Judge rules irreligious public school teacher violated First Amendment
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- A federal judge has ruled that a California public high school teacher who made denigrating remarks about religion and Christianity violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment when he called creationism “superstitious nonsense.”

James Corbett, an Advanced Placement European history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School, was also accused of saying “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth.” He allegedly compared prayers for divine intervention to hopes that the “spaghetti monster” will “help you get what you want.” Corbett, who has taught for 20 years, also said “Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies — that's interfering with God's work.”

However, U.S. District Judge James Selna ruled that only Corbett’s comment calling creationism “religious, superstitious nonsense” violated the constitutional rights of former student Chad Farnan.

According to Corbett’s attorney Dan Spradlin, the remark about creationism came during a classroom discussion about a 1993 case in which a former Capistrano Valley High science teacher sued the school district because it required instruction in evolution. Spradlin said Corbett expressed his own opinion that the former teacher shouldn’t have presented his religious views to students, the Associated Press reports.

Student Chad Farnan filed suit in 2007 alleging that Corbett violated the First Amendment by repeatedly making comments hostile to Christian beliefs. Farnan’s lawsuit presented more than 20 statements reportedly made by Corbett during one day of class to support allegations that the teacher used a broader teaching method that “favors irreligion over religion” and made Christian students feel uncomfortable.

Judge Selna found that most of the statements cited did not violate the First Amendment because they did not refer directly to religion or were appropriate in the context of the classroom lecture.

On May 1 the judge ruled that Dr. Corbett’s statement about creationism “constitutes improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.”

He said the ruling reflects “the constitutionally permissible need for expansive discussion even if a given topic may be offensive to a particular religion” but also reflects “that there are boundaries.”

“The ruling today protects Farnan, but also protects teachers like Corbett in carrying out their teaching duties,” Judge Selna said.

Farnan’s attorney, Jennifer Monk of the Murrieta-based Christian legal group Advocates for Faith & Freedom, said her client is not interested in monetary damages. However, he plans to ask the court to prohibit Corbett from making similar comments in the future.

Monk added that the student’s family would like to see the school district offer teacher training and monitor Corbett’s classroom for future violations.

She said there were no plans to appeal the judge’s rulings on the other statements cited in the lawsuit.

"They lost, he violated the establishment clause," Monk told the Associated Press. "From our perspective, whether he violated it with one statement or with 19 statements is irrelevant."

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 3:22-30


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 3:22-30