On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of an Ohio science teacher who was fired for teaching creationism instead of evolution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced.
John Freshwater taught eighth-grade science at Mount Vernon Middle School until 2011, when the Board of Education removed him after it was revealed that he decorated his science classroom with Bible verses, attacked the theory of evolution, and gave extra credit for attending creationist films.
In 2008, he allegedly used a high-voltage Tesla coil to burn a cross into a student’s arm.
Freshwater sued the school district shortly after his firing, claiming that it had violated his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was dismissed, but Freshwater appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the firing.
In its decision, the majority wrote that “we recognize that this case is driven by a far more powerful debate over the teaching of creationism and intelligent design alongside evolution, [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 Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means that the lower court’s decision will stand.
“This case should serve as a reminder to public school teachers and administrators that classrooms are not churches,” the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a statement. “School-sponsored religious activity is a violation of students’ rights.”