With a brief filed (PDF) in Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals, John Freshwater is appealing a court's ruling to uphold his termination as a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio. It is the latest twist in a long saga that began in 2008, when a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity — including teaching creationism — and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate his employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011.
Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Common Pleas Court on February 8, 2011. After the court found "there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Board of Education's termination of Freshwater's contract(s) for good and just cause," the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based conservative legal group, promptly announced its intention to appeal the decision on Freshwater's behalf. The latest brief was filed by Freshwater's attorney R. Kelly Hamilton "in conjunction with" the Rutherford Institute. It asks for a reversal of the lower court's decision, monetary damages for wrongful termination and violation of civil rights, and reinstatement of Freshwater in his teaching position.
With respect to Freshwater's teaching of creationism, which was cited in the board's resolution to terminate his employment with the district, the brief alleges, "Freshwater sought to encourage his students to differentiate between facts and theories, and to identify and discuss instances where textbook statements were subject to intellectual and scientific debate," claims, "his encouraging students to think critically about scientific theories ... cannot be rendered illegal based solely on the presumption that Freshwater's personal beliefs happen to align with one of the competing theories considered," and accuses the board's actions of constituting "an outright hostility to religion that ... violates the Establishment Clause."