Boards have to uphold law

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Mount Vernon, a group of school board members are fighting to keep their jobs.

And it’s a shame.

The controversy centers around a middle school teacher who has been fired following an independent report that claims he taught creationism and refused to remove a Bible and other religious items from his classroom.

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He also faces a lawsuit by the family of a student who claims the teacher, 52-year-old John Freshwater, burned a cross on the child’s arm with an electrostatic device. The family claims the mark stayed on their child for at least three weeks.

Freshwater has filed an appeal with the school board over his firing and has been critical of the investigation. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26.

The issue of teaching religious content in his classroom has divided the town. Many in the community turned a blind eye to Freshwater’s teachings for years and the illegality of his actions have finally caught up with him.

The courts have been clear about the prohibition of teaching particular religious views in public schools and that despite anyone’s agreement or disagreement, school boards are bound to uphold the law. These school board members are being criticized for doing exactly what they should have done.

Freshwater should have been fired, not just for his insubordination but for his lack of understanding that it is not his role to teach the gospel in science class. The teaching of religion in schools is altogether different than preaching religion in schools. Students need to be educated on the religions of the world, but public school isn’t the place for teachers to have a platform for their own personal religious beliefs. School staff members are forbidden from such practices and any teacher should know better.

His personal views, or any teacher’s personal views, on religion have no place in a classroom because of not only the range of religion, but the range of Christianity. It should be clear by now what the courts and the laws of the land demand …

Schools are a place for educating young minds. Religion is important for the development of our youth, but it should occur at home and at church.