Supreme Court sticks fork in John Freshwater dismissal case

JISHOU, HUNAN — Seven years! This case has been dragging on for seven years, and now maybe we will never need to read about John Freshwater in the news again. His last chance to have the courts reinstate him as a science teacher in Ohio ended in defeat this week. The US Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that Freshwater’s former employers, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district, had cause to fire him for insubordination for refusing to remove religious materials from his classroom. Freshwater’s lawyers argued that the district had infringed his First Amendment rights, and wanted to Court to hear their case. The Justices were apparently unimpressed with this argument, and denied his writ of certiorari — basically, a request that the Court hear his appeal.. Freshwater was a seventh-grade science teacher who had a few bad practices. Judging from the testimony of former students and co-workers during a lengthy administrative hearing, he had a long history of teaching Creationism in his class, leading his students to doubt the validity of evolution and the Big Bang theory, and pushing his conservative Christian faith in class. Unsaid and unexamined was the district’s seeming tolerance of this ...

Ohio science/religion teacher Freshwater loses yet again

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here’s the short version. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, last week that the Mount Vernon School District was well within its rights to fire teacher John Freshwater for insubordination, given that he repeatedly ignored orders to remove religious material from his classroom and from his teaching. The court’s ruling, however, sidestepped the thornier underlying question of how much discussion of creationism and Intelligent Design may be permissible in a science classroom. That question in fact was a large part of Freshwater’s appeal of a lower court’s decision. And the court’s failure to address the issue drew sharp words from the three dissenting judges. Writing for the dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writes: {¶ 105} What next? With the insubordination claim gutted, the lead opinion should have moved on to consider the constitutional issues remaining in the case. Instead, the majority walks away from the opportunity to provide helpful guidance to every school board in Ohio and to the thousands of great teachers who could benefit from knowing more about the extent of and limits on their academic freedom. Justice O’Donnell’s well-reasoned dissent addresses the issue, but goes unrebutted. In short, the majority shrinks from the ...

John Freshwater: the gift that keeps on giving 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Back when I was a science teacher, I started blogged about an Ohio public school science teacher who got in hot water for (1) allegedly using a Tesla coil on his students, (2) teaching evolution was false and (3) going overboard with his religious proselytizing in the classroom. Without going into a lot of details, let’s just say that teacher, John Freshwater of Mount Vernon, was removed from classroom teaching pending an administrative hearing about insubordination. After a two-year-long administrative hearing process, Freshwater lost his job earlier this year. He and the Mount Vernon school system were also named in a federal discrimination complaint brought by a student’s family; the school district settled out of court and Freshwater, following an unsuccessful appeal, also had to pay damages to the family. Meanwhile, he filed, and later dropped, his own discrimination complaint in federal court against the school system. So, after all these proceedings which suggest that Freshwater was to some degree culpable, I learn that he has the nerve to play the victim card on David Barton and Rick Green’s WallBuilders Live radio program. Here’s a partial transcript, courtesy of Right Wing Watch. Freshwater: When the 2007/2008 school ...

The Ballad of John Freshwater finally ends

JISHOU, HUNAN — Like the fabled “Song That Never Ends,” the story of John Freshwater, a middle school Ohio science teacher bent on proselytizing his students, seems to have gone on and on and on … The end is this: he will be dismissed from his teaching job at the Mount Vernon public schools. Actually, that’s the same ending as before, but he was entitled to an administrative hearing, which dragged on for almost two years. In a decision released this week, the referee for the hearing agreed with the school district, and said, “Yup, Freshwater is out.” John Freshwater purposely used his classroom to advance his Christian religious views knowing full well or ignoring the fact that those views might conflict with the private beliefs of his students. John Freshwater refused and/or failed to employ objectivity in his instruction of a variety of science subjects and, in so doing, endorsed a particular religious doctrine. By this course of conduct John Freshwater repeatedly violated the Establishment Clause. Without question, the repeated violation of the Constitution of The United States is a “fairly serious matter” and is, therefore, a valid basis for termination of John Freshwater’s contract(s). Further, he repeatedly acted ...

