Pharyngula

The saga of the Butcher of Mt Vernon

John Freshwater, the fanatical evangelical school teacher who burned a cross into a sudent’s arm, is in the midst of a hearing in Ohio right now. It doesn’t sound like it’s going all that well for him. Richard Hoppe has been attending the hearings, and has a regularly updated summary at the Panda’s Thumb. Hoppe is being very circumspect and professional in his descriptions, however; if you want cruel flair, look elsewhere.

Comments

  1. #1 Kobra
    October 6, 2008

    He should be charged with assault, at the very least.

  2. #2 LaTomate
    October 6, 2008

    Hey!!! First!!!

    I hope they burn a cross on his left buttock.

  3. #3 Paul Lamb
    October 6, 2008

    Must be Mercury in retrograde for the poor guy!

  4. #4 Fred Mounts
    October 6, 2008

    Hooray for Ohio! As I posted in the previous thread, our state motto is “With God, all things are possible.” Maybe it’s possible that he’ll get the book thrown at him, with or without God.

  5. #5 Phoenix Woman
    October 6, 2008

    Compare and contrast:

    – PZ puts a nail through a piece of baked goods, both of which are his own personal property. No physical harm was committed by PZ.

    – John Freshwater burns marks in a student’s flesh against the kid’s will.

    Which of these events gets the most people up in arms?

  6. #6 Rog
    October 6, 2008

    Ugh. I missed the beginning of this one, but it makes my flesh creep….let’s hope they throw the book at this sicko.

    Rog

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    October 6, 2008

    I wish they could sue him for lying to the students for more than the cross-burning.

    Skin heals. Minds, just sometimes.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  8. #8 tsg
    October 6, 2008

    Hey!!! First!!!

    a) no you’re not
    b) stop it.

  9. #9 Canuck
    October 6, 2008

    I liked the racy version. The guy is a douchebag, so no problem calling him one.

  10. #10 Michelle
    October 6, 2008

    We’re not banning “first” folks here yet?

    And yes, he should be tried for assault. He’s a kook and is a danger around children.

  11. #11 Der Bruno Stroszek
    October 6, 2008

    So part of his defence is that people might not recognize phrases like “John 3:16″ as Bible verses? Quite aside from the massive unlikeliness of that being the case, doesn’t that mean his defence team is using the rarely-successful “I really thought I’d get away with it” strategy?

  12. #12 BMS
    October 6, 2008

    Typo alert

    “sudent’s” should be “student’s”

  13. #13 Nerd of Redhead
    October 6, 2008

    I’ll be happy if this guy is terminated and loses his pension. Let his church take care of him in his old age.

    PZ did remove the first post on another thread that just claimed they were first. But adding other statements pertinent to PZ’s original post should keep a post up. Then again, I don’t understand why someone would be proud of having the first post just for the sake of having the first post.

  14. #14 Ryan F Stello
    October 6, 2008

    This one got me:

    In addition, [Freshwater's attorney] added one more: The beginning of the demonization of the family whose son was burned. That was subtle but real.

    It’s one thing to try and claim your client was wrongfully termintated because of legal protections, but another entirely to try and force a negative view of the victims.

    It’s desperate, unwarranted and I hope the jury picks up on that.

  15. #15 tsg
    October 6, 2008

    PZ did remove the first post on another thread that just claimed they were first. But adding other statements pertinent to PZ’s original post should keep a post up.

    Just my own personal opinion, but I’d delete “first” posts entirely just to discourage people from being tools.

    Then again, I don’t understand why someone would be proud of having the first post just for the sake of having the first post.

    I always read it as “I have nothing better to do than sit on the internet all day refreshing random blogs.”

  16. #16 Ryan F Stello
    October 6, 2008

    And that deal about James 5:16 being a “virtuous statement” and not apparently religious in nature?

    From NIV,

    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

    Sins and prayer aren’t religious concepts?
    This lawyer really is hoping for extreme gullibility, I suppose.

  17. #17 Sir Craig
    October 6, 2008

    Reading some of the comments regarding Hoppe’s take on the proceedings, I saw a reference to the device in question used to burn the student as producing RF radiation. Working as I do around communications/navigational systems, I am horrified that this idiot (Freshwater) did what he did to the student: Our equipment, when running, must be shielded at all times, otherwise it is little more than an open-air microwave, looking to cook whatever flesh happens to be around. Any kind of exposure to these energies is an automatic trip to the hospital with a 24-hour observation period following.

