An Ohio middle school science teacher is fighting back after his school told him to remove his Bible from his classroom desk.
The Mount Vernon school district asked John Freshwater last week to remove all religious items from plain view. Freshwater took down the Ten Commandments but decided that being prevented from taking a Bible into the classroom was going too far.
It's unclear whether the school continued to object, but Freshwater and supporters organized a prayer rally Tuesday at Mount Vernon Middle School to protest the school's policy.
"Asking any citizen to remove from view any symbol or any book that has deep significance to his or her life borders on tyranny," Freshwater said.
Opponents say they don't have a problem with a teacher having religious beliefs, but that the appearance of a Bible on a teacher's desk could influence students' religious beliefs.
"Stick (the Bible) in the drawer. I'd be upset about it, but yet that's what they're asking me to do that makes peace with everybody. Everybody's happy. I can still believe," James Moore said.
Mount Vernon Superintendent Steve Short told the Columbus Dispatch that Freshwater's characterization of the events leading to the district order was "not entirely accurate." But he did not elaborate.
The district later released a one-paragraph statement saying that district officials don't oppose religion but are required "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," the statement said.
In the past, Freshwater has taught his students about the "holes in evolution," and about Intelligent Design, the theory that a supernatural power created complex forms of life, said Dave Daubenmire, a spokesman for Freshwater.
"Would our government ask a follower of Islam to remove her burqa in order to teach school?" Freshwater said in his written statement. "Would we ask a science teacher to remove The Origin of Species from his desk merely because the origin of man has never been proven?"
"I cannot with a clear conscience follow a directive that makes religion and the religious viewpoint any less credible by those who deem themselves more enlightened."
Source: ABC News, Columbus Dispatch