Student Backs Teacher In Fight To Keep Bible On Desk
A former student of a teacher who refused a district's request to remove a Bible from his desk told 10TV News on Thursday that religious items in his classroom were nothing new.
John Freshwater, a science teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School, held a rally earlier this week after his superiors asked him to remove the Bible from his desk, 10TV's Tanisha Mallett reported.
Freshwater said he was willing to go to court over the issue.
"The removal of it from my desk would be nothing short of an infringement on my own deeply held personal religious beliefs granted by God and guaranteed under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," Freshwater said.
Jennifer Klintworth, who was a student in Freshwater's class about 15 years ago, said the teacher always had religious items present in his classrooms.
"Never once do I ever remember him saying anything to me, ever trying to push his values on to me, ever trying to preach to me," Klintworth said. "Frankly, at that time, I would have said, "I don't want to hear that.'"
Now, Klintworth said she supported Freshwater's beliefs, and his fight to keep the Bible on his desk.
"I don't remember ever looking at his desk and thinking, 'Oh there's a Bible,'" Klintwoth said. "What I remember is the man he was."
Mount Vernon City Schools Superintendent Steve Short said the issue was not about Freshwater's personality, but rather district policy.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, there is no state rule or policy on religious articles. It leaves the decision up to individual school districts to decide.
10TV obtained a copy of Mount Vernon's policy and it states that the district does not allow "devotional exercises or displays of a religious character," Mallett reported.
Short said he was made aware the policy was being violated after a parent complained.
"The complaint involved the Ten Commandments and I believe eight to 10 bibles that were stacked on a shelf," Short said.
Stone said the parent complained about motivational posters with Bible verses and an additional Bible that sits on Freshwater's desk.
Freshwater made it clear on Wednesday that he would remove all items except the Bible on his desk.
Stone said the district did not mind if Freshwater kept the Bible, but he said legal counsel urged some changes.
"When students come into the room, or when he is teaching, that the Bible be put into his desk and out of sight," Stone said.
Klintworth told 10TV News that last she heard the Bible was still on Freshwater's desk, Mallett reported.
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April 16, 2008: Teacher Refuses To Move Bible From Desk