COLUMBUS, Ohio — A public school district was legally justified in firing a science instructor who refused to remove religious materials from his classroom, a divided Ohio Supreme Court said Tuesday in a ruling that stopped short of addressing issues the case raised about teaching creationism and intelligent design.
With three justices dissenting, the court ruled the Mount Vernon district had grounds to fire John Freshwater in 2011 for insubordination for keeping religious books and a poster of a praying president.
“Freshwater is fully entitled to an ardent faith in Jesus Christ and to interpret Biblical passages according to his faith. But he was not entitled to ignore direct, lawful edicts of his superiors while in the workplace,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote in the lead opinion, which affirmed lower court rulings.
The court concluded the district infringed on Freshwater’s First Amendment rights by ordering the removal of his personal Bible from his desk
But the court found that Freshwater was insubordinate for keeping other items that were not part of his exercise of religion.
The dissenting justices contended the evidence did not support the firing.