Fired Ohio Creationist Teacher Gets Day in Court

Weekly summary of world news

Norm Olson March 1, 2013




John Freshwater got a day in court Wednesday as his latest attempt to get reinstated as a Mount Vernon, Ohio, schoolteacher was presented in oral arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court, reports The Mount Vernon News. The 20-year Ohio middle school science teacher was fired in 2011 for teaching creationism in his class, reports The Christian Post. His lawyers argue that his firing was a violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and religion. In a session lasting about an hour, attorney Rita Dunaway of Charlottesville, Va., representing Freshwater, and David Smith of Cleveland, representing Mount Vernon City Schools, summarized the respective cases and answered questions from the justices. The court did not issue a ruling. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor simply said they would take the case under advisement and let the parties know when they reached a decision. There was no indication how long that might take. Dunaway argued that Freshwater was a dedicated and capable teacher who was merely pointing out problems with evolutionary theory, not preaching creationism or intelligent design, and that he was not insubordinate. Smith painted him as crossing the line into pushing his views onto students and ignoring policies keeping religion separate from the science curriculum. “The school board has broad discretion to control curricula,” Dunaway said in opening the session. “But the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that when a board uses its authority to suppress a particular set of ideas, the courts should step in.” She said pointing out controversial issues in evolution was simply following the policy of encouraging discussion of controversial issues. She denied that Freshwater used instruction to advance religion. She also argued that Freshwater complied with “all lawful directives” about removing religious material from his classroom. The justices questioned the attorneys about a variety of subjects, including whether Freshwater’s actions raising questions about evolution was covered in the school policy manual, the actual reason for his firing, whether his 2003 request to include arguments for other theories of creation in the eighth-grade curriculum were an attempt to require teaching creationism, whether insubordination is sufficient cause for the board to terminate an employee, the limits of freedom of speech and academic freedom in a middle school setting and even whether Freshwater was overzealous in his role as sponsor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the school.

Other news:

