A Lost Opportunity In San Juan Capistrano

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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145 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    You’re saying that the Commie-Dem Ninth didn’t take the opportunity to say “Of course Creations is religious nonsense, and worse still, it’s Christianity instead of Islam. Take the petitioner away in chains!”? My faith in Rick Santorum is starting to fade.Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    Burt, this post doesn’t give me a conversation jumping off point, but I want to give kudos. This was very educational, and it drills down into a subject that I feel passionately about but have to approach layman. Thanks.Report

  3. A Teacher says:

    I agree too that this review is quite timely.

    Creationism is particularly thorny, in my mind because so many people insist on including it in a science class as though it can explain why we’ve developed Anti-biotic resistant bacteria, and simply it can’t. Only evolution can explain things like that and thus it has to be part of a science curriculum. Sadly there are people who insist that science “teach” that “God” created those Super-bugs as some kind of punishment.

    But what scares the bejebus out of me is the thought of being dragged into a court for violating a student’s free exercise of religion because I suggested that over-use of anti-biotics was the real cause of these super strains of infections.

    And this is coming from a Christian myself….Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to A Teacher says:

      Note that in this case it was a history teacher in AP European History. And while it is hard to deal with that subject without discussing the role of Christianity and the various denominations, I’m hard pressed to see where comments about creationism fit in.Report

      • Jeff in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Contest is everything. If were a English class, for example, Mr Farnan would probably have grounds to sue — I can’t see a way that creationism would be brought up that would warrant Dr Corbett’s remark.

        If, on the other hand, Mr Farnan interrupted a biology class with some drivel about creationism ID (got to keep up with the goalposts, ya know), then I’d say a nasty comment is deserved.

        So what does creationism have to do with European History? If Mr Farnan brought creationism into discussion of the Hanseatic League, then he deserves all the scorn he got, and then some.

        Note that Dr Corbett did not describe Christianity as “nonsense”, just one belief that many Christians do believe is “nonsense”. (I would think that MR Farnan would have to prove that creationism is NOT nonsense to get any standing anyway…)Report

        • Mike in reply to Jeff says:

          If you actually read the PDF provided by Mr. Likko, it appears that the comments were in regard to:

          – The impact of religion on attempted social reforms in the middle ages

          – A lawsuit that had happened some years prior with the same school district in which a former biology teacher, John Peloza (Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist.) had attempted to insert creationism into his lectures and had been caught undermining the biology curriculum. Peloza had sued the school district, and Corbett specifically, after the student newspaper’s editor (Corbett was the faculty advisor to the newspaper) ran an editorial calling out Peloza.

          Intriguingly, Peloza’s lawsuit was bankrolled by the “Rutherford Institute” and “American Center for Law and Justice”; the Rutherford Institute was one of those perennial right-wing front groups that pop up, sit around a few years, then quietly go away so another group with a new, focus-group-tested name like “Advocates for Faith and Freedom” can pop up from the woodwork and continue filing those sort of lawsuits unhindered by a google trail.

          The more I look through this case, the more it’s obvious that Chad Farnan and his family were just the lackies in a right-wing SLAPP attack on Dr. Corbett.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Ah, my point is this:

        As a teacher I have little to no desire to constantly way everything I say vs how someone could take it as it pertains to their religious view points. If I’m teaching the nature of irrational numbers should I be concerned that an off hand comment about their pure oddity in an otherwise ordered universe could possibly offend someone’s religious sensibility? At what point does both the endorsement of religion and non-religion cross into being unable to provide context or commentary without risk of a personal law suit?

        It’s not so much that Evolution is critical to history, but it does beg the question: If I could be sued for slandering a religion, where is the line of “slander” when I say “Creationism isn’t science”?

        I’m the sort who likes my lines nice and clear so I can stay on the side that keeps me employeed and my son fed. I wager his appetite will indeed improve once he gets out of this 3-year old “I hate everything phase”. And then life will get expensive….Report

        • Stillwater in reply to A Teacher says:

          I think that’s right. The neutral position on say, irrational numbers, is that they make sense according to mathematical theory , and not whether they are consistent with God’s intentions. And it should be mentioned in loud and unequivocal terms that if God made Math, then they are consistent with his intentions.

          The separation issue, it seems to me, ought to be circumscribed not by scientific and rational explanations and justifications that aren’t inherently, or ideologically, consistent with the Word of God, but rather, whether they make sense within an alternative God-neutral explanatory framework.

          Saying that already puts me over the edge by some people’s conception of ‘separation’. But I think it’s warranted by considerations of what constitutes a ‘good education’. Furthermore, let the God botherers decide on their own how evolution and particle physics fit into a theistic universe. It’s certainly not an issue for the atheist.Report

      • Well observed, Mr. Cain. In the context of a history class, railing against creationism was abusive to the student, and an abuse of power as teacher with a captive audience.

        I lean toward theism, and have no truck with or for creationism. However, these things should be approached with a bit of prudence, wisdom, common sense and a scrape of human decency.

        Many Muslims embrace some form of “creationism,” and/or reject Darwinis [see below, per Wiki, anyway]. When folks [may I say bullies?] like Mr. Corbett start going off, they should imagine they’re doing their act for a classroomful of Muslim kids. And their dads.

        Punking Christianity and esp the fundies is the last intolerance tolerated in America.

        Little is known about general societal views of evolution in Muslim countries. A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin’s theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about 25% of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species. In contrast, the 2007 study found that only 28% of Kazakhs thought that evolution is false; this fraction is much lower than the roughly 40% of U.S. adults with the same opinion (this could be due to the fact that Kazakhstan is a former republic of the USSR, where atheism was explicitly endorsed and promoted).[1]
        According to Salman Hameed, writing in the journal Science, there exists a contradictory attitude towards evolution in the Muslim world. While Muslims accept science as fully compatible with Islam, and most accept microevolution, very few Muslims accept the macroevolution as held by scientists, especially human evolution.[1]Report

        • NoPublic in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Punking Christianity and esp the fundies is the last intolerance tolerated in America.

