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Creationist Teacher John Freshwater Accused of Burning Crosses into Students' Arms

(The Columbus Dispatch/Shari Lewis)
(The Columbus Dispatch/ Craig Holman)
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (CBS) John Freshwater may not believe in evolution, but the Ohio middle school teacher accused of teaching that gays are sinners and burning crosses into students' arms, is on the verge of being naturally selected out of the classroom.

Photo: A Mount Vernon parent holds up a picture of her son's arm she claims was burned by John Freshwater.

Freshwater, a Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher, admits burning the students but says it wasn't part of any religious statement, but part of a science experiment he had done a hundred times in his 21 years of teaching, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The hearing has been on and off for 15 months, on whether Freshwater will be be fired. The Mount Vernon School Board voted to fire him in 2008 after the allegations first came to light, but state law entitled him to the hearing.

Photo: John Freshwater enters the hearing room Oct. 2008.

Some parents have voiced outrage that the teacher allegedly handed out surveys to students asking how important religion is to them. Freshwater initially denied it, but when he was shown two of the completed surveys during the hearing, he responded "it appears like you have gone through my room and taken some stuff," the paper reported.

Among the other allegations are that the teacher repeatedly told students that science wasn't fact and pushed a creationist agenda. He is also accused of citing a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality as an example of the fallibility of science, according to The New York Times.

"Science is wrong," Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, "because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner."

The controversy has divided the small town near Columbus. After he was suspended without pay, many students showed up at school wearing t-shirts with "I support Mr. Freshwater — God" on the front.

The school district settled a lawsuit in Aug. 2008 with the parents of one student, Zachary Dennis, who says that Freshwater burned him with a coil, and agreed to pay his family $5,502 and their attorneys $115,500. Certainly, the lawyers' prayers were answered.

The hearing is scheduled to wrap up Friday, Jan. 22, but a decision on Freshwater's fate isn't expected for a few months after that.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does Freshwater have a right to bring his religious views into the classroom or did he go too far?