A middle school teacher who was fired last year for allegedly teaching his Christian beliefs in the classroom gave his testimony on Thursday.
John Freshwater, former science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School in Ohio, said he never tried to indoctrinate or proselytize any student.
The school board dismissed Freshwater on accusations that he taught creationism and discredited evolution, ignored orders to remove his Bible from the classroom, and burned the image of a cross on students' arms.
An investigative report included a photo of a student's arm "branded" with a cross.
The former science teacher filed a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against. In his hearing this week he denied all allegations and said the board's decision to terminate his contract was based on misleading and inaccurate information.
Freshwater explained that he was using a laboratory instrument – Tesla Coil – to illustrate static electricity on the arms of volunteers. He insisted that he did not hurt or leave burn marks on them.
Regarding the Bible, which he had kept on his desk for over two decades, he said he received conflicting directives from Principal Bill White. He was told he could keep his personal Bible on the desk but later White changed his mind, Freshwater said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
The Bible served as inspiration, Freshwater noted.
Students and the local community are divided over their support for Freshwater. Some have signed a petition backing the teacher.
Freshwater has been teaching at Mount Vernon Middle School since 1987 and is a two-time "Teacher of the Year." Supporters believe problems arose after Freshwater proposed in 2003 a policy on critically analyzing evolution. He has maintained that he was cautious about following school policy and protocol. The school board rejected his proposal.
Don Matolyak, his pastor, is convinced that Freshwater has had "a bull's-eye on him" from that point on, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Hearings will resume on Dec. 29.