    Granted, the equipment Freshwater used is no way as powerful as our systems, but what he did was in essence give this kid a subcutaneous sunburn. That probably hurt more than the pictures show, and for health and safety reasons alone Freshwater should not only be fired, but charged with felony assault (any science teacher worth his or her sodium chloride would now exactly what this device’s hazards are). At the very least, this example should display the teacher’s complete ignorance of the subject material and be enough to fire him on grounds of gross incompetence.

    And that’s not even taking into account Freshwater’s love of the woo…

  18. #18 Dean
    October 6, 2008

    “sudent’s” should be “student’s”

    It is. do you mean it should be ” students’ “?

    Is there any idea how long this type of hearing can last?

  19. #19 Ty Bowen
    October 6, 2008

    What I find disturbing (among a lot of other stuff) is Freshwater’s defense that he has used the device on over 600 students. Isn’t that like saying you assaulted 600 kids and don’t understand what all the fuss about one more is? Shouldn’t he be getting in more trouble since he has admitted to burning 600 kids?

  20. #20 CW
    October 6, 2008

    And that deal about James 5:16 being a “virtuous statement” and not apparently religious in nature?

    I was under the impression that James 5:16 was just tossed out by the lawyer as an example of “the method of identifying Bible verses” not that it was actually one of the verses Freshwater had posted in the classroom. TTBOMK there is no record of which verses were on the posters.

  21. #21 True Bob
    October 6, 2008

    Oh come on, you know those kids were just asking to be branded.

    /eyeroll

  22. #22 True Bob
    October 6, 2008

    So if it’s merely a “virtuous statement”, why any citation?

  23. #23 Mike
    October 6, 2008

    Of course, if he’s tried by his PEERS, he’ll be elected to office. If he’s tried by sane humans, potentially in short supply in Mt Vernon, he’ll be defrocked and fired.
    Here’s hoping they nail his pious ass to the wall.

  24. #24 Ryan F Stello
    October 6, 2008

    Thanks, CW.
    The statement makes a little more sense, now.

    Though I am still curious about what Bible verses he did display that may not have had any religious over- or under-tones.

    Nobody is very specific, but I guess it is day 2.

  25. #25 CW
    October 6, 2008

    Though I am still curious about what Bible verses he did display that may not have had any religious over- or under-tones.

    Personally I don’t see that it matters. Even if all 20 quotes were completely innocuous in content the fact that you basically wallpaper the room with bible quote posters is itself making a statement regarding the authority of the book.

  26. #26 Ryan F Stello
    October 6, 2008

    CW noted,

    Personally I don’t see that it matters.

    Personally, I don’t either, but I’m trying to judge the argument in legalese, that peculiar arrangement of scope-limited logical arguments that could potentially become part of a precedent if they’re accepted by a jury….which would worry me if it did.

    This argument, though, does fail because of the over-reliance on vaguarities.
    Specifics show that he had more than one of these (as you noted), had his own personal Bible clearly in display and one of the posters was of the Ten Commandments.

    I hope this all is brought up in subsequent days.

  27. #27 El Herring
    October 6, 2008

    OT but grist for PZ’s mill:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7655585.stm

    UK priest wants homosexuals tattoed apparently.

  28. #28 NickG
    October 6, 2008

    The big issue here is that he used this as a means of segregating kids and marking those who were not willing to deal with his crap atheists and outcasts.

    To be honest, the device he used is mostly harmless. We did that very thing to ourselves in high school (NC School of Science and Math so we’re talking geeks) when I was a teenager. And several of my patients in San Francisco who are into BDSM use that as a sex toy. (I get questions they didn’t cover in med school a lot where I work.) Its a bit more intense than touching a 9V battery to your tongue.

    So its not like the guy was taking a hot branding iron and burning it into someone’s ass. However the problem is that he used his position of authority to foist his religious nonsense on the children in his charge. I can easily see kids who were not very religious caving to peer pressure and accepting the mark even though they didn’t agree with it. That plus the involuntary use on the special needs kid. For that he deserves not just to lose his job, but also to spend some time in a prison.