          With respect, this is crap and you know it.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to NoPublic says:

            Oh,yeah, Mr. NoPublic? Fundies are punked right on this thread. Try that around here with any other group.

            In fact, as a thought exp, I proposed substituting “Muslim” for fundie whenever it comes up. Some are consistent, your Hitchenses and a few others [Sam Harris just got a spitstorm for bagging on Islam], but most are PC.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Tom – This is not a fair or correct comparison. The correct corollary of Muslim would be Christian, which I think you would agree gets a lot of defenders here and elsewhere. The corollary for a fundamentalist Christian – especially those that are fighting for dogma to replace secular law in public policy – would be a fundamentalist Muslim. I doubt very much you will find huge support for implementing sharia law, here or elsewhere.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I doubt very much you will find huge support for implementing sharia law, here or elsewhere.

                Actually, elsewhere (certain corners) has support (and some of it huge) for implementation of Sharia. One of the “oh shit” moments that followed Saddam’s fall very much centered on the type of government that was going to replace Baathist rule.

                Those who argued that the love of democracy beats in the heart of every man were shocked, shocked to find that the groundwork pounded into each of us was not necessarily pounded into the Shia as we saw the newly free people finally able to use their newfound religious freedom on the first celebration of Ashura out of the shadow of Saddam’s tyrrany.Report

              • RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

                Sorry, I was meaning here in th US. I am assuming when Tom was talking about people being too PC he was *not* referring to the middle east.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to RTod says:

                Fair enough. I was using a fairly broad definition of “elsewhere”.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, a broader definition of elsewhere definitely allows for a more – um – intense degree of Muslim fundamentalism.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Mr. Kelly, I think it’s quite fair to compare fundamentalist Christianity and mainstream Islam and very unfair to compare fundamentalist Islam [say the Taliban] to any sizable current form of Christianity.

                Rather my point, having studied each of them a bit. [I personally am none of the above.] If you study even “moderate” Muslims like Tariq Ramadan or


                you’ll see sharia comfortably woven into their political theology.

                The bombs being lobbed here against sharia [as if there’s only the stoning gays kind] and then a facile but false equivalency of the rather mild social conservatism of yr average fundie with it is the sort of nonsense I’m referring to here.

                As I said, some people like Hitchens [who trashed Mother Teresa, for crissakes] are consistent. Others spit on the Xtian fundies but are among the first to use Islamophobia! as a cudgel against their anti-PC enemies.

                And yes, Mr. RTod, I certainly was speaking of the US, but as a pluralist, I think it would be, um, cultural imperialism to begrudge Egypt or any other Muslim nation the right to self-determine that the sensibilities of sharia should inform their civil law.

                ‘Cause that’s where the multicultural rubber meets the road, dude.


              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                But Tom, none of theMuslims I know here in the States are arguing for “the stoning of the gays.” I mean, it’s not like I’m saying “Oh, well most of them don’t, sure there are a couple, but they’re excitable.”

                None of them.

                Dude, people are people and the percentage of savage nut jobs in any given place is going to have to do far more with that place’s circumstances than with a creed. I know a lot of Muslims in this country, and they go out and drink beer and date and marry and divorce and watch Mad Men covet cool cars and everything else. On the other hand, I didn’t know a lot of Christians during the whole Serb-Croat hubbub, but I don’t condemn the entire set of American Christians for their actions.

                Are American fundamentalist Christians by and large anything remotely like al Qaeda? Of course not. But neither are socially conservative Muslims I know here in the states.

                One of the things that some liberals do that makes me roll my eyes is say “I know some Muslims and they are peaceful people, so all the Muslims in the world must be just like them.” But I don’t see any difference between that and saying “I know there are a lot of militant Muslims in the world that are bent on committing atrocities to remove people they see as occupiers of their country, so really all Muslims in the world must be like that.”

                People are people.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I agree with this too.

                I am also preparing myself emotionally for the fight when Muslim Parents start involving themselves in the Creationist argument.

                Because that’s going to be really, really funny.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Very funny, but somehow sad that I won’t get to see the long arguments about “Should we team up?”

                On the other hand, when that get’s sorted out I’ll finally know which is believed to be more Satan-like: me or a Muslim.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Mr. Kelly, my point was fundie Xtians and mainstream Muslims are of similar sensibilities. Many reasons for fundie-bashing apply to Muslims as well.

                Comparing fundie Xtians to the Taliban or gay-stoning is of course crap.Report

              • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom is nothing if not fair and balanced, and fairness and balance demand that a group that makes up <1% of the American population receive at least equal treatment in a post about a U.S. court case involving Christian beliefs.Report

              • Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Of course the Dominionists wish to impose their morality via legal means. So too do the Taliban, or Hamas. I will compare them, because they share the same aims, the same goals, and the same lack of sense of humor.

                Fundamentalists participate in bioterrorism, and herein I reference Jewish fundamentalists, for they are cut of the same cloth as the rest.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Blessed are the whiners, for they shall inherit the earth.Report

      • In response to myself, and speaking as a science geek, “Eppur si muove” is a relevant episode in European history, and the battles over evolution in the US over the last 90 or more years are potentially a valid subject for discussion in a history class. At a minimum, “Is religious denial of evolution different than the denial of Galileo’s conclusions? Why or why not?”.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

          That would be a more telling point if it weren’t the scientific establishment who manipulated the church into bothering itself with Galileo at all.Report

          • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Galileo was singularly good at pissing off the pope. He made the pope sound like an idiot, and made sure that it was widely read.
            He was not a particularly wise person.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

              Urban VIII was the Pope who banned snuff because it led to sneezing (the ecstasy of which was considered too carnal).

