Tag Archive | "John Freshwater"

Christian Educators Association International: An Alternative to Hard-Left Teachers’s Unions


 By Bill Korach

Last week, The Report Card interviewed Finn Laursen Executive Director of the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), an organization founded in 1953 whose mission is to encourage, equip and empower educators according to Biblical Principles. Mr. Laursen was a former Firelands Local School District Superintendent in Loraine County Ohio, earning his MA in education at Ohio State University. Most of CEAI’s membership are public school teachers and subscribe to principles that include promoting educational excellence as an expression of Christian commitment, preserving our Judeo-Christian heritage and values through education, promoting the legal rights of Christians in public schools and providing resources and benefits for educators including professional liability insurance.

Mr. Laursen says: “Although CEAI is not a union, we offer Christian teachers in the public school system an alternative to teacher’s unions whose values are in many ways in opposition to the values of Christian teachers. CEAI members get $1 Million in legal liability coverage in the event that they are sued for any cause related to their profession.” One has only to read The Report Card or follow the news to know of the all-to-frequent attacks by the ACLU against America’s Judeo Christian Heritage.

The dominant teacher’s union in America, The National Educational Association (NEA) claims membership of 3,200,000 members and has an annual budget of over $300 Million. The NEA’s top priority is member benefits and political power, not educational quality. Steven Jobs, Apple Founder said: for “unless the unions were broken, there is no hope for educational reform.” The NEA has opposed any and all reforms like school vouchers and tax credits that would weaken their monopoly grip on public schools. The NEA’s unholy alliance with the Department of Education have driven spending on education to over $650 Billion annually according to the CATO institute, while America’s educational performance continues to drop. American students score in the bottom third for math and science among developed nations according to a recent McKinsey study. In many urban school districts, high school drop out rates are 40% or higher. At the same time, the NEA has fully embraced a worldview that denigrates America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. History and social studies courses frequently depict Americans as racist oppressors, greedy capitalists, and homophobes. The NEA supports the abortion lobby, the gay agenda, Radical Islam, and Agenda 21 a global, socialist world view that tend to be in conflict with the views of Christian teachers.

 

Mr. Laursen says: “CEAI became the first national organization of professional Christian educators serving in public, private and charter schools. In the 1990’s many Christian public school teachers felt that the NEA no longer spoke for them and wanted out. CEAI  is a leader in promoting the rights of religious persons in public education and in providing benefits for educators including $1 million in legal liability coverage in the event of a lawsuit.” Mr. Laursen points out that teachers can be sued personally. He points to the case of John Freshwater, a Mt. Vernon, Ohio teacher sued over a science experiment but only found guilty of  teaching evolution critically and refusing to take a Bible off his desk. Mr. Freshwater, whose case was covered in these pages last week, was terminated by the Mt. Vernon School Board. The CEAI helped Mr. Freshwater connect with the Rutherford Institute that has filed his case with the Ohio Supreme Court.

 

Mr. Laursen says that his members regard teaching as a calling and to encourage them CEAI offers a daily devotional, and the magazine Teachers of Vision. CEAI counsels teachers on their First Amendment rights in the classroom; a valuable tool teachers can use to defend their rights as Christians and educators. Mr. Laursen says: “There are a great many misconceptions about the rights of Christian teachers, student led prayer and other matters. We have a relationship with the Liberty Council, a law firm that defends teaching of Judeo-Christian values in the classroom and they say ‘if you teach what’s right, we’ll defend you.’”

Mr. Laursen says: “Although CEAI is not a union and does not engage in collective bargaining for teacher contracts, teachers fed up with the NEA can join CEAI and we will get them out of the union without loss of contract protection.” Mr. Laursen says that some states are “closed shop” requiring teachers to join the union, but CEAI can still help.

The CEAI is well known in the secular world and Mr. Laursen is often an invited speaker at educational events around the country. Mr. Laursen believes that there are about 600,000 Christian teachers in the public school system, but only 7500 belong to the CEAI. He believes that small number is because many teachers are unaware of CEAI, but he is aware that many Christian teachers are fearful of the rapid slide in public school morality and the concomitant moral confusion. Mr. Laursen welcomes anyone in the Christian community to take advantage of the CEAI website www.ceai.org/ He encourages teachers to contact CEAI with any questions regarding membership and draws attention to the Daniel project for Christian teacher leadership in public schools: http://www.tentm.org/public-schools.html

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Ohio Distinguished Teacher Award Winner Fired for the Bible on His Desk, Part II


Rita Dunaway, Attorney The Rutherford Institute

by Bill Korach

Yesterday The Report Card published an interview with John Freshwater, a Mt. Vernon, OH 8th grade teacher fired for his critical instruction of evolution combined with the presence of a Bible on his desk. This morning I spoke with his pro bono attorney Rita Dunaway with the Rutherford Institute. The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated. Ms. Dunaway says that Rutherford agreed to take the case because they believe that Mr. Freshwater’s First Amendment rights have been violated by the Mt. Vernon Board of Education when he was first suspended without pay, a draconian punishment given the nature of the charges, and ultimately terminated. Ms. Dunaway believes that the Board also demonstrated an unconstitutional hostility to the free practice of religion.

