Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Students proclaim 'take-your-Bible' day:Rally in support of teacher ordered to hide Good Book

Students at the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district have called a 'take-your-Bible-to-school day" tomorrow in support of a popular teacher who has been ordered to keep his Bible hidden while students are in his classroom.Coach Dave Daubenmire of Pass The Salt Ministries and Minutemen United, who is acting as a spokesman for teacher John Freshwater, told WND the campaign has been organized by students using cell phones, text messaging and e-mails."It's for both middle school and high school," Daubenmire told WND, with plans for students to not only carry their Bibles, but to wear Christian-themed T-shirts.WND reported just one day earlier when the dispute arose, with orders from school officials for Freshwater to hide his Bible from students and Freshwater's decision to not comply.School Board president Ian Watson told WND the Bible was just part of a "tapestry" of issues the district was dealing with, but he said he could not provide details on other factors. He did admit that the order for Freshwater to remove the Bible from his desk, where he's kept it for more than two decades while teaching in the district, was prompted because of contacts from some district parents. But again, he declined to elaborate. Daubenmire, however, said the Bible is an important part of Freshwater's life, to the point he carries it with him when he parachutes into forest fire zones during his summer work as a smokejumper in the American West.He also has worked to smuggle Bibles into China, Daubenmire said.In an interview with WND, Watson accused Freshwater of "going public" with issues the school "is in discussions with attorneys at this stage.""We just asked him that the Bible not be on top of his desk during his teaching hours," Watson told WND. However, he also admitted that the school had no formal prohibitions on personal items on teachers' desks.When asked how the school arrived at a ban on Freshwater's personal Bible being on his own desk, Watson said, "I do not know how to answer."The verdict on a forums page in the local Mount Vernon News was siding pretty much with Freshwater."It is his Bible and [he] has every right to keep it with him. End of story," said the first commenter among a long list submitted anonymously."He should be allowed to have his Bible on his desk. It's sad that this country is trying to remove God from everything and we are suppose (sic) to be a Christian country," said the second person in line."Are you kidding. Let's put more effort into removing guns from schools, before we chase after Bibles," said the third."Stand firm, Mr. Freshwater! I was in a class of Mr. Freshwater's approx 20 years ago. I remember the Bible being on the desk. He never taught from it nor preached for it. So why … ask him to remove it now?" said another.
Freshwater held a news conference yesterday to confirm he was not planning to follow the school dictate, and Daubenmire said local counsel was being arranged should the teacher need legal representation.Daubenmire has had his own experience with such perspectives, having been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1999 for praying with his football teams while coaching in Ohio.The school also told Freshwater to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from a collage in one location in his classroom, a demand Freshwater agreed to fulfill.But he said the district must prove to him how it can order him to remove his personal Bible from his desk without infringing on his God-given and First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. "John Freshwater has sounded the alarm and we have hope that his cause will not die for a lack of a second from the church leadership in Mount Vernon," said Jim Harrison, national director of Minutemen United."This is an incredible opportunity to right some historical misconceptions about the church and state relationship in our great nation," Harrison said.Daubenmire said the school's demand amounts to an ongoing viewpoint discrimination, since a Muslim woman would not be ordered to hide her head covering from students' view.The district's formal statement on the dispute said: "The Mount Vernon Schools today directed one of its middle school science teachers to remove from his classroom the 10 Commandments he had displayed and to remove his Bible from his desktop while students were in his room. The Mount Vernon Schools has not taken this action because it opposes religion, but because it has an obligation under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to protect against the establishment of religion in the schools. As a public school system the district cannot teach, promote or favor any religion or religious beliefs."Daubenmire said, however, the school's demands go far beyond making sure it doesn't "establish religion" and reaches the level of a "continuous purging of Christianity."In an earlier commentary for WND, Daubenmire framed the issue as a rampant attack singling out Christianity."Please notice that the attack on religious freedom in America is on Christianity. No one is trying to silence the religious freedom of Muslims or atheists or humanists. Quite the contrary. We are told to 'understand' Muslims, to be sensitive to the atheists and to tolerate the humanists and their various denominations of 'isms' (environmentalism, feminism, secularism, socialism, communism), which we teach openly in our schools.""Our rights are God-given rights. They are not 'constitutional' rights," he continued."Take some time and read the U.S. Constitution. You will see that it does not grant any rights to anyone. Instead, while setting up the federal government, the document (the first ten amendments) also prohibits the government from interfering with various aspects of human freedom. The first ten amendments limit what the government can do. They shouldn't be called the Bill of Rights; they should be called the Bill of Limitations."Instead of claiming constitutional rights, citizens of the U.S. should proclaim their God-given rights, he said.

As in the days of Noah....

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