A Mount Vernon teacher fired over accusations that he preached Christianity in class says in a
$1 million lawsuit that his free speech and civil rights were violated.
John Freshwater, who taught middle school science, also said he was harassed because of his religion, was defamed and suffered a hostile work environment.
The Mount Vernon school board created a work situation that allowed Freshwater "to be harassed by both administrators and co-workers on account of his religion," according to the lawsuit against the board and school administrators filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Columbus.
A message was left with Superintendent Steve Short on Wednesday seeking comment.
The Mount Vernon school board fired Freshwater last year, citing an internal investigation that found he had preached his Christian beliefs in class.
Freshwater was also accused of using a scientific device to burn a cross image onto a student's arm and of keeping a Bible on his desk.
Freshwater says other teachers were permitted to keep Bibles on their desks.
Freshwater is seeking $500,000 in lost wages, pension pay and lost opportunity costs and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Freshwater also said he was discriminated against because of his involvement with the student group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The lawsuit said an outside consultant's report that investigated Freshwater was incomplete and contained "scandalous allegations," which the lawsuit does not detail.
August 5, 2008:
Suspended Science Teacher Defends Himself To School Board
June 20, 2008: Report: Teacher Burned Cross On Students' Arms
May 13, 2008: Board Hears Comments On Teacher's Religious Views
April 22, 2008: Teacher Accused Of Burning Crosses Onto Students' Arms
April 17, 2008: Student Backs Teacher In Fight To Keep Bible On Desk
April 16, 2008: Teacher Refuses To Move Bible From Desk