Creationism Comment Violated Constitution

A teenager in California has won his lawsuit against a public school teacher who called creationism “superstitious nonsense” during a classroom lecture. Chad Farnan sued Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett for that and other anti-religion comments he said made Christians in the class feel uncomfortable, disparaged their beliefs, and violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The clause, which prohibits the government from making laws that establish religion, has been interpreted as also prohibiting government employees from promoting or showing hostility toward religion.
While a federal judge agreed that Corbett’s comment about creationism was an “improper disapproval of religion” and violated the student’s constitutional rights, he felt differently about the rest of Corbett’s statements because they did not directly refer to religion or were made within the context of the class. Corbett had also said that religion is not “connected with morality,” there was as much evidence for creationism “as there is that there is a gigantic spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it,” and that “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.”
The judge, James Selna, said his 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.”
Farnan, who says he’s not seeking monetary damages, plans to ask the court to prohibit Corbett from making similar anti-Christian statements in the future. —Heather Wax

Category: Disputes


3 Responses

  1. V. V. Raman says:

    The age of debates and discussions has degenerated into one of conflict and confrontations. There was a time when deeply religious people used to think that atheists and non-religionists are evil. Now the non-religionists imagine the religiously inclined to be mentally challenged. There was a time when non-religious and anti-religious people used to be closet dissenters. Now they have become bolder and bolder: one can write books calling religion a delusion and god as not great, and not only get away with it, but make tons of money in a book deal. All this is fair and good in a free society. But given that one can’t insult certain religions and its scriptures explicitly in public without provoking international repercussions and risking one’s own personal safety, Christians are also becoming more sensitive to continued abuse by local atheists.
    The way I see it, there is no need to make believers feel small and stupid in a class-room even if one wishes to say that scientific perspectives on creation differ considerably in methodology and conclusion from the religious. After all, matters of origins are very complex, and no one can be a hundred percent sure of how or why it all began. Respect for scientifically gained knowledge and insight need not necessarily belittle other fundamental beliefs that are meaningful to millions.
    More important than scientific theories and religious dogmas is respect for the other, in so far as no hurt or hate is involved. This is what will bring peace to the world, not whether one accepts the Big Bang theory or the Book of Genesis as the true account of how the world came to be. Of course in a science course one should talk about the Big Bang and not about the seven-day creation. Religious beliefs are not matters for discussion or debate in a class-room devoted to a science course, but as the same time insensitive and disparaging remarks about the religious sentiments and convictions of students are unworthy of a teacher whose responsibility is to teach the subject and to inculcate values that should include respect for others.
    The teacher in this case may have been right in saying that religious views of biogenesis don’t quite resonate with what science seems to have established without a reasonable doubt, but he may have crossed the line if and when in the process he made one or more students in the class feel like duds along with their parents and preachers.
    There is little hope for peace and harmony in the country or in the world as long as true-believing warriors on both sides of any issue are out to desecrate and destroy the framework of their opponents with little understanding or empathy for the other.

    V. V. Raman
    May 8, 2009

  2. Tom Rees says:

    The interesting thing about this case is the rationale. Previous courts have ruled that creationism is religion, not science. Therefore, a teacher can’t attack creationism for the same reason they can’t teach it. They have to keep religion out of the classroom.

  3. Vernon Malcolm says:

    Don’t be so quick to defend evolution just because the wingnuts hate it. Darwin led to the worst colonial, militarist, attrocity and stock market abuses in history. Lamarkian inhertiance and mitochondrial DNA show that Darwin was not all he is crackered up to be. So don’t defend him! These angry white talk radio males need universal health care so they can finally see a psychistrist. We also need to psychiatrically regulate the preachers and teachers who influenced such creatures. That is what homeland security is really about.

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