Know-nothingness at a mid-Ohio middle school

Sometimes you’ve got to wonder if any Christianists have any critical thinking abilities.

Well, nevermind, I know the answer to the question already, but here’s yet more evidence that fundies “just don’t get it.”

The scene is Mount Vernon (Ohio) Middle School, where seventh-grade science teacher and Christianist John Freshwater stands accused of, among other things, proselytizing his students, burning a cross in a student’s skin, and teaching creationism against district policies. His district is investigating the charges.

It seems that some students (and parents, I’ll betcha) assume that if you’re not for Freshwater, you’re not a Christian. Or worse yet, if you’re not Christian, you can’t support him. Witness these quotes from the local newspaper:

Several comments from students and parents indicate that acceptance and religious tolerance is a one-way street for many concerned.

Beth Murdoch, whose daughter attends the middle school, is one of the parents who has expressed concerns about the sometimes hostile environment at the middle school.

“You’re either for Mr. Freshwater or you’re against Mr. Freshwater. There’s no in between,” Murdoch said. “In the kids’ minds, I think, it is just the Bible issue. And who is going to go against the Bible? Nobody. But it seems like the ‘Christians’ are using that as an excuse to gang up on the ‘atheists.’

“My daughter Arie told me about a Jewish child who brought his Torah to school when other students brought Bibles in support of Freshwater,” she continued. “He thought he was supporting freedom of religious expression, and the other kids just ripped him apart. ‘What are you doing?’ they asked. ‘You can’t support Mr. Freshwater, you’re Jewish.’ So they don’t get it.

“I don’t think people realize the depth of what’s going on between the students. It’s a mob mentality right now. It’s peer pressure. To not wear a T-shirt and to not bring your Bible when they say bring your Bible and wear a T-shirt, you’re asking for trouble.”

Murdoch said that Arie sometimes wears a cross necklace to school. Another student, according to Murdoch, asked Arie why she wore the cross if she doesn’t support Freshwater.

Freshwater, who appears to be friends with a right-wing religious nutcase “Coach” Dave Daubenmire, first made headlines when he refused administrators’ orders to remove his desk copy of the Bible from students’ view. Freshwater and “Coach” Dave made the situation into a freedom of religion/freedom of expression issue, an example of the secular “war on Christianity.”

Students rallied behind Freshwater, a popular teacher in the school, by holding a rally, clutching their Bibles in rebellion. Then other details about life in Freshwater’s classroom came out.

He allegedly makes it a habit to loan out classroom copies of the Bible to students, teaches and hands out creationist literature while conducting science lessons, and preaches a very narrow kind of Christianity in class. One student has accused him of burning a cross in the boy’s skin with an electrical demonstration device, either a Tesla coil or a Van de Graaf generator.

As happens in such situations, those supporting Freshwater have turned him into a kind of martyr, while those who are lukewarm about him have been made into puppets of the Enemy. The kids there apparently don’t get the connection that the Torah is a holy book and actually provides the first few books of the Christian Bible. To wear a cross and not support Freshwater is somehow a sin against one’s faith.

It’s akin to gang warfare. Instead of the Crips and the Bloods, you’ve got the “atheists” and the “Christians.” Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Freshwater may be a great teacher, and popular among his students, but somewhere along the way his superiors dropped the ball. Public school teachers, even in a small midwest town, cannot by law preach religion in class. Constitutional law prevents it. If the school district had been on the ball, they would have quashed Freshwater’s activities before things got out of hand.

Instead, they stood by while his peculiar kind of exclusive Christianity created an atmosphere of mistrust and acrimony in what is probably a really nice little town.

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