Mount Vernon News

By Mount Vernon News
October 8, 2012 11:52 am EDT


MOUNT VERNON — Several national organizations have weighed in on the John Freshwater contract termination appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Filing amicus briefs on Thursday were The American Humanist Association together with the Secular Student Alliance, Americans United for Separation of Church and State in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League and the National Center for Science Education.


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All three briefs dispute Freshwater’s claims that his students rights, as well as his, were violated when the Mount Vernon school board fired him from his position as middle school science teacher.

“Students do not have a First Amendment right to receive creationist instruction in Freshwater’s classroom,” the Humanist Association brief states. “Teachers do not have a First Amendment right to cause their employer [the school board] to violate the Establishment Clause.”

The Anti-Defamation League brief argues that Freshwater had no right to “subvert” the curriculum or to refuse to obey the school board. It says “Public education in Ohio should not be left to the mercy of competing religious groups fighting over issues of faith.

“Although he [Freshwater] believes himself to have been acting in the service Christianity, his actions disserved both religion and science education by placing matters of faith in competition with science in the classroom. Science instruction need not compete with theology, unless the teacher sets them at odds with one another — which is just what Freshwater did. ... The Constitution does not require school districts to engage in games of Whac-A-Mole with teachers who are determined to keep defying school policy.”

The brief filed by the National Center for Science Education contains references from the National Academy of Science, the American chemical Society, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Ohio academy of Science and the Royal Society, among others.

It gives a history of the opposition of some religious groups to the teaching of evolution, includes a supplement concerning science, evolution and religion and mentions a number of court cases which creationists lost.

The brief states, in part, “Creation science and intelligent design are scientifically unsound, and teaching them as though they were scientifically credible undermines science in the very classroom in which it is supposed to be taught. Misrepresenting to students the validity of evolution or its acceptance in the scientific community, as Freshwater has done in the past and seeks to be able to do in the future, is not science education. It is miseducation.”

“Teaching materials and methods that advance creationism and undermine students’ understanding of the scientific theory of evolution serve no valid pedagogical or scientific purpose and, as a result, the termination of a public school science teacher for teaching creationism was proper.”

Contact Pamela Schehl

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