Supreme Court sticks fork in John Freshwater dismissal case

JISHOU, HUNAN — Seven years! This case has been dragging on for seven years, and now maybe we will never need to read about John Freshwater in the news again. His last chance to have the courts reinstate him as a science teacher in Ohio ended in defeat this week. The US Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that Freshwater’s former employers, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district, had cause to fire him for insubordination for refusing to remove religious materials from his classroom. Freshwater’s lawyers argued that the district had infringed his First Amendment rights, and wanted to Court to hear their case. The Justices were apparently unimpressed with this argument, and denied his writ of certiorari — basically, a request that the Court hear his appeal.. Freshwater was a seventh-grade science teacher who had a few bad practices. Judging from the testimony of former students and co-workers during a lengthy administrative hearing, he had a long history of teaching Creationism in his class, leading his students to doubt the validity of evolution and the Big Bang theory, and pushing his conservative Christian faith in class. Unsaid and unexamined was the district’s seeming tolerance of this ...

Evolution and Bill Nye 1 – Creationism and Ken Ham 0 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Bill Nye, the Science Guy, debated Ken Ham, the Bible Guy, Tuesday, as I am sure you’ve heard. Nye defended the theory of evolution; Ham, the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) perspective. I haven’t watched the whole thing, and I haven’t found a transcript of their remarks yet, but it seems Nye had the edge, as he should, since evolution is real and the 6-day Creation wasn’t. Whether the debate made any fence-sitters change their minds remains to be seen. Ken Ham is a leading champion of a literal interpretation of the Biblical account of Genesis. Ham insists the Earth is no more than 6,000 years old, and that God created the animals and plants in their present forms we see today. As for the dinosaurs, they perished when God sent the Flood. His Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., attempts to debunk more than 200 years of solid scientific evidence that demonstrates the Earth is more like 4.6 billion years old, that present-day plants and animals are the results of billions of years of evolution, and that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, long before any human-like animal walked the Earth. Among the world’s scientists — ...

Astonishingly bad teaching materials

JISHOU, HUNAN — Multiple-choice tests may be one of the easiest kinds of tests to take, but they are the hardest kind for a teacher to write. This may explain why some MC tests are so astonishingly bad, such as the ones highlighted at Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, Leaving Fundamentalism. Scaramanga’s blog includes MC questions from the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) series, which are widely used among homeschoolers and so-called “schools” run by fundamentalist churches. Most violate every known principle of designing useful MC questions. Let me explain. Most MC questions give three to five choices, from which the test-taker must choose the best. Good questions challenge the student’s knowledge and understanding by providing answers that seem plausible, but are not quite correct. Some choices are called “distractors,” because they are there to mislead an inattentive or ill-prepared student into choosing them. Some teachers (like me) throw in a few joke choices from time to time, just to lighten things up. At my former school, there is a teacher surnamed Miron, which made for a perfect joke answer for a question involving subatomic particles: proton, electron, meson, miron. But designing MC tests is a nightmare, especially if you want the test ...

A Quaker answers Christian objections to contraception coverage

JISHOU, HUNAN — Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have a long history of conscientious objection and non-violent resistance to laws they feel contradict divine law. Notable examples have included slavery from the early 1700s to 1865 in the USA, war since the 17th century. and conscription in the 20th. Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, some conservative Christian employers have objected to the ACA’s mandate that company health care plans should cover contraception and abortions for those employees needing them. Hobby Lobby’s owners, in particular, have taken their objections to the US Supreme Court, saying they should be allowed to essentially be “conscientious objectors” and refuse such coverage. Seems reasonable, right? Well, not quite. As blogger Annalee Flower Horne explains, a CO should not expect life to be so easy. As a Quaker, I believe in Conscience Protection. I believe people should have the right to refuse work that violates their principles. If a draft were called tomorrow, I would wholeheartedly support people’s right not to serve. But if someone serving in the military came to me and said they wanted me to defend their right to refuse military service, but that they also wanted ...