              Without getting *TOO* deep into why I’ve reached this conclusion, I suspect that Urban was one of those guys who was fairly easy to piss off.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to A Teacher says:

      It’s easy to imagine the student being a real jerk. Generally, I would presume that a student who sued a teacher over a difference of opinion on an academic subject to be a jerk. That does not, however, excuse the teacher’s being a jerk back.Report

      • Mike in reply to Burt Likko says:

        When you’re dealing with the sort of delusional people who will go to places like “Dinosaur Adventure Land” (please just google it), little can be done. If I had some little twerp who was waving a bible in my face interrupting a history class, I’d be tempted to say very similar things to him as the teacher did.Report

  4. I’m not so sure we need guidance from the courts. The trouble with asking for a rule or guideline is that you might get one, and if it’s a long-lasting rule, it will be distinguished, upheld, reverified, and debated over ad nauseum, but not before a lot of people are hauled into court for allegedly crossing the line.

    What I’m saying is, that without a rule, at least in this case as Mr. Likko describes it, any potential plaintiff is going to have that much more of an obstacle to overcome–by having to prove that there is a line in addition to having to prove that the line has been crossed. With a guideline, that first hurdle is already taken care of, and it would be easier to bring suit, regardless of the merits of the suit, against teachers (or whoever).

    I hope I’m being clear. I also hope I’m right, but I’ll settle for clear and wrong, especially if there’s anything I said that needs correction.Report

  5. Anderson says:

    Any idea what kind of class this was in? If it was in a biology class, I think the teacher would have grounds to dismiss creationism out right, though he did put it rather crudely. If it were in a religion or philosophy class, however, I think disparaging remarks made against religion would put him a lot closer to violating the Establishment clause. Not sure if this makes a difference in the court. But, either way, qualified immunity seems like a fair call for the teacher; there’s no way he could have known in the heat of the moment that this would end up being a constitutional issue….This kid (or the family) seems like kind of an ass for suing the teacher. I mean, you can solve problems in other ways too.Report

  6. Michael Drew says:

    It seems like there must have been a number of tests the District Court must have set up to find, first of all, that as an institutional matter, a public school teacher by simply giving an off-the-cuff, implicitly personal (though that certainly does become quite murky when a teacher is speaking as an authority in class) view about creationism, rather than, for example, creating explicit curriculum to that effect that was approved by his supervisors, hence giving the clear imprimatur of the institution, even could potentially by that act effectively enact a governmental endorsement of a certain religion (anti-Creationism?), and then that he did in fact do that with this particular comment. I also wonder what, if any, speech clause interest the teacher may have in a situation like this – not that it must outweigh any establishment clause concerns, but I just wonder what the DC made of those. Do you have a link to that District Court’s ruling, Burt?Report

  7. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Likko, props on the ace post and limning of the issues. I’d have thrown the entire case out for lack of standing. I might have let it through if the school district had been sued, not the teacher—and by a parent, not a student.

    My own specialty, area of interest, is religion and the Founding. What got us Founded in the first place was to not make a federal case out of everything, esp religion—and I mean that figuratively and literally.

    What we have here is a federal case. Feh.

    Like you, I believe the Constitution guarantees the right to believe stupid shit.

    One way or the other.


    • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      I agree, Tom, that these seemingly more mundane, narrow, technical kinds of matters are what are actually most interesting in this case (speaking as a non-lawyer, to who those things are more mysterious, and, hence more inherently interesting to begin with, I should stipulate). Clearly (though I agree with Burt that he is IMHO only a matter of tone and shading away from perfectly acceptable practice from what I can hear), this kind of pedagogical approach is pretty edgy for a public school teacher – and I would have no problem as a matter of policy if they were to tell him to tone it down – nor for Farnan’s family to organize to being pressure on the school (whether directly or via the school board) to see that that happened. But it seems to me that jumping (and I don’t know all the background – maybe some incremental steps before this were taken) to an establishment clause action here is something of a stretch, if based on a single tape recording. If the offending pedagogical practice were a recurring practice by this teacher, that practice was brought to the attention of the district, and the district chose to dig in its heels on First Amendment, pedagogical, or simply substantive grounds, then by all means it becaomes a question fo whether allowing and defending this kind of premeditated approach to sensitive (arguably) theological questions by a teacher amounts to the establishment of a religion in this place. I don’t know if any of that happened, but, again, I have a hard time seeing this comment in isolation as doing that. To my mind, he doesn’t endorse a religion, even a non-religion, as give his views of some of its potential effects on the ways people have thought over time. Someone could respond by pointing out all that their religion has done and advanced over time in terms of art & architecture, or etc. Personally, I’d prefer that kind of discussion not be chilled, and to chill public school teachers from engaging in them rather likely effectively chills such discussion for the students as well. I guess I think that the bar for what constitutes establishment oughtn’t to be so low as to disallow a teacher from engaging in such a discussion, even taking sides in it. This was an AP History class, and perhaps he thought his students were tough and smart enough to hear these views without feeling that they were the subject of proselytizing. And yes, if the shoe were on the other foot, and this teacher were offering his view of the value of the Catholic Church, or the truth of the Gospel of Christ, I may feel differently. It would just depend.

      One other matter of legal interest here (and IANAL, so please correct me): isn’t it a principle of civil procedure that courts aren’t concerned with essentially trivial matters? If the claimed damages here are essentially nominal, aren’t courts supposed to tell the parties to just work it out — i.e. if you feel like you were only harmed to the tune of a dollar, then court isn’t where your dispute belongs? I realize this is a matter of principle, but as a procedural matter, do courts really hear Constitutional cases for $1’s worth of damages frequently? I thought they didn’t – so as not to allow that these type of trial actually are little more than seminars, rather than the adjudication of matters of real import to people, using the founding principles of our Republic as the guide for doing so (and, btw, reinterpreting or even, gasp, constructing them anew in that process for each new circumstance in which their guidance is required). I could have been (obviously was, in this case, at least) wrong about that, however.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “To my mind, he doesn’t endorse a religion, even a non-religion, as give his views of some of its potential effects on the ways people have thought over time. ”

        Saying something like “creationism is stupid bullshit and only morons believe it” is just as much of an Establishment Clause violation as allowing a church group to rent a room in the town hall for its meetings.Report

        • Nothing contra American history in renting a public room out for church services. They lent the halls of Congress to various churches [on a come one, come all basis] while Wash DC was being constructed.

