MOUNT VERNON — Dave Daubenmire, president of Pass the Salt Ministries, was the first witness called when the contract termination hearing for suspended Mount Vernon Middle School teacher John Freshwater resumed on Wednesday.
Daubenmire, upon questioning by Freshwater attorney Kelly Hamilton, talked about his teaching background and an ACLU lawsuit against him for, among other things, praying with his London High School football team. He said that suit was settled out of court and the Ohio Department of Education cleared him of most of the charges except for quoting Scripture and praying with the football team.
Daubenmire said he had limited contact with Freshwater before Freshwater took Daubenmire’s religion in the classroom class at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and discussed some of the lessons from the text used in the class.
Daubenmire also talked about his experience as a speaker at middle school Fellowship of Christian Athlete meetings, and testified that students always called to invite him to speak, not Freshwater. He said he did not observe Freshwater leading prayers at the meetings as Daubenmire would lead them himself.
Daubenmire testified that it was he, not Freshwater, who initiated the rally on Public Square on April 16, 2008. When asked why, he replied, “Because that is what I do.”
Daubenmiere said he wrote the statement that Freshwater read that day, and explained how he got involved. He said Freshwater had called him early that morning to say that school officials were asking him to remove the Bible from his desk, and speculated that Freshwater contacted him because of his teaching the religion in the classroom class.
Referencing the text, Daubenmire said he told Freshwater, “No, you don’t have to take your personal Bible off your desk. ... When I told him ‘I am not going to let this happen,’ John [Freshwater] was hesitant. ... It was my press conference. It was my press release.”
Daubenmire also testified it is his opinion that it is not only all right for teachers to talk about Easter and Good Friday in class, but it is their obligation to do so. He referred to the social, cultural and historical impact Christianity has had on the world, and said there is a difference between teaching about religion and actually teaching religion.
“The foundation of our country is Christian,” Daubenmire said. “It is a religion, but atheism is a religion and secular humanism is a religion and they are taught in school.”
John Fair was the second witness and answered questions about why he was at the rally April 16, 2008. He said he had run into Freshwater at G.R. Smith’s Hardware that afternoon and said Freshwater told him “Daubie” was on the square and might like to see him.
Fair also refuted claims by Daubenmire that Fair had made statements about the Bible on the desk situation, and confirmed on cross examination that it was Freshwater who said, “This is unbelievable.”
The final witness of the day was Tim Keib, former assistant and interim principal at Mount Vernon Middle School. He talked about teacher performance evaluations, the procedure for the teacher observations and reviewed a handful of reports he had done on Freshwater.
“John worked very well with students with disabilities and also challenged kids with higher cognitive abilities,” Keib said. “He wasn’t the best technical teacher, but he was one of the best overall because of his rapport with kids. He inspired them to be life-long learners.”
Keib was expected to resume the stand when the hearing reconvened this morning.