Ms. Dunaway say that the termination appears to have resulted from 1. Mr. Freshwater’s critical  teaching of evolution, and 2. presence of “religious material” in the classroom.  Rutherford states that the school’s instructional policies say that teachers should try to teach material objectively. In other words teachers should cause students to think about a thing, and not just accept as truth anything they are told. Ms. Dunaway says the evidence suggests that Mr. Freshwater was a thoughtful teacher who got his students to look at the strengths and weaknesses of a theory. The school apparently believed Mr. Freshwater to be a highly competent teacher because he was given the Distinguished Teacher Award by his peers and the principal in 2002 and 2006. Distinguished Teacher  is Mt. Vernon’s version of Teacher of the Year. The Board, apparently found this critical approach unacceptable in teaching evolution. According to Ms. Dunaway, the school mounted an inquisition when found that a Bible, and the book Jesus of Nazareth on Mr. Freshwater’s desk formed the basis for an unauthorized criticism of evolution. Incidentally both the Bible and Jesus ofr Nazareth were checked out of the Mt. Vernon Public School Library.

Passions have been further aroused by certain misguided individuals claiming that Mr. Freshwater burned a cross into the skin of students as part of a science experiment. This conjures images of some sort of mythical Medieval Christian ritual. The fact is that the Tesla coil experiment is a commonplace middle school level science demonstration where the coil leave a temporary and harmless mark on the arm of the student. The Tesla coil was not ever mentioned by the Board in their stated reasons for suspension and termination of Mr. Freshwater.

Ms. Dunaway says that Rutherford is optimistic that the case will be heard before the Ohio Supreme Court because Mr. Freshwateer’s termination places a chilling effect on free speech and opens the gates of hostility toward religion.

 

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Ohio Teacher of the Year Fired for the Bible on His Desk Brings Case to Ohio Supreme Court



By Bill Korach

This morning, I spoke with John Freshwater, a teacher of 23 years who was fired from the Mt. Vernon, Ohio high school because he had a Bible on his desk. Freshwater, married for 32 years is a proud father of three; a son who graduated from the United States Military Academy, a daughter who graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and a daughter who is still in the Mt. Vernon High School. In 2006, he won Outstanding Teacher of the Year, and has always earned excellent evaluations. However, in 2008 a complaint was lodged about the Bible that had always sat on his desk in the classroom.

Mr. Freshwater refused to remove the Bible and later, and another complaint was lodged against Mr. Freshwater with 30 allegations of wrongdoing. Some of the allegations stated that Mr. Freshwater’s faith tainted his instruction in science. Mr. Freshwater was the only teacher at the high school whose students passed the 2007/8 Ohio science assessment test. So why the complaint against a teacher of this caliber?

Mr. Freshwater believes that the genesis of the problem began in 2003 when he taught the theory of evolution to his 8th grade class. The teaching requirements stated that the theory of evolution was to be critically analyzed. This Mr. Freshwater sought to do, but learned that the school would brook no criticism of evolution. The school administration and some of the faculty objected to Mr. Freshwater’s critical discussion of evolution, and the data related to evolution, in spite of the requirement to analyze evolution critically.

Mr. Freshwater was first suspended without pay in 2008 and in January of 2011, he was terminated from Mt. Vernon High School. He chose to fight the school district in court, and has had to sell the family farm to pay the thousands of hours of court cost to defend himself. Mr. Freshwater points out that the school district has spent over $1 Million for a law firm to discourage his legal effort to defend himself.

Last week John Freshwater’s fight to return to the classroom advanced to the highest court in Ohio.  This court has never decided a case of this caliber and the rights of Ohio teachers hang in the balance.

“Our member lost his job for doing what other good teachers do on a regular basis; he went beyond the curriculum encouraging students towards higher levels of thinking, and not sterilizing his classroom of any items connected to religion including his personal Bible,” said Finn Laursen, Executive Director of Christian Educators Association International.

John Freshwater said “Academic freedoms were once the foundation of American education. It is so sad that it is being eroded away. My case is a clear example of this.”

Freshwater, a 20-year veteran at Mt. Vernon, was suspended by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education in 2008 and officially terminated in January 2011 even though his students repeatedly scored superior on standardized tests.

The Rutherford Institute noted, “the School Board justified its actions by accusing Freshwater of improperly injecting religion into the classroom by giving students ‘reason to doubt the accuracy and/or veracity of scientists, science textbooks and/or science in general.’ The Board also claimed that Freshwater failed to remove ‘all religious articles’ from his classroom, including a Bible.”

According to Laursen other states are passing legislation to clarify that schools are not religious free zones and that all scientific evidence can be shared in public classrooms even if not supporting evolutionary origins of life.

“This fight centered in Ohio goes beyond state borders and one teacher; it will clarify if our public schools are to be a place of controlled indoctrination or a place where the freedom our forefathers framed in the Constitution rules. It will send a message to districts whether teachers of faith shed First Amendment rights at the school house door,” said Laursen.

Schools need to treasure teachers like John Freshwater, not fire them.

 

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