          Accommodation—pluralism—had been the American Way, until the “strict separationism” that was the trend of 20th century SC rulings.

          I do not think that trend is immutable. The 14th A does not establish agnosticism as America’s default “civil religion.”

          “The First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State … Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other — hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly…

          Justice William O. Douglas continued:

          “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being … When the state encourages religious instruction … it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.

          We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion … We cannot read into the Bill of Rights such a philosophy of hostility to religion.

          Zorach v. Clauson, 1952


    • Burt Likko in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      School district was sued, BTW. I’m not sure what standing a parent would have had at any time, though. If it’s their ability to control the upbringing of their children, that’s a pretty truncated right. It gets back to another ongoing worry of mine, which is who has standing to complain about Establishments anyway?Report

      • Burt, a 9th Circuit en banc that includes Reinhardt ain’t my idea of precedent. At least I hope it ain’t.

        But I agree about standing, and favor pitching most or all of these federal cases. But I think there’s something there for parents to see certain inculcations/propagandizings/refutations as a violation of their rights.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    One other correction (? – airing of conflicting accounts??) I’d bring to light here – on the second page of the 9th’s decision, they describe Dr. Corbett as “a Christian who regularly prays and attends church services,” not an atheist.


    • Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Which is, of course, perfectly consistent with believing that Creationism is “religious, superstitious nonsense.” Though it does put a different spin on things to consider the conflict as being between, not Christianity and atheism, but different interpretations of Christianity.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        If you are a fundamentalist Christian, you must explain why god created humanity twice.
        Unless you want to take the Jewish view, which is that G-d created hermaphrodites, and then split them into people (this makes soulmates rather a literal term).
        Of course, the literal view of the bible says that G-d actually ordered Adam to commit bestiality in the Garden of Eden…Report

    • A Teacher in reply to Michael Drew says:

      You can be a regularly praying Christian and still say things that come off as offensive to Christians. I, personally, reject the idea that being a member of a group gives you some exclusion from being offensive to that group.

      The teacher here, now that I saw his comments on the copy Mr. Likko posted on his own branch of LoOG reminded me of hearing tapes of this teacher refering to “Jesus Glasses” and how they “blind you to rational thinking”. At least I recall that as the quote.

      I know what he was going for and understand it, that the Early Church used religion to tell people to do X when X was not in their best interest. But ~out of context~ his comments sounded very much like they applied in a general way to all religion, a point I reject. You can be religious and still a critical thinker. Not having access to the unedited tapes I don’t know much was said before and after the Jesus Glasses comment to keep them in the context of ~historically speaking~ or if it was a matter of the conversation getting out of his control and him saying something ill-advised.

      That said, this should be a matter for internal discipline, teacher or student re-assignment, and other remedies within the school. There are better ways to deal with this than a law suit against the individual teacher.Report

    • I missed that. Thanks for the correction, and apologies to Dr. Corbett for the error.Report

  9. Sabrina Imbler says:

    I must admit I am surprised to learn of a creation lawsuit stemming from anything other than the quintessential biology class. On that note, if a proposal of creationism had engendered in a biology class, I would argue that an emphatic dismissal of such claims would not be anomalous or even disruptive to class. Farnan’s comment did not dwell in the often-obfuscated realm of English, instead emerging in a class devoted to factual analysis rather than speculation. From reading the transcript of an audio recording of Corbett’s disputed class, Corbett never vilifies the whole of Christianity as “nonsense,” only the small sector that is creationism. Moreover, as Corbett himself is a practicing Christian, claiming that his condescension of creationism is only the tip of an iceberg of anti-Christianity is wholly spurious.

    Nevertheless, Corbett’s style of pedagogy seems rash. As a high school teacher, he holds the substantial power of creating first impressions of certain issues in his students’ minds. Furthermore, his status as an AP Euro teacher validates his teaching in the minds of some teenagers. Whether or not Corbett abused said power cannot be defined with the information supplied by this post or even the official California court transcript. Corbett’s nonverbal communication and verbal cadence (or lack of) no doubt influenced Farnan’s decision to take the matter to court. Much of Corbett’s recorded lesson plan deals with a logical approach to questioning religion, all in accordance with current scientific theory. While he often digresses to pander to laughs from his class (such as an extended reference to Pastafarianism), the majority of his argument is substantiated by objective observations about evolutionary theory versus creationism. His specific mention of creationism only condemns it as nonsense in the scientific sense, or as according to scientific theory. Frankly, Corbett speaks with a measure of levelheadedness that is often adumbrated by a linear confidence dangerous in the profession of public school teaching.

    Regarding the Ninth Circuit’s failure to detail what is and what is not an infringement of the Establishment Clause, subjectivity blocks policy changes. If there had been an obvious line to draw, the Court would have drawn such a line or at least made serious suggestions as to how to stay beyond a five-foot-distance from the line. However, that is where the problem lies. No apparent solution presents itself, and thus the court must cycle through several future cases like these until a general procedure seems obvious. If a hasty boundary had been established, it would have been upheld strictly in all future rulings and honored as other rules have been, leaving no room for the subjective.

    Tangentially, a score of years ago, Corbett had been hit with a lawsuit by another teacher, John Peloza. Peloza was encouraging the consideration of creationism as an alternative to evolution in his biology class, even offering to teach students “God’s way” after school some days. Peloza justified his actions by claiming that he, as a certified biology teacher, maintained the power to teach his class however he felt was best. Perhaps this past experienced soured Corbett against devout creationists (or at least those who humor the theory).