Rifqa Bary rejects chemo, family reunion

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Rifqa Bary saga continues, but I fear there will be a tragic ending to an already tragic story. Bary, the Christian convert teen who ran away from home last year alleging her Muslim parents would kill her, apparently is rejecting chemotherapy for her uterine cancer, claiming she was cured by a faith healer. She is also rejecting a reunion with her family, whom law enforcement officials say pose no threat to her safety. The teenager became a poster child for the anti-Muslim and/or born-again religious crowd after she ran away from her Columbus home to Orlando, Florida, claiming her parents would kill her because of her conversion to Christianity three years before she fled. She eventually ended up in foster care back in Ohio. In May, the 17-year-old Sri Lankan native was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and has since had three operations. According to news reports, documents filed by her parents in Franklin County Court state that Bary is refusing chemotherapy because she claims she was healed at an event in Youngstown last month. She was allegedly taken there without her parents’ consent, and her parents want the court to force Bary to undergo chemotherapy if ...

Christian runaway Rifqa Bary treated for uterine cancer

JISHOU, HUNAN — Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, who made headlines several months ago after she ran away from her Muslim parents claiming they would kill her as an Islamic apostate, is being treated for uterine cancer. The Sri Lankan-born high school graduate has had two operations already, and awaits a third. Bary ran away to Florida in July with the help of a Christian pastor who had befriended her. Once arriving in Orlando, the girl, who says she converted to Christianity at 13, lived with married pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz for nearly two weeks before the Lorenzes told child welfare officials where Bary was. In interviews, Bary claimed that her parents were upset with her conversion and that she was afraid that her father would kill her if she returned home. Law enforcement officials from Florida and Ohio, however, reported there was no credible threat to her safety. Nevertheless, Bary has lived with foster parents in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, after her court-ordered return to Ohio in October. She turns 18 in August, at which point she will be able to leave foster care. Her conversion and flight to Florida have become a rallying point for anti-Islamic Christian ...

The Rifqa Bary saga ends with a whimper

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — Here’s the short version. Fathima Rifqa Bary, the teenaged Muslim-to-Christian-convert runaway, does not have to rejoin her parents in Columbus, Ohio. She and her folks agreed that she will stay in foster care until she turns 18 in August. Bary became a minor celebrity several months ago when she ran away from her parents, saying she feared she would be put to death for being an “apostate,” someone who had abandoned Islam. Aided by Christian church leaders in Columbus, she boarded a Greyhound bus for Orlando, Florida, to stay secretly with husband-and-wife pastors, Blake and Beverly Lorenz, for a week or so. Once her whereabouts became known, Bary entered the world of child protection services in first Florida, then Ohio, and became a poster child for religious nutjobs building up anti-Islam fervor. In the aftermath, the Lorenzes have lost their jobs. (Their church board took issue with the Lorenzes breaking the law by harboring a runaway child without notifying the proper authorities.) Her parents have lost their privacy and a great deal of their reputation. (Law enforcement investigations found the parents posed no threat to their daughter’s safety, but Bary’s anti-Islam fans still trumpet that the girl’s ...

Ohio’s latest manufactroversy stumbles onward 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — You would think Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, was some kind of political prisoner, or a modern day Joan of Arc, instead of a runaway in foster care. People held signs that said “Free Rifqa” and “Sharia sucks. Free Rifqa Bari. (sic)” There was a large poster that showed violence done to Muslims who have converted to Christianity, as Bary said she did four years ago. People prayed, and people spoke, and people made a controversy where none exists. Hence, a manufactroversy. How many people? Well, one of the organizers demagogues, Pamela Geller, says “hundreds.” The Columbus Dispatch says “about 120.” Bary ran away from her Columbus home back in September. She and her family are Muslims from Sri Lanka, and according to newspaper accounts, her parents were perfectly OK with her reading the Bible, hanging out with Christian kids, and being a cheerleader. But her many “supporters” — most of whom are fervent Christians — fervently believe her family, or the middle-of-the-road mosque to which they belong, will put the girl to death if she is sent back to her family. Law enforcement officers discount that likelihood, but since when do True Believers™ believe John Law? The ...

