The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the firing of John Freshwater by a 4-3 vote that avoided all of the important constitutional questions in the case and ruled strictly on the basis of Freshwater’s insubordination after being ordered to remove religious material from his classroom.
After detailed review of the voluminous record in this case, we hold that the court of appeals did not err in affirming the termination. The trial court properly found that the record supports, by clear and convincing evidence, Freshwater’s termination for insubordination in failing to comply with orders to remove religious materials from his classroom. Accordingly, based on our resolution of this threshold issue, we need not reach the constitutional issue of whether Freshwater impermissibly imposed his religious beliefs in his classroom. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals because there was ample evidence of insubordination to justify the termination decision…
Here, we need not decide whether Freshwater acted with a permissible or impermissible intent because we hold that he was insubordinate, and his termination can be justified on that basis alone. Freshwater is fully entitled to an ardent faith in Jesus Christ and to interpret Biblical passages according to his faith. But he was not entitled to ignore direct, lawful edicts of his superiors while in the workplace.
Freshwater and his defenders continue to claim that the case was all about whether he could have a Bible on his desk. The Rutherford Institute, which took over his defense after the initial ruling, sent out an email this morning that was titled “Ohio Supreme Court Affirms Science Teacher’s Right to Keep Personal Bible on Desk.” But that is not what the case was ever about. It was about the innumerable ways that he used his position as a teacher to proselytize.
Freshwater tried a decade ago to get the school board to start teaching Intelligent Design in science classrooms. When they rejected that proposal, he simply began using handouts full of creationist nonsense to achieve his goal. He also put up posters in his classroom with Bible verses on them. For 15 years, the school had to tell him repeatedly to stop doing so and, when it came out that he had burned a cross into a student’s arm with a Tesla coil, they finally had enough. Burning the kid’s arm — intentionally — was more than enough to justify his firing.
You can read the full ruling here.