    Ultimately, Corbett’s style of pedagogy, self-professed as “intentionally provocative in order to elicit responses from his students and to help them develop critical thinking skills,” rubbed one student the wrong way. Whether this was pointed at all creationists or simply misconstrued as a dismissal of a student’s beliefs, Corbett rightly holds the status of qualified immunity. The gray area of his actions is huge and indiscriminate; until that changes, the courts will have to handle masses of cases similar yet quite subjectively different to this one until they deem a course of action necessary and good.Report

    • J M Hatch in reply to Sabrina Imbler says:

      @Sabrina Imbler

      Farnan got caught editing the recordings, which may be why Corbett’s delivery threw you off. Apparently telling lies in the name of God is good in his belief system, which makes since as most of the bible is full of tall stories. Also it was Farnan who was ordered to write a check, to pay for wasting the courts time. I take it purjury charges were not considered due to his tender years (and lilly white background).

      As for provocative, anything short of complete submission to a fanatics belief is going to be provocative. Emo Philips captured that so well in this bit:

      • Sabrina Imbler in reply to J M Hatch says:

        @J M Hatch

        In the words of Emo himself,
        “When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me … and I got it!”

        Perhaps the same hypocrisy is evident in this convoluted yet spirited lawsuit.Report

  10. Paul Burnett says:

    The teacher was not initially expressing hostility to religion – he was expressing hostility to ignorance, as all teachers must. The scientific illiteracy of creationism is an accepted fact – “The American Association for the Advancement of Science, is vigorously opposed to attempts…to require that religious accounts of creation be taught in science classes.” – 1972

    The fact that some religious folks continue to hold their willful ignorance about evolution and biology and science to be a sacrament of their religious practice continues to be a problem entirely inappropriate to the 21st century.Report

  11. Dr_GS_Hurd says:

    It is rather obvious that none of the people pontificating about this have read the trial documents (which are all availabe on-line through the National Center for Science Education:

    “At that point, I stood up and said, “I’ll tell you what. I will
    sign a statement giving you — you do not have to
    defend me, but I will not leave John [Peloza] alone
    to propagandize kids with this religious, superstitious
    nonsense. . . . John wanted to talk about creation
    as a science and all that stuff, but you get
    involved in that argument, you just lose because it’s
    just nonsense. . . .”

    There is the soul-searing, faith destroying statement. Go wash your eyes out with Holy Water before you go blind.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

      Bear in mind, though, that the procedural posture of the case forces the Court to look at disputed facts through a particular lens, in some cases accepting at face value one party’s version of events.Report

      • Dr_GS_Hurd in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The trial judge, James V. Selna, give a very complete and competent review of the statements made by Corbett according to Farnan. The only statement he found questionable was the one I quoted from above. The Appeals Court decision has a longer quote.

        Corbett did not dispute making that statement, unlike several that Farnan had heavily redacted so as to change their clear meaning.Report

    • Dr_GS_Hurd in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

      My next comment was getting rather long, so I put it up on my own blog, Stones and Bones. http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2011/08/qualified-partial-victory-in-capistrano.htmlReport

    • Art Deco in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

      Why do you suppose the National Center for Science Education has a position on an interpersonal dispute between a student and a history teacher?Report

      • Dr_GS_Hurd in reply to Art Deco says:

        The link is to the court documents. There is also a short description of the case.

        As creationism and/or anti-evolution is the principle threat to science education in America, the NCSE is alert to any cases related to creationism. Once you start suing people, it is no longer an “interpersonal dispute.” This really should be obvious.Report

        • Art Deco in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

          It is decidedly non-obvious. The case concerned insulting remarks made by a history teacher in a history class, not the science curriculum.Report

          • Mike in reply to Art Deco says:

            In a history discussion concerning:

            – the role of religious groupings and pedagogy in the formation of historical societies, e.g. the Middle Ages under various attempted reforms that were opposed by the Church

            – A student specifically asking about the teacher’s role in Peloza v Capistrano SD.

            Thank you for being dishonest. You have now been called on it. Please play again.Report

        • J M Hatch in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

          You’re on the right track, but your case would have been more forcefully made if you had noted the case involved a public function, ie “Farnan v. Capistrano Unified School District”, & not ….v. Corbett.

          May I suggest ignoring Art Deco , its a lost cause. The names says it all: full of clashing colors, no straight lines and belonging to the past. Your not going to find linear logic between those ears.Report

  12. J M Hatch says:

    Funny enough, It seems that Farman went into to this looking to make a buck, along with his paymasters.


    With a MS in Chemical Engineering, I was thinking about going into teaching science when I retire, you know, to give back to the community. However thinking that some jerk like Farnan is sitting in class with the only objective of trying to figure out how to sue me, unuh, no thank you. Our nation is going to get clobbered by China & India in 20 years time.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    Okay, here it is:

    Stuff like this is why I support vouchers.Report

    • A Teacher in reply to Jaybird says:

      The voucher system would have done nothing to stop this.

      Unless his district is radically different then ones I work in or the ones my friends do, he could have sued this teacher personally for the same comment ~and~ threatened to go elsewhere.

      This is not a case of “Choice” between schools, it’s a case of an attack on the specific person of the teacher for real or perceived personal slights. I do not at all believe that the goal of the suit was to move to a different teacher, but to stop that teacher from teaching other people period. In fact, at least in my county, a student can attend any highschool, usually with no additional costs except transportation due to shared open enrollment policies.

      What bugs me about this whole case is that if the teacher did act offensively then it could and should have been purely internal. The district could investigate the teacher and discipline him using the policies laid out either for the district or in their collective bargaining agreement. If this was the case of a single student’s complaint, then the student could be moved to a different teacher or a different class. Yes, this might mean he or she misses out on AP European History, but there are always trade offs. If this was a case of multiple students complaining then again, there are protocals to handle this internally.

      And if a student feels that the internal work was poorly managed, then he or she can sue the ~district~ for not addressing the concerns adequately.Report

    • Dr_GS_Hurd in reply to Jaybird says:

      Stuff like fundamenatlist twerps suing teachers?

