NEWS: The Establishment Clause: A Student Gets Burned

People and organizations continue to mix church and state…and it makes the news. We continue to debate about what is the proper place to display religious belief. How does one allow free expression without displacing the beliefs of others? Many Americans remain serious about their religion. Thus it is no surprise that one’s belief would influence daily life. But this freedom to practice faith comes into conflict when considering American public life. The Establishment Clause reminds us that the First Amendment protects both sides of an issue. The case involving John Freshwater, a Christian schoolteacher, continues. After Freshwater allegedly conducted a classroom experiment on a student (burning a cross onto his arm) the student’s family filed a suit against the teacher. Although a settlement was reached with the school district, the case continues as Freshwater and his advocates argue that the issue was not about his “experiment,” but rather an effort to silence his opposition to evolution as a viable scientific theory and his display of Christian belief in the classroom. This case is yet another example of the tensions we all experience in a pluralistic society and the various ways the First Amendment can be interpreted. What is most astounding is that among the teachers interviewed, one was simply unaware of the Establishment Clause. Read the full story here.

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2 thoughts on “NEWS: The Establishment Clause: A Student Gets Burned

  1. Shawn David Young wrote: “After Freshwater allegedly conducted a classroom experiment on a student (burning a cross onto his arm) the student’s family filed a suit against the teacher.”

    Many teachers in the school also allowed students to touch the sparks/static electricity from the Tesla coil.

    A teacher, Lori Miller, who spoke before the Mount Vernon Board of Education back in 2008, about the allegation of the burn, said that she has also allowed students to touch the spark/ static electricity from the Tesla coil without incident: “I have never had a concern or an issue with it and I cannot honesty comprehend how that device can burn an individual as alleged.” (Source, video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db560QnoQUE )

    Another teacher, Steven Farmer, testified that he used the Tesla coil during lessons on gases and electricity and allowed students to touch the static electricity. (See my article “Science Teacher: Tesla Coil is Safe.”)

    http://www.accountabilityinthemedia.com/2009/01/science-teacher-tesla-coil-is-safe.html

    Another teacher, Donald Newcomer, testified that he used the device during a unit on electricity to help students to become excited. Newcomer described touching the energized device like that of rubbing your feet on carpet and then touching something. (See my article “Static Electricity.”)

    http://www.accountabilityinthemedia.com/2009/01/static-electricity.html

    The allegation of the burn is at most just an allegation. Actually, it was an issue that was officially resolved by the school in January 2008. (See my article “Tesla Coil Matter Was Officially Resolved January 2008.”)

    http://www.accountabilityinthemedia.com/2009/10/tesla-coil-matter-was-officially.html

  2. There was an interesting development this week–John Freshwater addressed the school board at its monthly meeting and gave the board an update on recent events related to his employment hearing.

    “I thought the hearing was about to end sometime last month but the proceeding changed again because somebody sent an anonymous letter containing some photographs of some items from my classroom,” Freshwater said. “Last week another anonymous delivery was made that contained approximately 300 photographs of items that were in my room.”

    I’ve uploaded a video of Freshwater’s comments to YouTube:

    An article published by the Mount Vernon News provides some additional information regarding the missing evidence. (See the article “Anonymous source leads to ‘black bag’ find,” by Samantha Scoles. )

    http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/10/02/09/anonymous-source-leads-to-black-bag-find

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