Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CA Court Rules in Favor of Christian Student

UPDATE: I recorded a podcast on this issue with Dr. Fuz Rana today: "SPECIAL EDITION: High school teacher's anti-Creationism comment violated law."

Toward the end of the podcast, you'll hear me mention my new high school curriculum, Good Science, Good Faith, if you want to check that out.

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In the age of liberal court rulings that seem to diminish the free speech of Christians everyday, here comes this surprise.

"High school teacher's anti-Creationism comment violated law," Orange County Register

Twenty-year teaching veteran from Capistrano Valley High School, James Corbett, was found guilty of violating the First Amendment because he called creationism "superstitious nonsense" during a class lecture. Apparently, the teacher made other "not-so-nice" statements, like "when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth." But these were ultimately dismissed from the case.

The 37-page ruling is available (at least for now) here: "CASE NO: SACV 07-1434 JVS."

The student who instigated the case, Chad Farnan, had secretly recorded the teacher's statements so it seems like this was a good case. Here is a clip from YouTube about the case.


I think the key issue here is that it exposes the fact that teachers don't have the same level of freedom of speech in the classroom as they do in their everyday lives. They are officials of the state and, as such, cannot support or oppress any religion or worldview. Atheists would be pretty upset if a teacher was saying all atheists are immoral or promoting ID in science class. Likewise, Christians seem within their rights to be upset about Corbett's comments. Whether or not anyone agrees with these statements isn't the point. It is outside the boundaries of public education for teachers to make these kinds of editorial comments. Not to mention, it's unnecessary. History and science can be taught without making these kinds of harsh value judgments.

Personally, I feel somewhat divided over this case. I don't think people from any religion should be made fun of just because of their religious beliefs. Insinuating that religious people are stupid and blind to truth is unkind and ignorant. And in that sense, I think what Farnan did was courageous and right. Christian beliefs are coming more and more under fire, so it's nice to see a victory that preserves our free speech.

On the other hand, there is a sense in which I am sympathetic with the teacher. My guess is that he is probably thinking of young-earth creationism as "superstitious nonsense." If that's the case, then I'm not that far away from agreeing with him on that point (although I think there are more tactful ways of saying it). Maybe he's never met Christians who actually take science seriously. Or maybe he's just a hard core atheist jerk. I don't know.

Either which way, Corbett needs our compassion and prayers.

2 comments:

Vernon Malcolm said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending Darwinism. If you got that out of this post, then you didn't read it very carefully. I was simply sympathizing with the atheist teacher as a PERSON. Maybe he's never met any charitable, rational Christians before. If you listen to the podcast we did, we make that point very clear.

As for the second half of your comment, it doesn't even make sense.

This concludes your contribution to this blog.