      Vouchers won’t change that.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

        If he has the option of going to a Christian school with his voucher, he can go to a place that “teaches the controversy” and allows real students to go to real schools without having to deal with knuckleheads who are destined to get jobs where high school biology has no influence whatsoever.Report

        • A Teacher in reply to Jaybird says:

          Except that his issues, unless I’m horribly mistaken, were not with the beliefs of the teacher nor even with the curriculum but with the ~way~ that curriculum was delivered. You ~can~ teach history and the abuses of the church without slandering the faiths of those who believe ~now~. You absolutely can teach evolution as Science without bashing people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to accept it. Unlike gravity, macro evolution is a lot harder to demonstrate in the classroom. It can be simulated, yes, and you can still deal with a student who says “yeah but I don’t buy it” without being a jerk.

          My point is that Faran probably would have no desire at all to take his voucher to a private school (which maybe he could have afforded even without the voucher). He wanted a quality education; he just felt that it wasn’t respectfully being given.

          Which… okay. Maybe it wasn’t. Still think that he should have dealt with the district, not the individual teacher.Report

          • RTod in reply to A Teacher says:

            My assumption was that the reason it was against a teacher was a political stategy, designed to make individual teachers less likely to ask students to question Creationism. Very few of these cases that make their way to court are about the actual plaintiff and defendant; most are chosen by and funded by one side or the other based on their perceived “winnability.”Report

          • J M Hatch in reply to A Teacher says:

            Hi Teach,

            See link to Farnan’s site (above). Its pretty obvious that Farnan was sent into that class by his paymasters to provoke a situation . They would have very been mad if your suggestions on administrative management of the compliant had been the case.

            Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to offer your solution again. This time Farnan’s team lost, but their pockets are deep, and judges retire. They will be back.

            His paymasters make a lot of money out of keeping Americans stupid & paying tax to the church. (Don’t you think donation driven by fear of hell, and subsidized by tax deductions are a tax too)? Mr. Colbett was teaching about how European church taxes were kept in place, against the best interest of the unwashed masses by preying on the average joe’s stupidity. This certainly enraged Faran’s paymasters far more any biology teacher given exclusive credence to Darwinian Evolutionary theory.

            By the way, can you define what is a “quality” education? Heck, even TQM guru’s Deming & Cosby didn’t come up with a standard definition of quality. I suspect Mr. Farnan’s probably not sophisticated enough to even know what he needed (vs. wanted, which was some math, grammar and a reaffirmation of his own limited world view).Report

        • RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’m not sure that I can put my finger on why, but I have a feeling if you had vouchers pay for these kinds of tuition both animosity and lawsuits would increase, not decrease.Report

  14. Mike says:

    Having now read the court’s PDF ruling, you’re mischaracterizing the situation. Shame on you.

    The quote “religious, superstitious nonsense” appears stated by the teacher, but it was a direct response to a question about another lawsuit from 20 years prior, in which a biology class teacher was attempting to brainwash kids with creationist setups – essentially, inviting them to “home sessions” and trying to establish a school-sponsored sort of Young Creationists Club on campus. The biology class teacher had then sued the school district (Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d
    517, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1994)) as well as the history teacher, who at the time was the advisor to the student newspaper. The basis of Peloza’s lawsuit was that the student editor had written an article exposing Peloza for not teaching biology, but rather creationism, in class and that Peloza believed Corbett (in his position as faculty advisor) should have stopped her from doing so.

    The ongoing problem here is that, ever since the Scopes Monkey Trial, the religious fundies have been trying to figure out ways to get their foot into the door and try to force public schools into religious indoctrination of students again. It’s unsurprising that this happens, much in the way other historical patterns are described by Corbett about the usage of religion to convince suckers to believe against things that would be helpful to them (his Mark Twain quote is also apt).

    Given that the now-frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination went round this weekend trumpeting how “in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution”, this is getting to be rather ridiculous. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s own decision in Edwards v Aguillard ought to be the final say on the matter. There’s a good collection of the various “creation science” lawsuits over here: http://ncse.com/taking-action/ten-major-court-cases-evolution-creationismReport

    • Burt Likko in reply to Mike says:

      I’m not clear on how Corbett’s remarks are vindicated by their context, even as set forth in his version of the disputed facts. Bear in mind, I basically agree with the things Corbett was saying (and much of what you say too). But this is a subject upon which government officials, including public school teachers, must have a care to let others make up their own minds about. What I can write about on this blog is one thing; what I could say were I to hold a public office is another.

      Because I think the appropriate standard for finding an Establishment is government endorsement of a particular view on religion, I think Corbett crossed the line because even in context, he is telling his students what they ought to believe. The context may temper this, and I indicated in the original post that I thought he only barely crossed the line. That he did so armed with a viewpoint which I find palatable and desirable does not vindicate the fact that an endorsement of a viewpoint did take place; I can feel kindly towards him and sympathize with the emotional context of the back-and-forth between an irritating student and an exasperated teacher while still seeing that indeed, the kid pushed the teacher far enough that the teacher crossed the line from discussion to endorsement and thus Establishment. There are no de minimis violations of the Constitution.Report

  15. David says:

    It would be interesting to see if a teacher describing evolutionary theory using the EXACT SAME WORDS [“superstitious nonsense”] would be given immunity.

    Evolution: The Creation Myth of Our Culture
    by David Buckna

    • Dr_GS_Hurd in reply to David says:

      If a biology teacher were to describe evolutionary theory as “superstitious nonsense” they would be incompetent, and factually wrong. A superstition is a religious practice that is divorced from its theological origin. Fear of black cats, or Friday the thirteenth, are examples of superstitions. Creationism of the most common young earth sort, is not quite a superstition in the formal sense.

      It is nonsense.Report

      • J M Hatch in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

        According to Webster: su·per·sti·tion

        Excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings
        – he dismissed the ghost stories as mere superstition

        A widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief
        – she touched her locket for luck, a superstition she had had since childhoodReport

      • Burt Likko in reply to Dr_GS_Hurd says:

        Does it change your analysis if you recall that this was a history class, not a biology class?Report

    • Reason in reply to David says:

      This is “Superstitious Nonsense”, thank you for such a fine example! Now, please leave. Stop trying to act like you’re interested in this story when you’re only trying to spread unsubstantiated garbage.Report

  16. David says:

    Creationist Dr. David N. Menton is a former Associate Professor of Anatomy, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, now retired. In his September 1995 address (“Evolution: Is a scientific critique possible?”) at the Abbey Arts Centre in Abbotsford, British Columbia Menton commented:

    “What I’m suggesting in the classroom is: not teaching creation. What I’m suggesting you consider in the classroom is: teach evolution the way your Minister of Education says you ought to–teach the curriculum the way they say you ought to. I believe in obeying the laws. I didn’t come here to tell you to get yourself thrown out of a job or anything like that…Do what you’re asked to do.”

