Most people probably haven’t heard of Mount Vernon ISD in Ohio, but it’s become a name in the circles of people who watch creationism. A particular science teacher there, by the name of Freshwater, got into a lot of trouble.
The complaints from parents started when he burned a kid’s arm with a Tesla coil… the burn was in the shape of a cross. He also had religious materials in the classroom and used a set of ‘codes’ to point out to students where false material was in their textbooks… mostly in the evolution section. Further, he apparently was the sponsor of a Christian student club. While that isn’t a problem, he was also directly involved in the activities of the club, which is a problem.
There was a big investigation and he was finally fired. For continually disobeying directives from his supervisor. It went to court. It went to appeals. Now it’s in the Ohio supreme court.
I won’t get into the issues or the court or anything else. There’s just too much. It’s really fascinating reading. Richard transcribed the hearings. Some of it is downright hilarious. A lawyer did everything in his power to prevent a judge from getting his billing records for Freshwater, including saying that his laptop, which was the only source of the records, was destroyed when a water pipe in his home flooded his house.
One thing that commenter harold said really caught my eye.
This whole situation (and the related Kitzmiller trial a few years back and the semi-related JPL trial) sends a very clear message. Don’t hire creationists.
You will become involved in a lawsuit.
While it is illegal to make a hiring decision on a person’s religion, the second that person does something to promote that religion in the classroom, the workplace, or anything like that. It has to be addressed immediately and totally.
Even though the creationists have lost every court case they have been in*, it’s expensive, it’s bad press, and it causes division in the community. Another commenter on PT said, (paraphrase) “religion is very good at dividing a community”. And that is so true. Laurie Lebo has a book called “The Devil in Dover” that talks about, not only the trial, but how it affected the community. It’s a powerful tale.
Here’s the thing.
No one wins in these cases.
This case in no way helps the students. It in no way helps the school. It in no way helps creationism actually earn a place in the science classroom.
This case is a waste of money, time, and effort on all sides.
But the creationists don’t care. Because, very simply, they aren’t interested in science. They want their religion promoted in the science classroom and that’s all. They don’t want evolution promoted because it is evidence against the Biblical interpretation of how life appeared on this planet.
The creationists don’t want to publish science. They want to influence young minds that are a captive audience and brainwash them into beliefs that are lies. It’s that simple.
The creationists know that they can’t win with evidence. They can’t win with critical thinkers and skeptics. The only way that they can control people is to influence them when they are young enough not to know better. Let’s face it, there are some pretty sophisticated arguments from creationists. It takes a lot of knowledge and skill to deflate those arguments. Creationists are fantastic debaters. They are all very skilled at twisting words, playing the Gish Gallop game, and scoring debate points.
And none of that is actual science.
It’s a well established precedent that teachers do not have First Amendment rights in the classroom (here, here, and here** for example). They are hired to teach a specific curriculum using particular materials.
A win for creationism here will be deadly… to the students and to the school districts. If the Ohio supreme court rules in favor of Freshwater (and doesn’t just remand the case back to the appellate court), then it’s sending a signal that teaching creationism and promoting religion to students in the classroom is OK.
That will result in many, many lawsuits. All of which the school districts will lose. It’s a First Amendment issue and it will go to federal courts. The more court cases, the more everyone loses… except the lawyers. Money will be spent on lawyers and courts instead of textbooks and teachers. Students will not be taught.
It’s very bloody depressing. The US is already massively behind in STEM education and while everyone talks about emphasizing it… no one actually does anything about it. There’s not enough money. Teachers are universally reviled by parents, students, and the administration (I’ve been there, though my experiences are not be universal). And court cases will not help.
* to date… there is a lot of concern about the Ohio trial.
** the information discussed here shows that Freshwater was not acting correctly when/if leading students in prayer, even if it in a club rather than the classroom.