James “Jesus Glasses” Corbett: Update 15 Nov ‘09

THIS is about James Corbett, the California teacher whose classroom remarks that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” were ruled to have violated the Constitution’s establishment clause.

Our last update was here: Update 10 Nov ‘09, when we reported about a legal fee issue that arose because the creationist kid who sued Corbett had also sued the school board — which was found not liable. The same lawyers represented both Corbett and the school board, so the question was whether the kid had to do the unthinkable — pay legal fees to Corbett’s lawyers because of their victory on behalf of the school board. That remains unresolved.

The Orange County Register, which has been the source of most of our Corbett news, has just published a letter to the editor that was jointly written by two of Corbett’s students and one of his lawyers. It’s titled AP teacher challenges untenable views. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A “winner” has emerged in the case of Dr. James Corbett, the much-maligned “Christian bashing” teacher: The Advocates for Faith & Freedom. [That’s the public interest law firm that represented the creationist kid.] The Advocates paraded their prized client, student Chad Farnan, throughout the right-wing, televangelist media as a cause célèbre, using him like an organ grinder uses a monkey.

An organ grinder’s monkey! That is superb writing! Let’s read on:

The Advocates claim they won. Yet, the court objected to only one of the 22 statements challenged by the Advocates. The court found that the other statements asserted legitimate academic secular purposes. It rejected all of the Advocates’ requests for relief. On the one objectionable comment, the court gave Corbett immunity because no one could have expected it would violate anyone’s rights.

How do the Advocates measure their win? Not by the judgment. It states, “Farnan shall take nothing by his complaint.” Not by the bill of costs. It confirms judgment was entered against Farnan and requires that he pay nearly $8,500 for Corbett’s and the school district’s costs.

That’s good. It really wasn’t much of a victory. But it’s been an ordeal for Corbett, and it’s not over yet. We continue:

While illusory for Farnan, the “victory” is tangible for the Advocates. On Oct. 17, 2009, the group threw a fundraising gala at the Nixon Library featuring Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family. The group extracted $150 each from a reported audience of more than 400. Farnan also addressed the faithful, encouraging their generous support at that gala.

That’s $60K, not bad. Do you think those wonderful lawyers shared any of it with the kid? We doubt it. The kid is probably thrilled with his creationist celebrity status. We’ve written about that: Kid Who Sued Corbett: A Political Star? Here’s more:

What makes Corbett a “Christian basher?” Fifteen years ago, he criticized a biology teacher for teaching the “Biblical truth” of young-Earth creationism instead of the state-approved curriculum. Young-Earth creationism is the uniquely religious doctrine that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago. It ignores established natural science and has no scientific basis.

We didn’t know about that earlier incident. Moving along:

In 2007, Corbett recounted the 1994 story, telling his students he could “not leave [the teacher] alone to propagandize kids with th[e] religious, superstitious nonsense” of young-Earth creationism. He taught that the qualifications and agenda of those advancing competing academic views are crucial to the assessment of those views. Corbett added, “the people who wrote the curriculum are . . . ‘The Department of Evolutionary Biology’ for the University of California. [T]hey’re all Ph.D.s in biology. . . . ‘[W]hat makes [the teacher] think [he is] more qualified than they are to determine what high school kids should hear about evolution?'” Corbett did not attack religion, Christianity, or even the belief that the Earth was “created.” Rather, Corbett explained why the teacher “ought not to be believed,” having rejected the approved curriculum.

Nice to see everything in context. Now imagine, while that was going on, the creationist kid sitting in Corbett’s class and seething with creationist rage. It’s not a pleasant thought. One more excerpt:

The Advocates’ handling of the case seems un-Christian. They never tried to reconcile with Corbett before filing suit. Corbett first learned Farnan was “offended” when the Advocates, press in tow, delivered their lawsuit to the principal’s office. Has Christianity jettisoned charity, forgiveness and the Golden Rule for publicity, fundraising and attorney fees?

Good questions! Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the judge to make a final ruling on the victorious school district’s attorneys fees. Then there’s the appeal that both sides have filed. We haven’t seen the last of this.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “James “Jesus Glasses” Corbett: Update 15 Nov ‘09

  1. “They never tried to reconcile with Corbett before filing suit. Corbett first learned Farnan was “offended” when the Advocates, press in tow, delivered their lawsuit to the principal’s office.”

    This is what has bothered me most about this case. They immediately made a Federal case out of something that could have (and should have) been handled much simpler (and enormously cheaper). Most of the time cases like this can be handled by a simple letter from those concerned to those in charge.

    BTW, I found it somewhat amusing to find that this letter is a bit of a contentious subject in Orange County. There are currently 34 comments (including a few from Dr. Corbett). Of these, 13 have been deleted as having violated “user guidelines”.

  2. We didn’t know about that earlier incident.

    Here is the court decision in that case:


  3. Thanks, John Pieret. I should have known about it.

  4. Farnan must be a ‘True Christian(tm)’, waiting so long to file suit.

    Hmm. Isn’t there something in the bible about eschewing your 15 minutes of fame? Or does it say to stretch it out as long as possible?

  5. “Hmm. Isn’t there something in the bible about eschewing your 15 minutes of fame? Or does it say to stretch it out as long as possible?”

    bsharp55, the wonderful thing about the bible is that you can probably find something to justify any position that you want, and it often only needs a little bit of logical gymnastics to get it that way. Heck, I’ve heard that there’s a “Conservative Bible Project” that’s trying to get rid of all the wishy-washy “liberal” stuff (peace, forgiveness, etc.) so that their bible WILL say what they think it does.