Discoveroids React to Freshwater Decision

We’ve been waiting for this one. The Discoveroids’ article is Ohio Supreme Court Dodges Ruling on Academic Freedom to Critique Darwinian Evolution. It’s their reaction to the news about which we posted yesterday — John Freshwater Loses in Ohio Supreme Court.

The Discoveroids assigned the task to our favorite creationist — Casey Luskin. He’s not only a lawyer, they say he’s also a science education expert and their “research coordinator” too. A veritable Renaissance man! Casey says, with bold font added by us:

The case dealt with an eighth grade public school science teacher, John Freshwater, who was fired from his job in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 2011 for a variety of reasons, including claims that … he had taught creationism and intelligent design, and encouraged his students to critique evolution.

We know all that. What we seek is Casey’s reaction to yet another creationist setback. That’s coming:

The Court’s ruling upholds Freshwater’s termination, but its reasoning has nothing to do with the teaching of evolution. The Court ducked out of ruling on the issue of academic freedom and evolution-education entirely.

That’s not surprising. We understand that courts generally avoid constitutional issues if they’re not vital to deciding the case. It’s known as judicial restraint — a decision shouldn’t be more extensive than it needs to be. It’s the opposite of judicial activism. Were it otherwise, every courtroom would be a mini Constitutional Convention. In deciding Freshwater, all that the judges had to do was find that the firing was justified by insubordination. There was no need to explore cosmic questions.

In this paragraph, Casey discloses a bit of the Discoveroids’ evaluation policy which they use in picking the cases they’ll support:

If it isn’t already obvious, this is a complicated case which raised many different issues. It was anything but a clean and clear test of the constitutionality of teaching non-evolutionary viewpoints on origins in public schools, such as teaching intelligent design (ID) or simply critiquing neo-Darwinian theory. As a result, we have had virtually nothing to say about it, and have only tangentially followed its progress over the past few years.

Ah, that explains why they supported Coppedge so vigorously. [That was a bit of Curmudgeonly sarcasm.] Let’s read on:

After noting that the U.S. Supreme Court declared it illegal to teach creationism in Edwards v. Aguillard, and that a federal trial court found intelligent design unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Ohio Supreme Court again reiterated its refusal to decide whether Freshwater’s instruction related to origins and evolution were unconstitutional: “Here, we need not decide whether Freshwater acted with a permissible or impermissible intent because we hold that he was insubordinate, and his termination can be justified on that basis alone.”

Yes, that’s right. Casey continues:

At the end of the day, the Court held that the only justifiable reasons for firing Freshwater were his disobedience of orders to remove [various items from his classroom].

No. The court said that such disobedience was sufficient to justify the firing. They refused to decide the case on the creationism issues because there was no need to do so. Oh, get this next excerpt. This is where where Casey becomes amusing:

In any case, this narrow, 4-3 ruling includes all kinds of amusing jabs flung between the justices, with various dissenting justices basically complaining that the majority chickened out by refusing to rule on the issues related to academic freedom and evolution instruction.


Such rulings make it easy for courts to dodge tricky issues, but they betray the judiciary’s responsibility to provide guidance for both school administrators and faculty about just what is, and isn’t, constitutionally permissible to state in a public school.

Yeah, right. The courts should always, in every case, jump in to tell the state what it ought to be doing. Hey — that would make the courts the intelligent designers of our lives! Moving along:

So why exactly did the Ohio Supreme Court in this case avoid dealing with the issue of the constitutionality of critiquing evolution, basically abdicating its constitutional responsibility to delineate and protect fundamental liberties? Here’s my reading: It’s simple: Perhaps they didn’t like the liberties they’d be forced to protect. Courts sometimes don’t want to rule on controversial legal questions, especially when doing so might force them to rule in favor of viewpoints they find distasteful, like the rights of teachers to teach scientific critique of evolution.

There you have it — the meaning of the Freshwater case according to Casey. And now, here’s the part we knew was coming:

This is why academic freedom bills are so important: they protect teachers’ rights to not get fired for teaching the controversy over evolution. If Freshwater lived in a state with an academic freedom law (like Louisiana or Tennessee), he would have more rights (at least regarding teaching students about critiques of Darwinism). But since he was fired for a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with teaching the controversy, such a law probably might not have changed the outcome of this particular case.

Then he praises the two dissenting opinions, written by justices who appear to be idiots. Based on what we see as the lunacy of their dissenting opinions, he concludes on a note of optimism:

But Darwin lobbyists should be very concerned that the only justices in this case with the courage to address the legality of critically analyzing evolution found that it is entirely legal and pedagogically appropriate for a teacher “to critique the theory of evolution to foster their critical thinking skills and to develop their analytical abilities” and that this in fact explains why the teacher in question “excelled in teaching evolutionary theory as part of the science curriculum.”

In a sense, Casey is correct. Yes, we should be concerned about stupid judges — not only when it comes to things like creationism, but to issues like — no, we won’t go into a Curmudgeonly rant about politics. We’ll only say this much: an activist judge that would satisfy the Discoveroids on issues like teaching junk science, is likely to be so deranged that he’d do far greater damage in other areas — you know, little things like property rights, economic freedom, the size and scope of government, all that trivial stuff your Curmudgeon sometimes worries about. But never mind. We’ll stop here.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Discoveroids React to Freshwater Decision

  1. judiciary’s responsibility to provide guidance

    Does this mean that Judge Jones is to be commended for providing guidance?