  • A conservative pastor who opposes a proposed bill in California that would remove the Boy Scouts of America’s tax exemption status has stated that the effort could backfire on gay rights advocates. The Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, told The Christian Post that Calif. Senate Bill 323 “may never see a vote.” “Maybe this will be the beginning of cracking the steel fist of the Democratic Party over the people of California,” said Sheldon. “This may be the beginning of the homosexual agenda’s demise and the pounding of their propaganda spoons against the empty bowl of false perceptions. This will be something to carefully watch. It could ramify into many other states.”
  • The Netherlands, that once-Calvinist land, has gone farther than just about any other country in legalizing “victimless crimes,” such as prostitution, drug use, and euthanasia, reports patheos.com. Now that country is facing the unintended consequences, including an upsurge in organized crime, social squalor, and a deluge of sex tourists, drug tourists, and death tourists (who only buy a one-way ticket). Julie Bindel, writing “Why even Amsterdam doesn’t want legal brothels” in The Spectator, said, “In 2000 the Dutch government decided to make it even easier for pimps, traffickers and punters by legalising the already massive and highly visible brothel trade. Their logic was as simple as it was deceptive: to make things safer for everyone. Make it a job like any other. Once the women were liberated from the underworld, the crooks, drug dealers and people traffickers would drift away. Twelve years on, and we can now see the results of this experiment. Rather than afford better protection for the women, it has simply increased the market. Rather than confine the brothels to a discrete (and avoidable) part of the city, the sex industry has spilt out all over Amsterdam—including on-street. Rather than be given rights in the ‘workplace’, the prostitutes have found the pimps are as brutal as ever. The government-funded union set up to protect them has been shunned by the vast majority of prostitutes, who remain too scared to complain. . . . The brothel boom is over. A third of Amsterdam’s bordellos have been closed due to the involvement of organised criminals and drug dealers and the increase in trafficking of women. Police now acknowledge that the red-light district has mutated into a global hub for human trafficking and money laundering. The streets have been infiltrated by grooming gangs seeking out young, vulnerable girls and marketing them to men as virgins who will do whatever they are told. Many of those involved in Amsterdam’s regular tourist trade—the museums and canals—fear that their visitors are vanishing along with the city’s reputation. . . . It took six years for the mayor to admit in public that the experiment had been a disaster, a magnet for trafficked women, drug dealers and underage girls. Zones in Rotterdam, The Hague and Heerlen have shut down in similar circumstances. The direction of travel is clear: legalisation will be repealed. Legalisation has not been emancipation. It has instead resulted in the appalling, inhuman, degrading treatment of women, because it declares the buying and selling of human flesh acceptable. And as the Dutch government reforms itself from pimp to protector, it will have time to reflect on the damage done to the women caught in this calamitous social experiment.”
  • Virginia lawmakers have voted to give college campus groups the right to restrict membership to students who agree with their mission, reports Baptist Press. The bill is designed to prevent state universities from enacting “all-comers” policies, which undermine the ability of religious and political organizations to form around a specific set of beliefs. “It’s pretty simple: A Democratic club shouldn’t have to accept a Republican as a member and members of a religious group should be able to expect that their leadership will share the group’s core commitments,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain, the bill’s sponsor, told The Roanoke Times. “It’s perfectly reasonable for an organization to expect its members to agree with, and be good examples of, the organization’s mission.”
  • Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would ban abortions in Arkansas at 20 weeks, unless a woman is a victim of rape, incest, or her life is at risk due to a medical emergency, The Christian Post reports. Members of the Arkansas House and Senate voted in favor of HB 1037 that would ban abortions at 20 weeks—the time in which a pre-born baby can feel pain. In his veto letter, Beebe cited the Supreme Court precedent Roe v. Wade and the legal costs the state would incur, as the primary reasons behind his decision to veto HB 1037, “An act to create the pain-capable unborn child protection act and to declare an emergency.”
  • Newspaper editor and book author Bob Woodward said on Wednesday that a senior White House official threatened him for suggesting the U.S. president was at fault for the sequestration crisis, newsmax.com reports. Woodward said a “very senior” White House official warned him in an e-mail that he would “regret doing this,” referring to the legendary journalist’s criticisms of the Obama administration over its actions regarding the upcoming sequester. “It was said very clearly, ‘You will regret doing this,’” Woodward told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday night, who then asked him who sent the e-mail. “I’m not going to say. It was a very senior person. Meanwhile, another newsman has said he has been threatened, reports whitehousedossier.com. Former Clinton White House official Lanny Davis said Thursday he, too, was threatened by a White House official. Speaking on Washington radio station WMAL’s Morning on the Mall program, Davis said an White House official had threatened the Washington Times over Davis’s column in the paper, warning that the newspaper could lose its access to the White House. Davis said he decided to mention the incident after Bob Woodward came forward and said the White House had threatened him over his reporting about the sequester. “That exact thing happend to me,” Davis said.
  • A Texas high school student has filed a federal lawsuit against her school and her teachers after she was punished for refusing to salute and recite the Mexican pledge of allegiance, Fox News reports. The Thomas More Law Center filed the suit on behalf of Brenda Brinsdon alleging the McAllen Independent School District violated the 15-year-old girl’s constitutional rights when she was forced to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national anthem. Brinsdon, who is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and an American father, refused. She believed it was un-American to pledge a loyalty oath to another country. Ironically, the school district has a policy that prohibits a school from compelling students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance. The district also has a written policy that excuses students from reciting text from the Declaration of Independence if the student “as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation.” “There is a sad trend in public schools across our nation to undermine American patriotism,” said Richard Thompson president of the Thomas More Law Center. “But it’s encouraging to see students like Brenda stand up for America despite pressure from school officials.”
  • The controversial imam of a prominent mosque in Arlington, Va., has urged immigrant Muslims in the United States to wage war for Islam, reports dailycaller.com. “The enemies of Allah are lining up. The question for us is, are we lining [up] or are we afraid because they may call us terrorists?” Shaker Elsayed told a crowd of Ethiopian Muslims during a lecture at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. “Let me give you the good news: they are already calling us terrorists anyway. Whether you sitting at home, watching TV, drinking coffee, sleeping or playing with your kids, you are a terrorist because you are a Muslim.”
  • The Senate approved Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Defense secretary Tuesday, ending a contentious battle that exposed deep divisions over the president’s Pentagon pick, reports cowboybyte.com. After Republicans blocked the nomination earlier this month, they ultimately allowed for an up-or-down vote on Tuesday. The margin was historically close, with 58 senators supporting him and 41 opposing in the end. Though Hagel is himself a former Republican senator, the resistance to his nomination showed an unusual level of distrust among many senators.