Branding For Jesus Update

We have previously discussed John Freshwater, a controversial teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, who used a Tesla coil to  brand crosses into the arm of a 7th grade student, here. The family of the student, Zachary Dennis, filed a civil suit against Freshwater and the school district. The school district settled. Freshwater filed a counter-claim asserting defamation and that it was his religious beliefs that were under attack, not the fact that he used a Tesla coil to burn students’ arms. His case had become a lightning rod for conservative Christians and their persecution complex.

On 6 April 2010, the judge issued a summary judgement on certain aspects of the case.

The court agreed with the family and dismissed all claims of defamation, writing that

(1) many of the statements were not made by Plaintiffs, (2) some of the statements are entitled to an absolute privilege, (3) some of the statements are entitled to a qualified privilege, and (4) Freshwater has introduced no evidence that the remaining statements were made with actual malice, which is required because he is a limited purpose public figure.

The court also mooted Freshwater’s counter-claim of emotional distress because that claim was based on the defamation, and without defamation there could be no distress.

The court also ruled that there were disputes of facts, in the parent’s battery claim, which a jury should decide at trial. The outcome of that trial is that the family of the burned student and Freshwater have reached a settlement:

With Judge Hoover’s ruling last Tuesday [23 Nov. 2010] the suit against Freshwater was officially settled. The settlement of $475,000 to the Dennis family includes $25,000 for attorney fees, $150,000 each to Stephen and Jennifer [the parents], and $150,000 to be used for an annuity for Zachary.

H/T: Dispatches From the Culture Wars, Religion Dispatches.

-David Drumm (Nal)

10 thoughts on “Branding For Jesus Update”

  1. Pushing a pie into someone’s face is assault but burning his skin isn’t? Which side of the looking glass is that?

  2. “Family of burned student religiously persecutes teacher for simply having Christian beliefs…” The Onion isn’t keeping up with these people.

    I like the outraged claims that a minor gave his CONSENT to have a deformed “X” burned onto his arm at school.

  3. “What’s not funny is that Sparky isn’t in jail on criminal battery charges.” -Buddha

    ===========

    I agree, and it bears repeating…

  4. “Freshwater filed a counter-claim asserting defamation and that it was his religious beliefs that were under attack, not the fact that he used a Tesla coil to burn students’ arms. His case had become a lightning rod for conservative Christians and their persecution complex.”

    Now that’s funny.

    What’s not funny is that Sparky isn’t in jail on criminal battery charges.

  5. I’m I correct in believing that a “summary” judgment means he can be liable for the defendants legal expenses?

    These poor Christians, persecuted for merely trying to force their beliefs on the unwilling or unknowing. I bet they would be as understanding if Freshwater was a Satanist & had burned ‘666’ into the kids are, its religious freedom really.

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