    “But there isn’t anyone that’s going to stop you from presenting critical evidence against evolution. No one.”

    “I eagerly look forward to the first test case in court, where they drag a teacher kicking and screaming into the courts who has done the job they’re supposed to do. They’ve taught evolution–they’ve covered the curriculum–they’ve covered the points in the book–but they also presented scientific evidence that is critical of these evolutionary views–evidence generated by other evolutionists themselves. I’m waiting for the court case when they take that person in the school and say: ‘You have no right presenting scientific evidence from evolutionists critical of evolution.’”

    “I’ll tell you–the approach that is being taken here guarantees one thing…you’re guaranteeing this course is going to be boring–you’re going to teach evolution as a ‘Just So Story’. Anyone with dissenting points of view is going to get crushed. They’re either going to go along with the evolutionary paradigm, or be told that they can’t speak out; they’re not going to win that round, and neither will you. You’re going to bore your kids silly.”Report

    • Reason in reply to David says:

      There is a reason that Creationism/Intelligent Design/Creation Science/Teach the Controversy continues to lose in court. In contains NO SCIENCE. It only contains arguments against evolution and previously attempted to simply put God’s creation in its place. As far as controversy, there is none in the scientific community. There may be multiple ideas with lacking information about one branch of the tree, but that’s very different in regards to how the tree grows (which is all the Theory of Evolution covers). A missing link or an explanation for a piece of anatomy not yet found, is not evidence that the entire theory is wrong or somehow flawed. You need to stop trying to push this junk.Report

  17. Jaybird says:

    Silly question:

    To what extent is the consent of the governed necessary for a Just State?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

      A certain degree?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      It’s not a silly question, but it’d be great if you wanted to explain how it is anyone in this case is even suggesting they are considering withdrawing their consent to be governed by this state, as opposed to merely pursuing court actions to clarify exactly what the Constitutional limitations on that government are in this specific circumstances, while not expressing any lack of confidence that the question will be resolved in an acceptable enough way that they will willingly continue to consent to be governed by it. I haven’t seen any statement by the Farnan party that suggests they view this as a serious enough violation of what they view to be their Constitutional protections from having a particular religion established over them that they consider their consent to be governed by the United States of America to be on the table in terms of stakes. But maybe you have.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Given that more and more people are used to the idea of outsourcing the education of their children to the government, it’s not surprising to me, AT ALL, that there is a vocal minority that sees curriculum as something that they ought to have a voice in choosing.

        They pay taxes so that their kids can be educated… they should have some measure of say in how that money is spent, right?

        What if they elect a different superintendent? Different PTA representatives?

        This strikes me as an obvious (if unintended) consequence of mandatory public education: parents thinking that they should have some say in what the kids are taught.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          Uh, … yeah?

          Policy response to public preferences can and does happen (or not happen) entirely independent of threatened or actual withdrawal of consent by the governed. The mere fact that people want the government to govern a certain way, or even that they don’t get it, doesn’t imply that threats of rebellion are being implied. They just aren’t (expect in the rare times when they are – think Waco – think Ted K). Government and citizenry is voluntarily going about a constant process of negotiating and sorting out these preferences all the time in this country, overwhelmingly without putting consent on the table. It’s sort of what we do: the whole constitutionally-delimited-democracy-within-the-context-of-culturally-embraced-regime-stability (i.e. liberalism) thing, and it’s pretty awesome. Even when important questions of the limits of the government go against someone, we culturally don’t assume them to be in a state of rebellion (i.e. no longer consenting to be governed) in response, and we’re almost always right about that.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Government and citizenry is voluntarily going about a constant process of negotiating and sorting out these preferences all the time in this country, overwhelmingly without putting consent on the table.

            Because consent is assumed and, for the most part, granted.

            It when consent it violated that we get, at the very least, passive agressive shit like we see here.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

              Again, I simply don’t see evidence that Farnan views this as a grave enough violation of the terms of his consent that his consent is even on the table. As far as I can see, consent remains a given for him as well. This is a case about what the public terms of the presumption of public consent are. Essentially, he wants the terms clarified for all of us. I don’t think he ever viewed his consent to be governed by this state to be conditioned on the understanding that teachers couldn’t talk this way in class (though maybe he did); rather I think he takes his own consent to be more or less of a given, but he knows that that there are public terms for that consent (which he will accept, nearly whatever they turn out to be), and he thought they included teachers not being able to talk this way in class. And he’s seeking clarification.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

          But let me say that, apart from framing the issue in terms of consent, I do agree with you that ths case does raise fundamental questions about not just the teaching of science and the place of creationism in school, but about public education as an institution in the particular context of our Constitutional tradition as it has evolved. I get the impression you can see this as much as I, so I won’t stress that I think it goes even beyond how you have put it here, since I think you haven’t expressed your full thoughts on that. But I think it does, and I’d like at some point to work my thoughts about that out more completely. I just don’t have time to do it right now. Suffice to say that I tend to think cases like this actually raise more questions about our constitutional culture than about public education as a policy end (and means), but I tend toward the heretical in such matters. Hopefully the League will return to this topic, or even this particular case, more in the future.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Yeah, that’s what I was poking at.Report

            • J M Hatch in reply to Jaybird says:

              Great thoughts, especially from Mike. I hope I can see more of this, so I will keep following this blog.

              By the way, Farnan’s paymasters would never argue the consent angle because they want to foist their point of view on the developing minds of our youth without the consent of anyone but themselves.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to J M Hatch says:

                To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that parent’s *DON’T* have the right to fill their heads with whatever bullshit they are inclined to do.