  29. #29 varlo
    October 6, 2008

    Now we have to worry about who goes first? I happened to be first on an earlier subject today, but entirely, I am sure, because it must have been oposted just before I signed on, and my comment was brief. My real preference for a position would be 666. Does anyone really lurk awaiting a posting in order to claim the head of the line?

  30. #30 RBH
    October 6, 2008

    As I noted in my Panda’s Thumb post, no list of the posters with Bible verses was kept so we don’t know specifically what was on them. “James 5:16″ was the example Freshwater’s attorney used, according to my notes. It wasn’t clear if that was an example at random or was from one of the posters.

    NickG wrote

    To be honest, the device he used is mostly harmless. We did that very thing to ourselves in high school (NC School of Science and Math so we’re talking geeks) when I was a teenager. And several of my patients in San Francisco who are into BDSM use that as a sex toy. (I get questions they didn’t cover in med school a lot where I work.) Its a bit more intense than touching a 9V battery to your tongue.

    Maybe, maybe not. Recall that RF penetrates skin readily and can cause subcutaneous tissue damage that is not necessarily correlated with either perceived pain or surface skin damage indications. That teenagers do dumb things to themselves in no way excuses a science teacher from doing them to kids.

    This is an administrative hearing on Freshwater’s appeal of the decision of the Board of Education to terminate him, being heard before a referee who is an attorney. At the end of the hearing (probably in November) the referee will make a report and recommendation to the Board of Education. The BOE can accept the recommendation or not.

    There is also a suit brought by the parents pending in federal court, as well as a counter-claim to that suit brough by Freshwater in the same court. I have no info on when they will be heard.

  31. #31 Qwerty
    October 6, 2008

    Nick G wrote “And several of my patients in San Francisco who are into BDSM use that as a sex toy.”

    If Freshwater were gay, I’d bet there would be plenty of screaming from the religious for his removal. Instead, it’s okay to torture a student for Jesus.

    Even if this torture is mild, the humiliation suffered by a high school student can be just as cruel.

  32. #32 Nerd of Redhead
    October 6, 2008

    Now we have to worry about who goes first?

    PZ doesn’t care who posts first. He was just getting a rash of first posters whose post consisted of something like:

    “First Post”

    He is now deleting those posts when they happen. If the post is pertainent to the thread, it will stay.

  33. #33 Empirical Infidel
    October 6, 2008

    You guys should see what it’s like living near Mount Vernon. There’s a huge Fundie community and the all think that Freshwater is some kind of saint. They truely beleive this guy should be rewarded for bringing god’s truth to all them ignorant heathen younguns.

  34. #34 Empirical Infidel
    October 6, 2008

    Qwerty mentioned in #31 that the student may be humiliated. Listen to this. The defence attorney insisted that the name of the burned boy be made public. With signs in front yards that read “If the bible goes the student should follow” it could be a real posibility that the student will be attacked. Supporters of Freshwater were bullying students that didn’t openly support the nutcase teacher, what might they do to one who sued him.

  35. #35 BMS
    October 6, 2008

    Dean #18

    re: Typo Alert

    The word continues to appear in the post as I see it in my browser as “sudent’s”. Mebbee summit wrong w/ my FF?

    The word should be “student’s” – singular possessive, “a student’s arm”.

  36. #36 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    October 6, 2008

    First? there are usualy a few hundred comments posted before I ever see Pharyngula. Never have a chance to post first – even if I wanted to, which I don’t.

  37. #37 RBH
    October 6, 2008

    Empirical Infidel wrote

    You guys should see what it’s like living near Mount Vernon. There’s a huge Fundie community and the all think that Freshwater is some kind of saint. They truely beleive this guy should be rewarded for bringing god’s truth to all them ignorant heathen younguns.

    Yup. I think Freshwater sees himself as a missionary.

    There’s a Nazarene University, district headquarters of the 7th Day Adventists, and more little fundamentalist churches than you can shake a torch at around here. Nevertheless, there are a fair number of rational people too, not all of them confined to the environs of Kenyon College. Recall that the Board of Education voted 5-0 to initiate termination proceedings. Recall also that in spite of threats from the religious conservatives 5 years ago, no board member lost an election on account of this issue then, even though the BOE turned down the attempt to officially inject creationism into the science curriculum. It ain’t all bad.

