The U.S. Supreme Court this morning declined to hear the appeal of a former Ohio public school science teacher who was fired for introducing creationism into his classes.
The high court’s decision not to hear the Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education case brings the matter to a close. Last year, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Mt. Vernon City School District had the right to fire eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater because the First Amendment does not permit him to ignore orders from his bosses or display whatever religious items he pleases in his classroom.
“This case should serve as a reminder to public school teachers and administrators that classrooms are not churches,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “School-sponsored religious activity is a violation of students’ rights.”
Freshwater’s religious activities roiled the Ohio community. He distributed creationist material in class, which he always collected and refused to let students take home. He also passed out surveys to students asking them if faith was important to them and promoted religion in other ways.
Freshwater was also accused of using an electronic device (a Tesla coil) to burn a cross into a student’s arm. The boy’s parents complained to school officials, and the matter went to court. A judgment was issued in favor of the student and his family, and they received a financial settlement.
Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Ohio Supreme Court, urging the justices to reject Freshwater’s claim.
“Religious concepts like creationism should be taught by Sunday School teachers, not in public-school classrooms,” said AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. “Freshwater was using his position to foist his religious beliefs onto impressionable students. The courts rightfully put a stop to that.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.