A cross burned into the arm of an Ohio schoolboy by his creationist science teacher has sparked a three-year battle pitting neighbor against neighbor over the role of religion in public schools. An army of supporters is backing the teacher, who is still fighting his firing from the Mount Vernon middle school. They claim the conflict is an issue of religious rights and that the teacher was fired for being devout. "If he'd had a Koran on his desk he wouldn't have had a problem," said teacher John Freshwater's Pentacostal pastor.
Freshwater maintains he made an "X," not a cross, in the boy's arm with a Tesla coil in an experiment, and that he had done so to countless students without injury. A doctor testified, however, that the boy whose parents complained suffered second-degree burns. Many parents are livid about Freshwater, whom they accuse of being among a group of teachers pushing creationism and fundamentalism in class, reports the Guardian. Now, "we have a Christian martyrdom thing," said one resident. "This town is ripe for it."