An Ohio school teacher refused an order from his public school principal to hide his personal Bible from his students, which he’s kept on his desk for 18 years.
The teacher, John Freshwater, held a news conference today to respond to questions from local reporters as the deadline set by school officials for him to hide his Bible passed.
No formal action was taken immediately by officials in the Mount Vernon, Ohio, School District in response to Freshwater’s move, according to Coach Dave Daubenmire of Pass The Salt Ministries and Minutemen United, who was acting as a spokesman for Freshwater.
Daubenmire has had his own experience with such perspectives, having been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1999 for praying with football teams he coached in Ohio.
Freshwater has been a middle school science teacher for 20 years in the Mount Vernon School District. Recently, the principal visited his classroom and then notified him of several changes he would be required to make.
One was a demand to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from a collage of historic information in his classroom, a demand Freshwater agreed to fulfill.
But Freshwater said the district must prove it can order him to remove his personal Bible from his desk without infringing on his God-given and First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion.
“John Freshwater has sounded the alarm, and we have hope that his cause will not die for a lack of a second from the church leadership in Mount Vernon,” said Jim Harrison, national director of Minutemen United.
Harrison said he hopes the community churches will rally behind Freshwater’s desire to keep his Bible handy.
“This is an incredible opportunity to right some historical misconceptions about the church and state relationship in our great nation,” Harrison said.
Daubenmire, who said he “has a deep appreciation and understanding for what John is doing,” told WND Freshwater is not yet represented by counsel but hasn’t been subjected to any sanction by the school yet either.
“Today at noon he informed them he would not comply with the order to remove his personal Bible from where it’s sat for 18 years,” Daubenmire told WND. “It’s his personal Bible. He draws great strength from it.”
Daubenmire also said Freshwater has not used the Bible in his interaction with students, but he also believes he does not forfeit his own rights just for being a teacher.
Such a school demand, he said, amounts to an ongoing viewpoint discrimination, since a Muslim woman would not be ordered to hide her head covering from students’ views.
“The Mount Vernon Schools today directed one of its middle school science teachers to remove from his classroom the 10 Commandments he had displayed and to remove his Bible from his desktop while students were in his room. The Mount Vernon Schools has not taken this action because it opposes religion, but because it has an obligation under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to protect against the establishment of religion in the schools. As a public school system the district cannot teach, promote or favor any religion or religious beliefs.”
Daubenmire said, however, the school’s demands go far beyond making sure it doesn’t “establish religion” and reaches the level of a “continuous purging of Christianity.”
In an earlier commentary for WND, Daubenmire framed the issue as a rampant attack singling out Christianity.
“Please notice that the attack on religious freedom in America is on Christianity. No one is trying to silence the religious freedom of Muslims or atheists or humanists. Quite the contrary. We are told to ‘understand’ Muslims, to be sensitive to the atheists and to tolerate the humanists and their various denominations of ‘isms’ (environmentalism, feminism, secularism, socialism, communism), which we teach openly in our schools,” he said.
“Our rights are God-given rights. They are not ‘constitutional’ rights,” he continued. “Take some time and read the U.S. Constitution. You will see that it does not grant any rights to anyone. Instead, while setting up the federal government, the document (the first 10 amendments) also prohibits the government from interfering with various aspects of human freedom. The first 10 amendments limit what the government can do. They shouldn’t be called the Bill of Rights; they should be called the Bill of Limitations.”
Instead of claiming constitutional rights, citizens of the U.S. should proclaim their God-given rights, he said.