Ohio science/religion teacher Freshwater loses yet again

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here’s the short version. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, 4-3, last week that the Mount Vernon School District was well within its rights to fire teacher John Freshwater for insubordination, given that he repeatedly ignored orders to remove religious material from his classroom and from his teaching. The court’s ruling, however, sidestepped the thornier underlying question of how much discussion of creationism and Intelligent Design may be permissible in a science classroom. That question in fact was a large part of Freshwater’s appeal of a lower court’s decision. And the court’s failure to address the issue drew sharp words from the three dissenting judges. Writing for the dissent, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer writes: {¶ 105} What next? With the insubordination claim gutted, the lead opinion should have moved on to consider the constitutional issues remaining in the case. Instead, the majority walks away from the opportunity to provide helpful guidance to every school board in Ohio and to the thousands of great teachers who could benefit from knowing more about the extent of and limits on their academic freedom. Justice O’Donnell’s well-reasoned dissent addresses the issue, but goes unrebutted. In short, the majority shrinks from the ...

10th Circuit slaps Oklahoma anti-Sharia law down like bug on a wall

JISHOU, HUNAN — Oklahoma’s anti-Sharia law violates the US Constitution, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The ruling states that the law — which amended the state constitution — violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment by singling out one religion, Islam. In addition, the court noted that the proponents of the law, which passed November 2010 in a state referendum, could not identify one occasion in which Sharia was used in Oklahoma. Too bad courts can’t comment on the stupidity of laws, too. Oklahoma’s Islamophobic factions took the lead nationally in pressing for such a law, creating a nontroversy about “creeping Sharia” and Muslim infiltration of the USA. After the Sooner State’s successful ballot initiative, other states jumped on the bandwagon, fabricating Muslim threats from whole cloth. The 10th Circuit got to the heart of the matter in its ruling: “Sharia? What Sharia?” Appellants do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted at the preliminary injunction hearing that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such ...

John Freshwater: the gift that keeps on giving 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Back when I was a science teacher, I started blogged about an Ohio public school science teacher who got in hot water for (1) allegedly using a Tesla coil on his students, (2) teaching evolution was false and (3) going overboard with his religious proselytizing in the classroom. Without going into a lot of details, let’s just say that teacher, John Freshwater of Mount Vernon, was removed from classroom teaching pending an administrative hearing about insubordination. After a two-year-long administrative hearing process, Freshwater lost his job earlier this year. He and the Mount Vernon school system were also named in a federal discrimination complaint brought by a student’s family; the school district settled out of court and Freshwater, following an unsuccessful appeal, also had to pay damages to the family. Meanwhile, he filed, and later dropped, his own discrimination complaint in federal court against the school system. So, after all these proceedings which suggest that Freshwater was to some degree culpable, I learn that he has the nerve to play the victim card on David Barton and Rick Green’s WallBuilders Live radio program. Here’s a partial transcript, courtesy of Right Wing Watch. Freshwater: When the 2007/2008 school ...

It’ll be one hell of a party — {{yawn}}

It'll be one hell of a party -- {{yawn}}
UPDATE OCT. 7, 2011 — A few things have changed since I wrote this post. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is no longer listed as a speaker. Three new speakers are now listed: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of NHCLC, Lila Rose, President of Live Action and John Stemberger, President of Florida Family Policy Council. And the deadline to get the low, low price on the viewing party kits has been extended to Oct. 14. JISHOU, HUNAN — By way of Right Wing Watch, I came across this announcement, which encourages folks to host viewing “parties” for a televised “premiere event.” The lineup of speakers* includes two guys running for the Republican presidential nomination (only one of whom has a ghost of chance of winning the nomination), a former congressman, a man who lies about American history, and the former head of an influential conservative Christian media empire. [*Speakers have been invited, but are not yet confirmed. -- Footnote at the bottom of the webpage.]] Three hours of talking heads telling us that the USA is a Christian Nation™, that the USA is going down the tubes because of the liberals, the gays, the atheists, the Muslims and (by the way) President ...

