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Ohio Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Rutherford Institute’s Case of Science Teacher Fired for Urging Students to Think Critically About Evolution

The Kokosing River in Mount Vernon, Ohio

The Kokosing River in Mount Vernon, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio, July 6, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — The Ohio Supreme Court has granted The Rutherford Institute’s appeal to hear the case of John Freshwater, a Christian teacher who was fired for keeping religious articles in his classroom and for using teaching methods that encourage public school students to think critically about the school’s science curriculum, particularly as it relates to evolution theories. Freshwater, a 24-year veteran in the classroom, was suspended by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in 2008 and officially terminated in January 2011. The School Board justified its actions by accusing Freshwater of improperly injecting religion into the classroom by giving students “reason to doubt the accuracy and/or veracity of scientists, science textbooks and/or science in general.” The Board also claimed that Freshwater failed to remove “all religious articles” from his classroom, including a Bible.

 

The Rutherford Institute’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court is available online.

 

“Academic freedom was once the bedrock of American education. That is no longer the state of affairs, as this case makes clear,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What we need today are more teachers and school administrators who understand that young people don’t need to be indoctrinated. Rather, they need to be taught how to think for themselves.”

 

In June 2008, the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education voted to suspend John Freshwater, a Christian with a 20-year teaching career at Mount Vernon Middle School, citing concerns about his conduct and teaching materials, particularly as they related to the teaching of evolution. Earlier that year, school officials reportedly ordered Freshwater, who had served as the faculty appointed facilitator, monitor, and supervisor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes student group for 16 of the 20 years that he taught at Mount Vernon, to remove “all religious items” from his classroom, including a Ten Commandments poster displayed on the door of his classroom, posters with Bible verses, and his personal Bible which he kept on his desk. Freshwater agreed to remove all items except for his Bible. Showing their support for Freshwater, students even organized a rally in his honor. They also wore t-shirts with crosses painted on them to school and carried Bibles to class. School officials were seemingly unswayed by the outpouring of support for Freshwater.

 

In fact, despite the fact that the Board’s own policy states that because religious traditions vary in their treatment of science, teachers should give unbiased instruction so that students may evaluate it “in accordance with their own religious tenets,” school officials suspended and eventually fired Freshwater, allegedly for criticizing evolution and using unapproved materials to facilitate classroom discussion of origins of life theories. Freshwater appealed the termination in state court, asserting that the school’s actions violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and constituted hostility toward religion. A Common Pleas judge upheld the School Board’s decision, as did the Fifth District Court of Appeals, without analyzing these constitutional claims. In appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court, Institute attorneys argued that the Board through its actions violated the First Amendment academic freedom rights of both Freshwater and his students.

 

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Judge Throws Out Mikey Weinstein’s Frivolous Lawsuit Against Chaplain Klingenschmitt’s Imprecatory Prayers

DALLAS, April 3, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — On Monday 2 April 2012 in a Dallas courtroom, Texas Judge Martin Hoffman dismissed as frivolous a 2.5 year-old lawsuit filed by anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein, who had sued former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, PhD for praying “imprecatory” prayers and quoting Psalm 109 in a public prayer to God still posted at prayinjesusname.org.

Judge Hoffman verbally tossed all of Weinstein’s complaints “on the issue of causation,” (with a written decision forthcoming), and granted three defense motions to dismiss with summary judgment, filed last month by Klingenschmitt’s Christian attorney Stephen Casey, and co-defendants The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, and the late Apostle Elmer “Jim” Ammerman.

Chaplain Klingenschmitt said: “Not only has the Judge completely vindicated my right to pray imprecatory prayers to God and quote Psalm 109 in my prayers, but his dismissal for lack of ‘causation’ means the Judge agreed my 2009 prayers did not actually cause Mikey’s feigned emotional distress, nor did they cause (as Mikey complained) unidentified strangers whom I’ve never met to miraculously time travel back to 2006 and vandalize Mikey’s lawn.”

The Judge disagreed with Mikey’s claim of “causation,” including Mikey’s apparently deceptive claim in his original legal complaint (paragraph 26 here) that Klingenschmitt’s 2009 prayers had retroactively caused previous events in 2006 to 2008 including “shots being fired at their home, fires being set on their lawn, dead animals being left on their porch.” But under oath in depositions, both Mikey and Bonnie Weinstein admitted their own timeline was impossible.

“I will now sue Mikey Weinstein for defamation, unless he immediately repents with a public, written apology, admitting he lied, both in court and on national radio,” said Klingenschmitt. “I may also sue or call as witnesses up to 1,000 bloggers who still today repeat Mikey’s defamation by associating ‘Klingenschmitt’ with ‘animal carcasses,’ since both his wife Mrs. Bonnie Weinstein and the Judge now confirm that Mikey lied.”

In April 2009, after Mikey had publicly attacked the chaplain three times, Klingenschmitt simply quoted the Bible, Psalm 109, in a public prayer to God, saying “God Bless Mikey Weinstein,…plunder his fields and seize his assets…” The prayers never mentioned “death,” or “violence,” despite Mikey’s later embellishments, but now ironically Weinstein must pay four Christian lawyers for 2.5 years of work, and reimburse Klingenschmitt’s Christian ministry, the Rutherford Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund, an estimated six-figure dollar amount, not yet including potential damages for defamation. “God is answering my imprecatory prayers, and God is now seizing Mikey’s assets,” said the Chaplain.