Wingnuts rally for Rifqa 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Rifqa Bary saga just gets weirder and weirder. Now that the 17-year-old is back in her home state, her “benefactors” and “supporters” plan to hold a rally during the hearing that will decide whether she will return to her parents’ home. In the reality-based world, a runaway child returning home would be a good thing, if the parents are decent, upstanding members of society, which the Barys appear to be. In the apocalyptic world of the far-far-rightwing, however, Rifqa’s Muslim parents are sure to kill their Christian convert daughter, because, you know, all Muslims do that sort of thing, every day. Pamela Geller and her fellow Muslim-haters have themselves worked up into a froth, accusing the Bary family of every crime known to humanity, merely because the Barys are Muslim … … and because Rifqa, whose own grip on reality seems kind of tenuous, has people convinced that her family will either kill her or arrange for her sudden demise once she returns to that lawless hotbed of Islamic terrorism, Columbus, Ohio. Law enforcement officers and child welfare officials say the likelihood of Rifqa being killed is nil. Her parents are pretty normal sounding, middle-class Americans ...

Religious runaway Rifqa Bary back in Ohio, in foster care 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — The Orlando Sentinel reports that Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Muslim girl turned Christian (pawn), returned to her home state of Ohio, where she is in foster care pending family court proceedings. Bary, 17, fled her Columbus home last summer with the assistance of conservative Christians, who bought her a bus ticket to Orlando, where she lived for two weeks with Christian crusaders Blake and Beverly Lorenz. Several days later, the Lorenzes reported Bary’s arrival to Florida’s child protection services. The immigrant girl from Sri Lanka has become a poster child for those Christians who believe the world is heading for a showdown between the forces of good (Christians) and the forces of evil (Muslims). Feeding on apparently false accusations that Bary’s parents will kill her for leaving her faith, rabid Christians have flocked to her cause like bears to honey. An Ohio judge has wisely restricted the impressionable girl’s access to the Internet and her cell phone, which has led one anti-Islam nutjob to accuse the Ohio judge of enforcing Muslim sharia law. Last month, while under foster care in Florida, Bary appeared on a telephone conference call prayer meeting, during which she manically prayed to Jesus, ...

Teenage convert Rifqa Bary to return to Ohio 1

[UPDATE 10/16/09: For an excellent narrative of Rifqa Bary’s life before, during and after her running away, check this feature at tampabay.com. It’s the best — and least biased — account of her saga I’ve seen.] JISHOU, HUNAN — Rifqa Bary, the Muslim teen who converted to Christianity and fled to Florida (with help), will be sent back to temporary foster care in her home state of Ohio, a Florida family court judge ruled Tuesday. Bary, 17, ran away from home at age 16, saying she feared her parents would kill her for converting. Christian ministers helped her take a Greyhound to Orlando, Florida, where she lived with a pastor and his wife for two weeks before they finally reported the situation to local authorities and the girls’ parents. Law enforcement officers investigating the Bary family found no indication Bary’s life was in danger, and the Florida judge assigned to her case ruled that Ohio’s child protection office is more suitable to decide her case. Once she arrives in Ohio, Bary will be placed in temporary custody with the Franklin County Children’s Service department. Bary made headlines recently after she participated in a conference call Christian prayer session preceding the ...

More about Rifqa Bary’s surprise appearance

JISHOU, HUNAN — I was too tired last night to fill in some of the details about Rifqa Bary, the runaway Muslim teenager from Ohio now living in Florida. It’s morning now, and I have some more interesting background on that conference call. According to Right Wing Watch, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Christian group, organized the conference call to counter the Muslim prayer rally in Washington, D.C., last Friday. It seems the task force was quaking in its boots about the possibility of 50,000 Muslims gathering near the Capitol Building. (Actually, only about 3,000 showed up. They had to put up with Christian hecklers. Welcome to America.) Part of their fears stems from their mistaken impression that President Barack Obama is secretly Muslim, and his friendly and conciliatory gestures to the world’s Muslims signal a Muslim takeover of the USA. (Incidentally, in case you missed it, the new America will also be simultaneously Marxist, communist, socialist and fascist, as well as an Islamic state. Just so we’re clear.) From OneNewsNow.com, a wingnut website: Associated Press says Christian leaders in last night's conference call were unconvinced the gathering will be a time for Muslims to pray together, ...
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