COLUMBUS, Ohio — A public school district was legally justified in firing a science instructor who refused to remove religious materials from his classroom, a divided Ohio Supreme Court said Tuesday in a ruling that stopped short of addressing issues the case raised about the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.
With three justices dissenting, the court ruled the Mount Vernon district had grounds to fire John Freshwater in 2011 for insubordination for keeping religious books and a poster of a praying president.
‘‘Freshwater is fully entitled to an ardent faith in Jesus Christ and to interpret Biblical passages according to his faith. But he was not entitled to ignore direct, lawful edicts of his superiors while in the workplace,’’ Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote.
Freshwater’s Virginia-based attorney, Rita Dunaway, said she was disappointed but could not comment further because she had not talked with Freshwater about the decision.
The lead opinion said the court did not need to address the extent to which Freshwater had the right to push his religious beliefs in class because the insubordination alone was enough to justify his firing.