Sunday, June 22, 2008

Christianist burns students and preaches to them.

Sometimes it is hard to tell who is crazier. Some of the lunatic religionists who get way out of line or those who defend them.

John Freshwater was hired to teach science in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Instead he taught theology. He used his classroom to promote his brand of Christianity, kept religious literature on his desk, presumably for the students, spread Bibles around the classroom and prosyletized. He used his class to teach a theological belief about the origins of life instead of science.

And to top it off, for some reason that I’ve yet to fathom, he used an electrostatic device to burn crosses into the skin of students. This part just sounds crazy. Perhaps he thought he was protecting them from the Devil, evil spirits or whatever. But he did use this device to burn the skin of students. He claims that last part is a lie. He says he only burned a large X into the students arms! And that this was a science experiment.

That the man thinks that is a defense is amazing. The problem with his defense is that while he may be deeply, fanatically religious, he is also a bald-faced liar. Photographs of the arms of the students he burned were taken. And those photographs are pretty clear that he had indeed burned a cross into their skin. I guess putting Jesus first means putting him before the truth as well.

But look across the internet and you will find that every Right-wing lunatic out there is defending this man. After all he waved a Bible at students and that makes him godly. Consider this defense of Freshwater from one friend of his, Dave Daubenmire, “With the exception of the cross-burning episode, ...I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district.” Yep, just ignore that tiny incident of burning a cross into the arms of students and he’s just peachy.

By the way this friend is himself a religious fanatics who runs something called Minutemen United.

For a moment consider what these religionists would do if a teacher, who was an atheist, or a homosexual, or anyone else they love to hate, like a Muslim, had burned images into the skin of students. They would be forming a lynch mob instantly. They would be braying for the head of the infidel who dared do this to the “poor, little children” in the classroom. But the moment this is done by some Bible-quoting resident of Bedlam they rally to his defense.

Some of the Christian sites have left the cross burning incident out of their reports in order to portray Freshwater as a victim. Others tried to downplay it saying the burns didn’t damage the students. Sorry folks, a burn is a burn and is damage by definition. Again it seems they can’t tell the truth when it comes to defending their lunatic fringe. Reports are that the arms of the students showed visible burn marks for three to four weeks, so this was not exactly a minor incident.

The school board in Mount Vernon investigated the incident and they confirmed that the Freshwater was a liar. “Contrary to Mr. Feshwater’s statement he simply made an ‘X’ not a ‘cross,’ all of the students describe the marking as a ‘cross’ and the pictures provided depict a ‘cross’.”

Freshwater used his classroom to tell students that they can’t trust science when science contradicts a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of the Bible. He told them carbon dating is false because it shows the earth to be older than the Bible says. In other words, like every fundamentalist, he has to twist reality to fit his faith.

The fundamentalist fighters for Freshwater claim that his right to have a Bible is being violated. And they pretend that the school tried to take away Freshwater’s “personal” Bible. The school board investigation found that Freshwater had scattered numerous Bibles around his classroom. While he made a big display of his own Bible, for all the students to see, he had “other Bibles” spread around the classroom as well. This is proselytizing in class not him reading Scripture during a tea break. In another incident the school found that he had “two boxes of Bibles in the back of his room”. Certainly that wouldn't be two boxes of "personal" Bibles as the Right pretends.

Freshwater claims that God has given him the right to use the classroom as his personal pulpit. He claims that preventing him for doing this violates his free speech rights.

What a crock! First, Christians like him don’t believe in free speech rights except for themselves. They frequently lobby and demand restrictions on speech. And that includes private speech where no tax money is involved. You can’t claim that you support a “right” if you willingly deny that right to others. They do.

If a Muslim was teaching a class on science, and taught the student that the Qu’ran is the world of God and God is named Allah, you can be these Christians would be leading the campaign to burn the teacher at the stake along with his holy book. They would not argue that the teacher has a free speech right to teach theology in his science class.

The local Mount Vernon newspaper actually showed that Freshwater’s supporters are against freedom of religion for others. The paper says that many of the Christian students who defend Freshwater “indicate that acceptance and religious tolerance is a one-way street for many concerned.” One mother with a daughter at the school said that one student, who is Jewish, wanted to defend religious freedom in support of the Christian students. He brought his Torah to school only to have the Christian students ridicule him and tell him, that as a Jew, he can’t support the teacher in question. It isn't religious freedom they are after but religious domination and that is not the same thing.

Fundamentalist students started a campaign to “support” Freshwater by demanding that other students wear t-shirts with crosses on them. One Christian wore a t-shirt that said “I don’t need to wear a special T-shirt to be a Christian.” The newspaper says: “that individual was reportedly pushed into the lockers and called a stupid atheist b****.”

One student, who was burned by Freshwater, has filed a law suit over the burning incident. Students who are merely friends of that boy are being harassed by the Christian students. The father of two boys ,who are friends with the injured boy, said his sons “have gotten harassed because they are friends with the boy. In our county, everyone’s allowed their religious opinion, but some of the middle school kids are just jumping on a bandwagon. If you’re not for Mr. Freshwater, you are going to be harassed. That is flat out what is happening in the middle school. Therefore, I think a lot of the kids are for Mr. Freshwater because they don’t want to be harassed, they don’t want to be singled out. And who wants to be against the Bible? Nobody.”


There is no free speech right to use tax money to promote religion. I would also say that there is no free speech right to promote atheism in the classroom. A teacher has no more business telling his students that there is no god than he has telling them that there is. If a teacher was handing out books on atheism in science class I would argue the teacher is outside his proper course of study and that government schools have no business teaching religious view, pro or con. The schools, as long as they exist, ought to be neutral on the matter.

A science teacher should teach science not theology. You will have the facts taught in classes contradict religious beliefs. That is inevitable. Religion is not generally in sync with reality so such conflicts are unavoidable. The school should not attack the religion just teach the facts and allow religion to use their pulpits to contradict the facts. If some cult said that 2 plus 2 is 6 the school is not teaching atheist by giving students the correct answer. Schools teach and they must do so without regard to what quirky beliefs that students, or their parent, may have. Nothing else is possible.

The Christian fundamentalist will not abide by this neutrality. They demand the right to use tax funds in order to promote their religion to an audience of students who have little to no choice in being there. Gary North, a right-wing fundamentalist has openly stated that the goal of the Religious Right is to take over the country and impose theocratic rule on everyone. He says that their demands for “religious freedom” are merely a tactic until they take power they they “will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Photo: This is not the best photo. I had one that much more clearly showed the burn but couldn't find it.

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