THIS is about Dr. James Corbett, a teacher at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California, whose classroom remarks that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” were ruled to have violated the Constitution’s establishment clause. He was sued by Chad Farnan, one of his students — presumably a creationist.
We don’t follow too many other blogs, but we seem to be the only one that’s paying much attention to this case. We don’t know why, because the wrong outcome will have a deleterious effect on science education and the freedom of teachers everywhere. Bear with us, you’ll understand.
Chad had also sued the school board — which was found not liable by the trial court. Both Corbett and Chad are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Corbett wants to be found not liable, and Chad wants the court to impose even more liability.
Our last post on this topic was six months ago: James “Jesus Glasses” Corbett: Update 15 Dec ‘09. Appeals can take a long time, so there’s been nothing to report since then. Today, however, we do have some news:
In the Orange County Register, the source of most of our Corbett news, we read School district dropped from anti-Christian lawsuit appeal. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
The Mission Viejo teen who is seeking a stronger court ruling against his former high school teacher for violating his First Amendment rights is dropping the portion of his appeal targeting the school district as a liable party.
Chad Farnan, a graduating senior at Capistrano Valley High School, will continue his federal appeals case against teacher James Corbett for disparaging Christianity in class.
That should save the school district some legal fees, although we suspect that most of the legal work has already been done. This doesn’t mean a thing for Corbett, however. Let’s read on:
The move, approved Tuesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Santa Ana, comes on the heels of a settlement agreement reached with the school district, which said it would drop claims for “costs and attorney fees” in return for its dismissal as a party in the case.
Aha — that’s very telling. Chad was worried that he’d have to pay the school district’s fees. We continue:
“The defense is the same,” said Corbett’s lead attorney, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s law school. “He in no way violated the Constitution. A judge found he didn’t except for one statement.”
We are pleased to see that Corbett is well-represented. Here’s more:
U.S. District Court Judge James Selna ruled in May 2009 that Corbett violated Farnan’s First Amendment rights when he referred to Creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense” during a fall 2007 lecture at Capistrano Valley High School. But Selna dismissed more than 20 other comments attributed Corbett.
But that’s what creationism is! Corbett was found liable for telling the truth. Here’s the court’s order. It’s a 37-page pdf file. One last excerpt:
[Chad] Farnan filed an initial written brief to the 9th Circuit earlier this month; more are expected to follow later this summer. A hearing date has not been set.
That means we might see an opinion before the end of the year.
If this case works out for Chad and provides a good fee for his legal team, then watch out! Overnight there will be an army of creationist kids eager to earn their Rapture Tickets by listening intently in science class — not to learn any science, but to detect “ungodly” expressions. Then they can sue and destroy a good teacher’s career.
The key to this case isn’t whether Chad can go through life with a smirk on his face; what matters here is whether there’s any money to be made in creationist litigation. Hoping for heaven is nice, but doing that and making big bucks along the way is nicer still.
Good luck, Dr. Corbett!
Update: See Casey, Corbett, Creationism, & the Constitution.
Update: See James Corbett Case: Update 05 Sep ‘10.
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