                I also don’t know that Creationism is more likely to be dangerous to me personally than the attitude that We As A Society Have A Responsibility To Make People Be Right-Thinking In Spite Of Themselves.Report

              • J M Hatch in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, but they are not the parents of my kids. Are the later part of your comment aimed at teaching the system of Science? If so, then you’ve just lost my respect. I hope I’m wrong or its all up to Mike now to keep this link interesting.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to J M Hatch says:

                You have the Right to teach your children whatever you want.

                Other folks write this sentence as “you should be allowed to teach your children whatever you want”.

                Your lack of respect disturbs me not at all. My suspicion that you’re one of the latter rather than one of the former disturbs me a great deal.

                Diff’rent Strokes for Diff’rent Folks, I guess.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                You have the right to teach your children whatever you want. You as a parent do not have the right to insist that a public school do it for you, much less to insist that a public school teach other kids what you want them taught. Among the places we draw the line is religion, which a public school must not teach the validity or invalidity of. Teaching evolution is not religious indoctrination, but if you mistakenly think it is, you have the right to have your kid excused from it. Teaching creationism is religious indoctrination, and you can do it at home, at church, at a private school, or lots of other places, but not in a public school.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                You as a parent do not have the right to insist that a public school do it for you, much less to insist that a public school teach other kids what you want them taught.

                This goes back to the original question, it seems. We take money from everybody in order to see that our The Children are educated.

                What amount of say should parents have in what the kids are taught?

                What amount of say should parents have in what the kids are *NOT* taught?

                Should parents be allowed to recall superintendents until they get one who will play ball?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                What amount of say should parents have in what the kids are taught?

                2/(# of voters in school district) + whatever amount advocacy at school board meetings & other organization creates — that much.

                What amount of say should parents have in what the kids are *NOT* taught?

                see above

                Should parents be allowed to recall superintendents until they get one who will play ball?

                They should be and are allowed to try.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                What Michael said. If a majority of parents want X taught in the school, and it isn’t against the law (like teaching creationism is), who am I to say no? But if a vocal minority want it, well, they’re a minority, and they have lots of other options for being sure their kids learn it. Leaving it out of the curriculum is not oppression.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                But if a vocal minority want it, well, they’re a minority, and they have lots of other options for being sure their kids learn it. Leaving it out of the curriculum is not oppression.

                If polling showed that the majority of the population of any given segment wished that they “teach the controversy”, then the schools ought to teach the controversy?

                And if the majority of the population wanted no mention of Creationism, then none of that funky stuff?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, you appear – to me anyway – to be arguing both sides here, and somewhat incoherently. On the one hand, you’re saying that society imposing a preferred view on people is harmful and ‘dangerous’, while on the other you say that mere majority rule isn’t sufficient to justify doing so.

                If majority rule isn’t sufficient, it’s because there are principled arguments for rejecting what we as a society have determined is right for you. But if those principled argument exist, then the presumably do in fact justify imposing one view on people in spite of themselves.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                I think JB is going all Socratic on us, trying to lead us to the concluaion that public schools are a bad idea.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m saying that people are all sorts of cool with majority rule when they are in the majority, and people are all sorts of cool with Individual Rights that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the government when they are the minority.

                Atheist, Christian, or Muslim.

                And this becomes really, really dangerous when it comes to what liberties we are allowed to take when it comes to the indoctrination and/or teaching of children.Report

  18. Karl Priest says:

    For the last five years of my full-time career, with the full knowledge (and dismay) of state and county school officials as well as the ACLU I demonstrated to my students that mathematics proves beyond the shadow of doubt that evolutionism is nonsense. The students saw that the evidence clearly shows that every item associated with humans, animals and plants are Intelligent Designs and Intelligent Design is science. I always let the students figure it out for themselves and allowed them to believe what they chose, but at least they were exposed to the scientific facts that extremists want to censor from the minds of public school students.Report

  19. Brynn Mitchell says:

    I also agree that this specific case ended justly, but it does concern me that no line has been drawn as to when rights of both students and teachers are being violated. These days, everyone is hyper sensitive when it comes to matters of religion. Personally, I believe that science and religion can co-exist, but I know both do not belong in a classroom. Personal bias will always stir up debate, which is perfectly healthy in a classroom setting, as long as no one feels threatened or attacked. In an ideal world, teachers would have a little more leeway to share opinion and not feel threatened by the chance of being put on trial. Unfortunately, in a society where the debate between science and religion is such a hot spot, it is unrealistic to think that I can simply wish away the tension. Teachers abuse power, students are over sensitive, and the problem is not going away any time soon. It would be incredibly helpful if there was some realistic clarification in the gray areas of this tension.Report

  20. Sophia says:

    In my own experience, it is nearly impossible for any teacher not to add a personal bias when breaching any topic that may involve a religious vs scientific clash. Whether it is an actual sentence denouncing the religious or scientific version of events or simply a tone of voice, I believe that students will continue to be offended, whether or not they speak up about it, until a clear line is drawn about what a teacher can or cannot say in the classroom. While I do understand that some students may simply overreact to a comment that the teacher meant harmlessly, endorsing religion over science or science over religion should not be an ideal taught in the classroom and teachers must be stopped from making such assertions. To take this to the extreme, a teacher may end up mocking religious or scientific beliefs simply because there is no clear punishment for saying such offensive comments in the classroom. To make this case worthwhile, a clear line must have been drawn to prevent further offensive comments from teachers.Report

  21. Dr_GS_Hurd says:

    BTW, Burt, your footnote suggested that the possible cash-out would have been trivial against Corbett is countered in the 9th Court’s decision;

    “[4] We also appreciate that the prejudice to Corbett from
    a failure to modify the order likely would be substantial.
    Although Farnan sought only nominal damages, the attorney’s
    fees and costs for which Corbett could be liable absent the protection of qualified immunity undoubtedly would be considerable
    after more than three years of litigation.” (bottom page 17, passim)Report