the social pressures can pretty damned strong.

    And the count is up to three students who have said under oath that Freshwater marked them with a cross. A third student deposed for the federal suit the Dennis family brought against Freshwater told the same basic story as the other two did under oath in the hearing.

  • Alex

    Well, I’m hardly calling the Dennis family sissies for not fighting to the death over it, but it would have been nice to have a focal point for opposition to the strange behavior of Mr. Freshwater.
    In any case, the testimony you link to is less than a slam dunk. It says Freshwater marked students with a ‘cross’ and sent them on telling them it would fade in a couple of weeks. Okay, no “Now you are in God’s army” or “Jesus smiles on you” or anything. If he thought it was slick to sneak Christian crosses onto students, he did it so clandestinely that they didn’t even recognize it. He is undoubtedly a crackpot, but it sounds like he is overall a fairly harmless one. At first I thought he was branding students, not inducing a mild RF burn. Fire him for simply using bad judgment and failing to do his job and be done with it.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Ironically, Elek posted the following web site on :

    This is a Christian fabrication of a science teacher forcing his atheistic belief on his students. Ironic, isn’t it that it is then posted here an actual event where a Christian teacher is trying to force his belief on his students.

  • muggle

    I think I like Jennifer. Well said, Mom.

    But what freaking planet are we living on wherein the victim’s family has to sell their house and move rather than the nutcake teacher physically harming students?

  • Fritzy

    I love Chick tracts! An atheist version would totally rock!

  • Alice said: “BURNING crosses onto students? Why isn’t that the main focus here? I mean… what? Is this even in English? BURNING?! Who is encouraging this guy?”

    A teacher, Lori Miller, who spoke before the Mount Vernon Board of Education back in 2008, about the allegation of the burn, said that she has also allowed students to touch the spark from the Tesla coil without incident: “I have never had a concern or an issue with it and I cannot honesty comprehend how that device can burn an individual as alleged.”

    You can see a video of Miller’s comments on YouTube:

    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.”)

    The federal lawsuit filed by Freshwater against the school board gives some further explanation on this issue (John D. Freshwater, et al vs. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education, et al –Case No. 2:09cv464):

    Under “COUNT 13” “Res Judicata”:

    196. Defendant Board is bound by the principle or legal doctrine of Res Judicata – “a matter already judged”.

    197. Defendant Board’s resolution asserts Plaintiff Freshwater committed actions which include matters previously adjudicated by Defendant Board’s previous administration.

    198. Defendant Board previously adjudicated any and all issues reported to and acted upon or not acted upon by the previous administration.

    199. Defendant Board previously adjudicated all matters reported to the then administration of Defendant Board to include matters reported by: Plaintiff Freshwater, by and through Freshwater’s submitted lesson plans; by and through performance evaluations upon Freshwater; by and through reports to Defendant Weston; by and through reports to former Superintendent Maley, to include the superintendent’s letter to Freshwater dated June 8, 2006; by and through Defendant White’s letter to Freshwater dated January 22, 2008, which was copied to Defendant Short; and other matters.

    200. In the interest of justice and equity, Plaintiff Freshwater cannot be made to answer, defend or contest matters previously affirmed, ratified or resolved by previous administrative actions of Defendant Board and Defendant Board and Plaintiff Freshwater are bound by those determinations Res Judicata from the beginning of or prior to the investigation Ab Initio.

  • Indigo said: “I’m still struggling with the fact that teachers get canned for patting their students on the shoulder in some places, yet this guy BURNED his and there’s still debate about whether or not he should go.”

    The allegation of a burn is very much an allegation. No one has testified in the hearing, other than the Dennis family, of seeing a burn on the arm of Zachary. At least two students have testified that they did not see a burn on the arm of Zachary. When the Dennis family made the original complaint to the school they did not permit anyone to look at Zachary’s arm. The middle school principal testified that he was not even allowed to know the name of the student.

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