Voters in Queens: hand this putz Turner his walkin’ papers

[UPDATE: Well, nevermind. The putz won the election with 53% of the vote. Hope you like what you got, Brooklyn and Queens.] This is an actual campaign flier sent out by the New York Republicans on behalf of NY-9 candidate Bob Turner. I can’t think of a more crass exploitation of the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers attack than this. Turner is running against Democrat David Weprin in a special election to fill the seat of Rep. Andrew Weiner (D-NY-9), who resigned his seat after a sexting scandal. It’s supposed to be a tight race. I hope this flier backfires on Turner big time. Aside from the obvious bigotry, it lies like a dog. The Park 51 project is not at the site of World Trade Center (the so-called Ground Zero), is not a mosque, and doesn’t look anything like the gold-domed edifice in the flier. The project additionally does not violate any laws, local or national, and has even been approved by the local community zoning board. Turner is a putz. Look it up at urbandictionary.com if you don’t know what it means.

Beware of demons? Beware of David Barton

JISHOU, HUNAN — David Barton is a loon, a dangerous loon. I’ve blogged before about David Barton’s peculiar version of American history. He teaches that the USA was deliberately conceived as a Christian nation, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Barton misquotes the Founding Fathers, twists and quotemines historical documents, and when all else fails outright lies about history to support his cockeyed ideas. The Religious Right adores him. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is vainly trying to be the presidential nominee of her party, invited Barton to teach the Constitution to newly minted Representatives. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who at one point was considering a presidential run, famously said: `“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.” The Atlantic Monthly had a lengthy analysis of Barton’s appeal and his peculiar methods of historical research. There is no doubt that Barton’s religious belief drives his interpretation of history, but what kind of beliefs does he have? Here’s a clue. Right Wing Watch posted this excerpt of ...

A new entitlements program?

JISHOU, HUNAN — I took a break from reading literature essays (18 down, 70 to go!) to peruse what constitutes news in the USA. Some people have their underwear in knots because New York (yay!) has made same-sex marriage legal. One crazy lady, Linda Harvey, manages to connect New York’s Constitutional exercise of states’ rights (which conservatives normally champion) with an imaginary crusade by President Barack Obama to make every American fuck like bunnies. For example, This “freedom” will include much more than a perpetual pansexual pagan party. It will, and already does, include libel, slander, intimidation, corruption of youth, revolt in congregations, suppression of parental rights, revision of language, disease, loss of employment and loss of life. Oh, and did I mention public sex, the porn explosion and public nudity? Welcome to entitlement sex. Social Security is an entitlement — the government (so far, anyway) guarantees retirees a minimal income. Medicare is an entitlement — the government (so far, anyway) guarantees retirees minimal medical coverage. Medicaid is an entitlement — the government (so far, anyway) guarantees the poor minimal medical coverage. If I understand Harvey correctly, she is suggesting the federal government is going to guarantee everyone a minimal ...

More pesky high school students

JISHOU, HUNAN — And I’m not talking about Archie and Jughead, or even Beavis and Butthead. Amy Myers the Bachmann Slayer (and Scourge of the Right Wing) is not the only high school student making national news. Damon Fowler and Zack Kopplin, both of Louisiana, have made some national waves recently, too. Fowler is a 2011 graduate of Bastrop High School in Bastrop, La. Earlier this term, he learned that there would be a school-sanctioned official prayer at his graduation ceremony. He objected, and asked that the prayer be scotched. (FYI, the Supreme Court has held that public school-sponsored prayers are verboten under the First Amendment, which Fowler knows but the school apparently didn’t.) The ACLU followed up with a letter advising the school of the legal requirements and ramifications. School officials agreed to forgo the prayer. As if. In the meantime, the community got wind of Fowler’s objections and the shit hit the fan. Fowler got threats of violence and death. His fellow students turned on him. One of his teachers publicly berated him. His parents kicked him out of the house, and put his possessions (except his PS3) out on the porch. The graduation went on without him, ...
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