Court: OK to Fire Teacher for ‘Religious Materials’

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled a school district justifiably dismissed a science teacher on grounds of insubordination who kept a Bible on his desk and taught his religious beliefs in class, but the majority in the 4-3 opinion was scolded a dissenting justice for evading the constitutional issues presented by the case.

The majority opinion by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor concluded the court didn’t need to reach the constitutional issue of whether teacher John Freshwater of Mount Vernon Middle School in Mount Vernon, Ohio, who had taught for 24 years, “impermissibly imposed his religious beliefs in his classroom” because “there was ample evidence of insubordination to justify the termination decision.”

But in a scathing dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer said the court “accepted jurisdiction in this case presumably to speak to the important issues of the Establishment Clause, academic freedom, and how schools may approach educating children about the scientific theories of evolution, which may directly clash with religious teachings of creation to which many children have been exposed at home and at church.”

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