  2. TomS asks: “Does this mean that Judge Jones is to be commended for providing guidance?”

    It’s interesting to note the Discoveroids’ inconsistency. They criticized Jones for his “activism” (he followed precedents), and they now criticize the Ohio court for failing to be activists.

  3. I’d’ve thought it’s obvious by now: The Discorrhoids just don’t like Occam’s Razor — in science, as they’ve so often made clear, and now evidently in jurisprudence also. And never more so than when framing their “defences” and “rebuttals.” It seems they’d much rather employ Rube Goldberg’s Razor at every opportunity.

    [Curmy, “Oh, get this next except.” (your eighth paragraph) should probably read “Oh, get this next excerpt.”]

  4. I agree with Little Casey here: schools should teach scientific criticism of evolutionary theory. I expect LC to get right on this. Isn’t he the Research Coordinatorat the Dishonesty Institute? Shouldn’t he be, you know, coordinating some actual research?

  5. When am I getting my check for being a shill for Big Darwin? I thought it would be more lucrative then working as a Newton lobbyist, but I guess I was wrong.

  6. Thanks, Con-Tester. All fixed now.

  7. “Perhaps they didn’t like the liberties they’d be forced to protect.”

    I’m figuring it’s the opposite. The OSC judges are elected to six-year terms; I think the majority did not relish the thought of going into their next campaign with an anti-Jesus or anti-creationism label attached to them.

  8. Luskin can’t write a single paragraph without lying. Even in this simple post, I lost count of his revisions of history.

    Luskin today says: [Freshwater] was fired for a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with teaching the controversy

    Uh, that’s not what the Discovery Institute said last June! They said his case was about “Academic Freedom” and “strengths and weaknesses”:

    ID the Future, 24 June 2013: “On this episode of ID the Future, listen in as Joshua Youngkin and attorney Rita Dunaway of The Rutherford Institute discuss the academic freedom case of John Freshwater, an Ohio middle school science teacher of 24 years. Freshwater was fired after it was revealed that he was teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution…” [The Academic Freedom Case of John Freshwater. ID the Future. June 24, 2013.]

  9. @eric – I just took a look at the Wikipedia article on the Ohio Supreme Court, and it seems that several of the justices are over the age limit for reelection.

  10. But never mind. We’ll stop here.

    This is called the exercise of Curmudgeonly restraint. Wise move.

  11. TomS: its a roughly even split. Two of the four affirming judges and two of the three dissenting judges cannot stand for reelection. Of the three judges who can be reelected, the order goes: Kennedy in 2014 (dissented), French in 2015 (affirmed), O’Connor in 2016 (affirmed). All three are Republican. I can certainly envision French and O’Connor not wanting to make an anti-bible or anti-Creationism ruling in the next several years.
    I have no problem in this case with the judges not ruling on the ‘big’ question of the constitutionality of creationism. But I think Lanzinger nails it in her concurrence: there was really no legal reason for the court to claim that having a bible on your work desk is a constitutional right. Its very analogous to a 10-commandments display in a courtroom; a non-Christian defendent may be rightly worried about fair treatment or expressing their faith to such a judge, and a non-Christian student may be rightly worried about fair treatment or expressing their faith to a teacher who’se plonked a bible down on their desk.

  12. “Shouldn’t he be, you know, coordinating some actual research?”
    He has the money – it’s enough to make the average evolutionary biologist jealous. Moreover Templeton Foundation is more than willing to contribute as well. He also has the means to publish the results: their website. The same applies to Cornelius Hunter btw.
    It’s soooo much easier to sit behind your desktop and babble a bit around. DI is one big fraud.

  13. MNb says: “Templeton Foundation is more than willing to contribute as well.”

    No, they’ve said they won’t contribute to the Discovery Institute. See this at their website: Does the Foundation support “intelligent design”?

  14. Correct Curmy – the TF is a big supporter of BioLogos and also provided the bucks for the current round of TE [aka EC] grants being managed by BioLogos. Templeton loves big names, and was very keen on BL because it was founded by Francis Collins – it seems to me that BL has lost a lot of its initial momentum after Francis went to the NIH. I think that the DI gets a fair amount of $$ from the Ahmanson family.

  15. Casey Luskin a “science education expert”?!? Oh, that hurts!!!

  16. For 5 years most of my comments on the Freshwater case concerned the DI’s silence. Not to call it strange in contrast to their nonstop rants against evolution, but rather to note that it’s fully expected. They could not explicitly defend Freshwater, because that would undermine their “ID is not creationism” claim much more thoroughly than the typical critic’s response of “ID is too creationism!” They could not criticize Freshwater’s overtly Biblical approach, or apparent alternate “theory” because that would alienate the Biblical literalist subset of their fans. So silence was the only option. But they knew that they could only do that for so long before their fans started getting restless. So when they finally broke the silence, it was classic DIsco “dancing”: completely avoid taking a position on Freshwater’s supposed alternative to evolution, defend his actions only indirectly, after the case is over, and based on a slick misrepresentation of why the court ruled against him.