Former Ohio science teacher John Freshwater’s case for wrongful termination is currently being considered by the Ohio Supreme Court and his attorneys have filed their briefs in the case. Richard Hoppe looks at the most recent brief, which makes some really bad argument. First, as Hoppe noted a few weeks ago, the arguments they’re making are entirely different than the ones they used in their request for the court to hear the appeal.
It’s interesting how Freshwater’s claims have, ironically, evolved in the case. As one of the defense motions noted:
Freshwater has never made the argument that his teaching of intelligent design and creationism was acceptable as scientific theories. Indeed, Freshwater’s argument in this regard has evolved over time. Freshwater adamantly denied teaching intelligent design and creationism during the administrative hearing. (Tr. 376, ln. 14 (“I do not teach intelligent design”); Tr. 377, ln. 9(“I teach evolution. I do not teach ID or creationism”); see Bd. Exs. 19-20). Freshwater then claimed in his Complaint that he taught “about some commonly held beliefs of at least three of the world’s major religions.” (Compl. at 4 59). Then, at the Court of Appeals, Freshwater argued that he simply sought to “encourage his students to differentiate between facts and theories, and to identify and discuss instances where textbook statements were subject to intellectual and scientific debate.” (Appellant’s Appellate Br., at 9). He also claimed that he simply facilitated “classroom discussion concerning popular alternative theories to the Big Bang theory.…” (Id. at v). Yet, in his Merit Brief, Freshwater argues that he did teach creationism and intelligent design since they are permitted concepts (“creation science”). (Appellant’s Merit Br., at 16-18). Thus, Merit Brief Proposition of Law II asks this court to review an issue not raised by Appellant in the lower courts or administrative hearing.
Now he’s claiming that he didn’t teach creationism or ID, but that he was merely exploring rival non-religious theories:
On this record, where Freshwater did nothing more than facilitate discussion and consideration of elements of the alternative theories to evolution (which happen to be consistent with several major world religions) as part of a secular examination of the weaknesses of evolution theory, it defies logic to argue that he violated Policy 2270. (p. 10-11; italics original)
But all of this is nonsense. In fact, what Freshwater did was hand out supplemental articles that he got from creationist websites that are just rehashes of old and long-discredited creationist claims. Hoppe wrote about this almost four years ago when Patricia Princehouse testified about those materials in an earlier challenge:
Under direct examination Princehouse first walked the hearing through handouts, the “giraffe” handout, the “woodpecker” handout, and the “Dragon” handout. Analyzing each item in turn, she showed that they misrepresent evolutionary theory in that the first two in particular suggest that an animal (yes, it used the singular) had to “realize” or “decide” to evolve in order to adapt. That is, they attributed conscious intentions to giraffes and woodpeckers, and claimed that their intentions were causal variables in evolution. She identified their apparent source as the All About God site that Charles Adkins testified the day before that he and Richard Cunningham had also identified as the source. Princehouse concluded that she could see no valid pedagogical reason for using the handouts. Referring to a question on the worksheet about “ID”, Princehouse said it was a theological concept and not a scientific concept.
She also had reviewed the Watchmaker video, and quoted William Paley’s famous ‘watch on a heath’ paragraph to show the antiquity of that argument. She also concluded that it was pure creationism, and identified the source as the ‘kids4truth’ creationist site.
Princehouse also reviewed Jonathan Wells’ “Survival of the Fakest” document used by Freshwater, and came to the same conclusion, identifying it as a summary of Wells’ equally deficient book Icons of Evolution. It’s worth noting that Freshwater used the same article as part of his supporting material when he unsuccessfully tried to get the Board of Education to incorporate ID creationism into the science curriculum in 2003.
So Freshwater asked to be allowed to use that same material and the school board said no. And then he went and did it anyway.