  38. #38 Scooby1967@googlemail.com
    October 6, 2008

    If the branding implement is still around could it be heated up and used to inflict an Edward II on him???

  39. #39 Capital Dan
    October 6, 2008

    LaTomate | October 6, 2008 12:26 PM [kill]?[hide comment]

    Hey!!! First!!!

    Gyaagh! I’m glad I have a kill-file. Anyone who sports wood over being the first comment is not worth paying attention to.

  40. #40 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 6, 2008

    And that deal about James 5:16 being a “virtuous statement” and not apparently religious in nature?

    From NIV,

    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

    Interesting.

    Because… whether there has ever been such a thing as a righteous man is something the Bible contradicts itself several times.

  41. #41 scooter
    October 6, 2008

    Jame 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

    Effective? I guess Freshwater must be praying wrong with the FCA godsuckers, the Yellowjackets are 0 for 3 so far, beaten like a thornheaded stepchild each time.

    Mount Vernon 22 Dayton Dunbar 33

    Mount Vernon 14 Franklin Heights 28

    Mount Vernon 7 Delaware Hayes 28

  42. #42 Ryan F Stello
    October 7, 2008

    Because… whether there has ever been such a thing as a righteous man is something the Bible contradicts itself several times.

    Funny you mention that, because in the Bible, I can’t recall ‘Consistency’ ever being expressed as a virtue, except for when the lack of it pisses off Guhd (Jeremiah or Nehemiah).

    It certainly explains why more evangelicals aren’t bothered by their own hypocrisy.

  43. #43 Pat
    October 7, 2008

    There was a psychological study recently based around aversion to threatening things, and it came out that a more severe physiological reaction to threatening images correlated heavily with more conservative views. Conservative Christians, or fundamentalists of any stripe, one could infer thrive under persecution, perceived or real. Fear reinforces their views, and fuels their decision making because they react so strongly to it at a “gut” level. Part of the reason that they don’t trust logic and argument based on non-absolute values.

    It’s bizarre, as mentioned somewhere else, that the same group that claims this is a Christian nation by virtue of majority rule also claims to be a put-upon minority.

  44. #44 csrster
    October 7, 2008

    The only part I don’t understand is how he managed to burn a kid with a Tesla coil. We used to arse around with those when I was in school and the whole point was that you could arc a several centimeter spark direct to your body and notice nothing more than a tingling sensation.

  45. #45 Mike in Ontario
    October 7, 2008

    csrster, I think you’re recalling a Van der Graaf generator, not a Tesla Coil. Those were fun!

  46. #46 SteveM
    October 7, 2008

    Tesla coils:

    Maybe, maybe not. Recall that RF penetrates skin readily and can cause subcutaneous tissue damage that is not necessarily correlated with either perceived pain or surface skin damage indications.

    Only partially true, depends on the frequency. Very high frequency (radio frequencies) does not penetrate very deeply at all. (Thus it is a myth that microwave ovens cook from the inside out, it just seems that way because the air in the oven is cool).
    Small tesla coils can be safely touched and the current will flow over the surface of your body and not endanger your internal organs like 60Hz will. However, if his device is forming an arc, that is a very high temperature plasma and that is what burned the skin.

  47. #47 Sili
    October 7, 2008

    Well … I think it’s part of wellrounded education to be able to recognise biblical allusions. So it makes sense that anyone who’ll ever come across Western literature will know ‘who’ Solomon’n’Jonathan, David’n’Goliath, Samson’n’Deliah ‘are’, what The Fall refers to. What it means to be sent from Herod to Pilate; to stand like Moses at the Red Sea &c &c.

    BUT!

    Since when is Science class the place to learn literature? True, our 6th form physics teacher read Twain to us, but I hope that’s an exception.

  48. #48 DavidONE
    October 7, 2008

    @LaTomate:

    Hey!!! Nobody cares!!! And you weren’t!!!

    Also, burning an ‘A’ on his arse would be more appropriate if we were to follow his psychopathic behaviour.

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