Update at the bottom of the post starring Geraldo Rivera!
In a post just below PvM gave the background to the Freshwater case in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The 5-member District Board of Education met this afternoon and after a 3.5 hour executive session, voted unanimously to initiate termination proceedings against Freshwater. Those proceedings start with a copy of the resolution being provided to Freshwater via registered mail. On receipt of the notification, Freshwater has 10 days to request a hearing before the board or a referee. If he elects to not request the hearing, the Board will consider the termination at its July meeting. If he does request it, Board action will be delayed until a hearing has been held.
The Board’s resolution cited four basic grounds for its resolution:
1. Freshwater burned crosses in students’ arms using a high voltage, high frequency leak detection device, ignoring the manufacturer’s safety instructions associated with the device.
2. Freshwater taught material on thermodynamics, the Big Bang, the age of the earth, and the periodic table that is not in the approved curriculum or American Content Standards. Mr. Freshwater also taught ID and creationism in contravention of the curriculum and the First Amendment to the Constitution. He did so in direct contradiction of school board policy and administrative instructions. The resolution noted that Freshwater’s 2003 request to teach those materials had been denied by the board, so subsequently teaching them was insubordination.
3. In monitoring the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Freshwater exceeded his monitoring role by conducting prayers, recommending speakers, and generally taking a directive role rather than a monitoring role.
4. Mr. Freshwater did not remove all religious materials from his classroom as instructed by school administrators and in fact brought additional materials in to “make a point.”
The resolution was not immediately available in hard copy or electronic form, but should be available later this evening or tomorrow.
While the Board was in executive session I spent some time talking with several of Freshwater’s former students. They spouted the very worst of creationist crap – moon dust, the recession of the moon, SLoT, the Lady Hope fable, and so on – stuff that’s even on AIG’s list of “Arguments Creationists Shouldn’t Use.” One of them even quoted Kent Hovind to me! When I mentioned that Hovind is in jail for tax evasion, they denied it, saying it was because he preached the Bible. It was discouraging and angering to hear their absolute close-minded parroting of the pure crap generated by Freshwater, Hovind, and Ham. Those kids are genuinely doomed to a life of intellectual sterility and it is a terrible terrible waste.
I also spoke with one of Freshwater’s adult supporters. The No True Scotsman fallacy was alive and well in that conversation. There was an enlightening moment when I recommended that he read Francis Collins’ The Language of God to get an idea of how an evangelical Christian who is a scientist tries to deal with the conflict. The man asked if Collins accepts Genesis. I replied that Collins is an evangelical Christian, but that he doesn’t read Genesis literally and believes that evolution is the means by which God created the diversity of biological life. The man then refused to consider reading it, saying “I don’t need to look at beliefs I don’t agree with.” That level of willful ignorance pretty much says it all.
From the composition and size of the audience, and from comments on local web boards and talking with people I know, it appears that Freshwater has pretty much isolated himself from all except the hard core fundamentalists. They are talking about starting a petition to recall the school board. That will go exactly nowhere – Freshwater has sufficiently alienated less extreme Christians to the point that they want nothing to do with his cause. In April Freshwater threatened to bring a suit against the BOE based on “viewpoint discrimination,” the Disco ‘Tute’s latest legal strategy. I restrained myself from recommending that he seek the help of the Thomas More Law Center, too. :)
Update June 22
The Freshwater affair has received wide news coverage, with the AP story picked up in venues as widely separated as Australlia and Norway. However, it reached the pinnacle (or is that nadir?) of news coverage when Geraldo At Large, Geraldo Rivera’s news and commentary program on Fox. did a piece on it. “Coach” Dave Daubenmire of Pass The Salt Ministries and MinuteMen United, Freshwater’s friend and spokesman, was on Geraldo!
Unfortunately for Coach Dave, Rivera relentlessly hammered on Daubenmire for the cross burned on students’ arms, repeatedly showing the photo that’s been circulating on the web and in news media. In the face of that hammering Daubenmire did not come off well.
Most interesting from my perspective were two claims that Daubenmire made. First he argued that this was but another step in the “purging of Christianity from the classroom.” Just another battle in the war on Christianity, I guess.
More interesting was a new defense that Daubenmire tried out. He claimed that in 2003 Freshwater “began to teach what was then the state standards to teach the controversy of evolution. And unfortunately he made the wrong people mad, and some of them have laid in the weeds for about five years to try to get back at …”. Geraldo interrupted Daubenmire, saying “Dave, Dave. I appreciate friendship, buddy, and I appreciate faith. But when you mess with a student physically like that you get fired, I don’t care what your religion is.”
Aside from the fact that this is a new defense apparently devised in the last week or so, Daubenmire is ignoring a couple of facts. First, it was in 2003 that Freshwater was explicitly denied permission to use the Disco ‘Tute’s approach and materials (Wells’ crap science). Second, the state standard in question (actually, it was an “indicator,” not a standard) was not to “teach the controversy,” it was a “critical analysis of evolution” indicator. And it was not for 8th grade science but for 10th grade biology. It read
23. Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.
Moreover, it was deleted from the state standards and indicators in February 2006, but Freshwater continued to teach his idiosyncratic crap science through 2008.
So Daubenmire is purely making it up as he goes along. If I were Freshwater’s attorney I’d put a muzzle on Daubenmire. (Or as wonderin noted below, “Doobenmire.:)