Ohio’s Supreme Court upheld the firing of an eighth-grade science instructor who taught creationism instead of evolution to his students.
The court issued a 4-3 ruling Tuesday that agreed with an appeals court and the trial court that teacher John Freshwater had failed to comply with orders to remove religious materials from his classroom.
The court said that was enough to spur Freshwater’s dismissal, so it didn’t even need to rule on whether the teacher impermissibly imposed his religious views in the classroom.
“We recognize that this case is driven by a far more powerful debate over the teaching of creationism and intelligent design alongside evolution,” the court noted in its decision. “(But) here, we need not decide whether Freshwater acted with a permissible or impermissible intent because we hold that he was insubordinate, and his termination can be justified on that basis alone.”
The minority disagreed, writing in their opinion that Freshwater had been “singled out by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education because of his willingness to challenge students in his science classes to think critically about evolutionary theory and to permit them to discuss intelligent design and to debate creationism in connection with the presentation of the prescribed curriculum on evolution.”
But the majority opinion suggested that the dissenters had improperly credited Freshwater’s claim that he didn’t teach intelligent design or creationism and discounted ample evidence to the contrary.
Freshwater was fired in 2008 after a family sued Mount Vernon Schools and the teacher, who they accused of engaging in inappropriate religious activity in the classroom.
After two years and testimony by more than 80 witnesses, who said the teacher decorated his classroom with Bible verses and branded a Christian cross onto a student’s arm with a high-voltage coil, the school board fired Freshwater in January 2011.
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