Saturday, May 02, 2009

Teacher's Criticism of Creationism Found Violative of Establishment Clause

In C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School District, (CD CA, May 1, 2009), a high school student and his parents brought suit against high school history teacher James Corbett alleging that Corbett violated the Establishment Clause by making repeated comments in class hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular. The court found that many of the challenged statements did not mention religion, but merely took positions on issues that particular religious groups find offensive. Of several comments specifically mentioning religion, the court found only one of them violative of the Establishment Clause-- criticism of fellow teacher John Peloza who advocated creationism. Corbett said, in part: "I will not leave John Peloza alone to propagandize kids with this religious, superstitious nonsense." The court concluded there was no legitimate secular purpose in Corbett's characterization of Creationism as "superstitious nonsense," and that the characterization sent a message of disapproval of religion.

The court dismissed claims against the school district, and left for later adjudication the question of the remedy that would be granted against Corbett. Yesterday's Orange County Register and OC Weekly report on the decision.