Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Firing of Teacher for Displaying Religious Images in Classroom

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the firing of a middle school teacher by a public school district over the religious images that the teacher had in his classroom.

In a four to three decision, the Court decided that Mount Vernon City Schools had the right to fire science teacher John Freshwater for the various religious displays he had in his classroom.

These included a poster of the Ten Commandments, a poster of George W. Bush and Colin Powell praying with a Bible verse inscribed, and the Bible on Freshwater's desk.

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"Mount Vernon School Board asserts that despite the district's instructions to cease doing so, Freshwater unequivocally injected his own Christian faith into his classroom as early as 1994 and continued to do so right up until he was relieved of his teaching duties," reads the decision in part.

"We agree with the board and find that there is ample support for Freshwater's termination based upon insubordination…We need not address the various constitutional issues raised by Freshwater, because we resolve this appeal on an other-than-constitutional ground."

While the Court upheld the firing, they did, however, also state that Freshwater was within his right to have his Bible visible on his desk.

Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, said in a statement published Wednesday that Mount Vernon was within its right to dismiss Freshwater.

"It upholds the right of the board to direct teachers to teach the curriculum and to not share religious beliefs with children that are not part of the curriculum," said Reedy.

"My Jewish kid or Muslim kid should not have to go to class and hear religious beliefs based on Christianity. I think that goes against our values as a country."

Freshwater was represented by The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based firm founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead.

Nisha N. Whitehead, media coordinator at The Rutherford Institute, told The Christian Post that they intend to appeal the decision.

"We consider it a mixed ruling that affirms the First Amendment right of a public school teacher to keep a personal Bible on his desk, while sidestepping larger questions of academic freedom," said Whitehead.

"As for an appeal, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to file a motion to ask the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider their opinion in order to focus on the constitutional issues at the heart of the case, particularly as they relate to academic freedom in the classroom."

Whitehead also told CP that this appeal, with its constitutional focus, should be filed sometime next week.

Mount Vernon City Schools was contacted regarding the case, but a representative said the superintendent was out of the office and thus could not provide comment to The Christian Post.

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