2009-05-01 High school teacher found guilty of insulting Christians
High school teacher found guilty of insulting Christians
James Corbett, a 20-year teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, was found guilty of referring to Creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense” during a 2007 classroom lecture, denigrating his former Advanced Placement European history student, Chad Farnan.
The decision is the culmination of a 16-month legal battle between Corbett and Farnan – a conflict the judge said should remind teachers of their legal “boundaries” as public school employees.
"Corbett states an unequivocal belief that Creationism is 'superstitious nonsense,'" U.S. District Court Judge James Selna said in a 37-page ruling released from his Santa Ana courtroom. "The court cannot discern a legitimate secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context."
In a December 2007 lawsuit, Farnan, then a sophomore, accused Corbett of repeatedly promoting hostility toward Christians in class and advocating "irreligion over religion" in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause.
The establishment clause prohibits the government from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion" and has been interpreted by U.S. courts to also prohibit government employees from displaying religious hostility.
Farnan's lawsuit had cited more than 20 inflammatory statements attributed to Corbett, including "Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies – that's interfering with God's work" and "When you pray for divine intervention, you're hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want."
In an April 3 tentative ruling, however, Selna dismissed all but two of the statements as either not directly referring to religion or as being appropriate in the context of a class lecture, including the headline-grabbing "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth."
Points to consider:
- Of course there's a "legitimate secular purpose": informing students that creationism is religious, superstitious nonsense. This is part of his job as an educator.
- Is the judge equating creationism and Christianity? Is creationism an essential tenet of Christianity? Does belief in creationism make one a Christian? (Yes, no, and no.)
- Rejecting a religious idea as nonsense is not "religious hostility" anymore than rejection of a stupid idea is intolerance; "religious hostility" would be something more like:
- "You Christians are full of superstitious nonsense" -- directing hostility at someone because of their expressed ideas or beliefs, rather than criticizing the ideas or beliefs themselves
- "Get that Christian superstitious nonsense out of my classroom" -- rejecting an idea or practice solely because of its origin rather than for its lack of merit
- The judge violated Corbett's First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from expressing his (accurate) view of Creationism.
- This is the sort of thing which gives the lie to the creationist "academic freedom" ploy: they only want academic freedom if it supports their side
- 2009-05-05 Religion in the Classroom: Fundamentalists Respect the Law, When Convenient (Submitted to a Candid World)
- 2009-05-11 James Corbett on Teaching Evolution, and Getting Sued Over It: Corbett's remarks, from the comments on the previous post
 shorter text
“James Corbett, a 20-year teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, was found guilty of referring to Creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense” during a 2007 classroom lecture...”