Dick Hoppe – a former nuclear missile engineer who later helped design the Apollo spacecraft command module, and who was more recently a visiting professor of biology at a local college – has attended almost every day of the hearings.This tracks with other accounts of the kind of instruction that Freshwater gave. As is not so uncommon in these sorts of hearings where evolution and age of the earth issues are present, it is being spun as a battle against Christianity:
"One student, when asked what he had learned about science from Mr Freshwater, testified that what he learned was you can't trust science. That surprised me. I didn't want to believe it was that overt," said the avowed atheist.
"Freshwater was teaching what the text taught – age of the Earth, fossils – and then would add an overlay of creationist material that cast doubt on what the text said. He would use a handout that described all the adaptations of a woodpecker and at the bottom he added: was intelligent design involved? He was teaching against the curriculum.
The teacher is a member of the Trinity Worship Centre, part of the country's largest Pentecostal denomination, where the pastor, Don Matolyak, is in effect Freshwater's spokesman.That the teaching of science can be structured as a cultural battle, once again, exemplifies how confused the culture is about science and its role in society. It is also instructive of how remarkably ignorant about basic science someone like Matolyak is. Typically, when the scientific argument isn't going well, it is reframed as a religious one. It is likely that the Bible on the desk of John Freshwater would have gone unremarked had it not been that he was teaching creationism and burning strange patterns in people's arms.
"We heard many times: if he'd had a Qur'an on his desk he would never have had a problem. They're probably right because that would be seen as diversity," said Matolyak, who has stood in as a teacher for Freshwater's class.
"This is about a person's religious liberty. I see this as a battle that's going on in America, and there are those who want to totally secularise America and almost explain away our Christian heritage."