Teacher's anti-creationism remark violated 1st Amendment, judge rules
SANTA ANA – A Mission Viejo high school history teacher violated the First Amendment by disparaging Christians during a classroom lecture, a federal judge ruled today.
James Corbett, a 20-year teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, referred 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.
In 2007, there was a rally of 200 protesters who supported the teacher [link] --
MISSION VIEJO – To an almost continuous stream of blaring car horns and cheering, more than 200 Capistrano Valley High School students and alumni rallied outside their school Wednesday morning to show support for embattled history teacher James Corbett, who is being sued by one of his students for making remarks about Christianity and traditional Christian viewpoints in class . . .
“I support Corbett because he’s a teacher who supported free speech and allowed us to discuss in an intelligent way,” said protestor Matt Yee, 17, a junior who took AP European history with Corbett last year . . . .
Down the street from the school, at Via Escolar and Marguerite Parkway, about 10 supporters of Farnan held up signs that read "Freedom from hate" and "Stop Dr. Corbett’s Intolerance." . . .
Corbett's critics say he monopolizes much of his class time promoting liberal viewpoints and leaves little room for students to interject . . . .
Also Wednesday morning, Pastor Wiley Drake of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park visited the school, leading a small prayer vigil for Farnan and doing an Internet radio broadcast for RepublicRadio.com on the controversy.
"We object to Mr. Corbett,” said the Rev. Rod McDougal, who came up from San Diego for the prayer vigil. “We don't want him strung up; we want him fired."
IMO the judge's decision is reasonable. The teacher just went too far, and the judge had to draw the line somewhere. There were charges that the teacher made several other statements that allegedly violated the 1st Amendment and the judge dismissed those charges.
The Corbett case is discussed on:
Volokh Conspiracy, a law blog
Religion Clause, a law blog
Sleazy PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog
Fatheaded Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog
Note: this post has been revised since it was first published. The reference to Seiman v. Cobb County -- a reference which I now consider to be inappropriate -- was removed.
Labels: Establishment clause (new #2)