Richard Hoppe has begun posting updates on the John Freshwater hearings over at the Panda’s Thumb now that they have started up again. Things are getting very interesting. On Day 15, the witnesses included Lori Miller, a middle school science and math teacher from the same school as Freshwater. Her testimony was almost surreal. Not only did she support everything Freshwater did, she said that almost all the teachers did similar things, including openly proselytizing students to convert to Christianity. Long excerpt below the fold.
As noted, Miller is a co-religionist and strong supporter of Freshwater. She said she supports and encourages him. She testified that she hadn’t read all of the independent investigator’s report because it sickened and disgusted her. She said that she did all the things Freshwater was being disciplined for – she had a Bible and four devotional books (exhibited to the hearing) on her classroom desk, used a Tesla coil to shock students when she taught science, was an FCA faculty monitor, and had religious materials displayed in her classroom, but she wasn’t being disciplined. She named four teachers who have Bibles on their desks in addition to Freshwater. She said she thought Freshwater was being specifically targeted.
Displaying a picture of her desk, she showed that the Bible and devotional books were plainly visible, piled on a corner of the desk. She described religious materials displayed on one quadrant of her classroom bulletin board. They included a cross given to her by a student (roughly 8″ high by 5″ wide), a “Faith” card, and notes from her husband with Bible verses on them. She had removed those items on instructions from Bill White, middle school Principal, and Superintendent Short before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.
In her testimony she also said that another middle school teacher, Wes Elifritz, a health teacher, had more elaborate religious materials than hers displayed in his room and had not been requested to remove them. She repeated that several times…
In extended testimony she showed pictures of the religious materials displayed in Wes Elifritz’s room, including several verses from Psalms 37, a poster on memorizing the 10 Commandments complete with mnemonic advice, a poem about Christians and Christ, and the lyrics of the chorus of a “praise and worship song.” She said as far as she knew the display was still there. When asked, she said the items were grouped together for a purpose, a religious display. Also when asked if one had no exposure to Christianity would one know it’s a religious display, she replied “yes.”
She testified that she asked Superintendent Short why she had to take her “less obvious” materials down when Wes Elifritz didn’t have to take his down. She said she didn’t get a clear answer to that.
Miller testified that she had never had any instruction on the First Amendment Separation Clause. Asked if she had encouraged students at school to embrace Christianity before the Freshwater affair began last year, she readily responded that she had done so. She gave examples in an excited voice. She had prayed over students in the halls and lunchroom, had counseled them to seek Christ, and so on. She said, “I honestly didn’t think that was wrong.” She was very enthusiastic in voice and manner about her proselytizing in the public schools.
Questioned about FCA, she said that she had been a monitor up until this last year, when FCA has not been meeting. She, Wes Elifritz, and another teacher whose name I missed have had several meetings this year with administrators, seeking a way to have FCA meet so that teachers could take a more active role, praying with the students and singing with them, rather than being passive monitors. She said “We wanted to be part of it rather than just stand by. We wanted to pray with the kids and be involved.”
She testified that several parents had written to her at the end of the school year thanking her for being a Christian in a public school. She testified that she never thought that sharing her Christian faith with students in the school was a problem.
Sounds to me like Freshwater is just the tip of the iceberg.