You probably have already heard about the public school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio who’s been documented to have plastered the Ten Commandments on his door, put a Bible on his desk and promoted religious creationism to his students. He’s also been alleged by Mount Vernon public schools and a child in his class to have burned crosses into the skin of his pupils. No shrinking violet, John Freshwater says that when the school district tells him to stop abusing his position of authority as a schoolteacher to shove religion down his pupils’ throats and burn it onto their arms, he’s the one who is being oppressed.
My favorite part of all this is Freshwater’s reasoning about why his government job as a public school teacher gives him the right to impose his religion on others:
I cannot with a clear conscience follow a directive that makes religion and the religious viewpoint any less credible by those who deem themselves more enlightened.
Freshwater’s contention is that not putting the Ten Commandments on a door, not sticking a Bible on his desk, not hawking Intelligent Design, and not burning crosses into the arms of the children under his authority would be injurious to religion. By that logic, not putting the Koran on the door would be injurious to religion. Not teaching the children transcendental meditation would be injurious to religion. Not telling children that the Earth sits on the back of a turtle would be injurious to religion. Not burning a Star of David, or a Crescent, or the Vedic Swastika onto a child’s arm would be injurious religion.
John Freshwater seems to feel no need to use the power granted him by the state to shove non-Christian religion down children’s throats. Freshwater’s freedom is only the freedom to shove Christian religion, and within that his own parochial understanding of Christian religion, down children’s throats. Freshwater’s actions are the abuse of power to establish a favored religious understanding and practice in those under his authority. It is to restrain the abuse of government power by zealots like Freshwater that First Amendment restrictions on the establishment of religion are in place.
The Mount Vernon school district is courageously and correctly maintaining its position that Freshwater must stop using his position to push his religious agenda. Some community members, on the other hand, have been holding rallies in support of Freshwater’s use of government authority to proselytize. In the meantime, Bob Pawson, a Trenton NJ schoolteacher and leader of the Scriptures in Schools Project, is calling for fundamentalist Christian teachers across the country to expand their efforts to turn their teaching positions into centers of gospel work:
Teachers, students, and support staff should immediately flood America’s public schools with Bibles. Keep Bibles in class for the remainder of the school year. Find creative ways to use Bible references to complete some homework and in-class assignments each week.
If that’s not clear enough for you, Pawson’s spreading a song around with this message for teachers:
Dare to bring your Bible!
Dare to bring your Bible!
Dare to bring your Bible into school!
Though critics say you shouldn’t,
and really wish you wouldn’t,
dare to bring your Bible into school!
Oh, we don’t need their permission,
we have the Great Commission;
we speak with the Authority of Christ!
And the Holy Spirit
wants ev’ryone to hear it!
So, dare to bring your Bible into school!
Will the constitutional or theocratic vision of America prevail?