Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Federal Judge James Selna rules that a teacher may not call creationism "superstitious nonsense"/Capistrano Superintendent Woodrow Carter Fired



It looks to me like this judge violated a teacher's right to freely discuss with students the origin of life.

Does this decision forbid teachers to say that the Greek and Roman myths were "religious, superstitious nonsense"? Or is this decision only about modern creationism?

Does the judge himself believe in creationism? Is the judge using his position to punish a teacher who disagrees with his religious beliefs? It sounds to me like the judge is the one violating the establishment clause of the constitution.

Calif. youth prevails in suit on teacher's comment
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, The Associated Press
May 4, 2009

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A federal judge ruled that a public high school history teacher violated the First Amendment when he called creationism "superstitious nonsense" during a classroom lecture.

U.S. District Judge James Selna issued the ruling Friday after a 16-month legal battle between student Chad Farnan and his former teacher, James Corbett.

Farnan sued in U.S. District Court in 2007, alleging that Corbett violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment by making repeated comments in class that were hostile to Christian beliefs.

The lawsuit cited more than 20 statements made by Corbett during one day of class, all of which were recorded by Farnan, to support allegations of a broader teaching method that "favors irreligion over religion" and made Christian students feel uncomfortable.

During the course of the litigation, the judge found that most of the statements cited in the court papers did not violate the First Amendment because they did not refer directly to religion or were appropriate in the context of the classroom lecture.

But Selna ruled Friday that one comment, where Corbett referred to creationism as "religious, superstitious nonsense," did violate Farnan's constitutional rights.

Farnan is not interested in monetary damages, said his attorney, Jennifer Monk of the Murrieta-based Christian legal group Advocates for Faith & Freedom.

Instead, he plans to ask the court to prohibit Corbett from making similar comments in the future. Farnan's family would also like to see the school district offer teacher training and monitor Corbett's classroom for future violations, Monk said...

"They lost, he violated the establishment clause," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "From our perspective, whether he violated it with one statement or with 19 statements is irrelevant."

In making his decision, Selna wrote that he tried to balance Farnan's and Corbett's rights.

"The court's ruling today reflects the constitutionally permissible need for expansive discussion even if a given topic may be offensive to a particular religion," the judge wrote...

[Maura Larkins' note: I think the judge is trying to put lipstick on his own decision. His decision is a clear effort to stifle discussion, but he feels the need to declare otherwise.]

Corbett, a 20-year teaching veteran, remains at Capistrano Valley High School.

Farnan is now a junior at the school, but quit Corbett's Advanced Placement European history class after his teacher made the comments...

[Maura Larkins' note: It sounds like young Mr. Farnan is trying to silence his teacher without giving the teacher the opportunity to fully explain his views. Clearly the student is opposed to listening to ideas that differ from his own.]


Trustees Fire Superintendent Carter

By Jonathan Volzke
San Clemente Times
March 12, 2009

Capistrano Unified School District trustees
unanimously fired Superintendent
A. Woodrow Carter on Monday, hours
after he dramatically addressed them in his
first public comments since being placed on
involuntary paid leave in January.
The decision was made in closed session
and announced after 11:30 p.m., when only
a handful of observers were left in the audience
after Mondays’ board meeting. President
Ellen Addonizio announced the decision
as required by law, and only said it was for a
“material breach” of Carter’s contract with
the district...

But in a 10-minute speech at the start of
the trustees’ meeting, Carter appeared with
his attorney to urge the elected officials to
reinstate him, saying he’d return to work the
following day. It has been widely accepted,
however, that his 18-month tenure with the
district effectively ended when he was placed
on leave January 6, and the only question was
whether trustees would fire him or buy out
the remainder of his contract.

Carter said he’d received 60 allegations of
misconduct from trustees on March 4, and
he and his attorney had refuted them in a
22-page letter back to district. He declined to
release either document, saying it remained a
personal matter.

In his speech to trustees, though, Carter
referenced e-mails officials found on his
computer. He pointed out district policies do
not prohibit personal emails and said trustees
were trying to smear his reputation and
embarrass his friends and family.

Carter said he felt targeted ever since
a new majority of “reform” trustees took
control of the board after a recall election in
June, the same month trustees approved his
three-year, $975,000 contract.

Since November’s election, all seven board seats have
been held by “reform” candidates.
“Acrimony was immediate and working
relations strained from onset…With the exception
of Jack Brick, there isn’t one person
on the dais that is completely clean in this
affair,” Carter told the board...

...He was accompanied by his attorney,
George W. Shaeffer, Jr. of Irvine.
Carter was greeted by an ovation from
the 100 or so parents gathered before the
board meeting. He left—before trustees
voted to dismiss him—to a standing ovation.

Hear Carter’s complete speech at the Beyond the Blackboard Blog at www.sanclementetimes.com


Anonymous said...

I think these articles are poorly written. Like many of their modern counterparts, it appears that the writers feel it necessary not to just report the events, but to take a side. I wonder what the opinions of the "press" here would reflect similarly if Dr. Corbett were a christian informing his students that Hindu beliefs were "superstitious nonsense". Or perhaps if he specifically named idealists for particular causes, such as Jesse Jackson for civil rights, as liars. Would this alter your opinions? Mind you, I'm not a devout Christian and I'm not a zealous politico. I am just tired of this biased reporting. Let us make our own decisions. Clearly, the readership MAY lean in a particular religious or political direction, but let us lean on our own and start giving us some accurate reporting without your opinions. We have our own.

Maura Larkins said...

Dear Anonymous: You have asked the same question that I asked: Must teachers refrain from labeling as "superstitious nonsense" every religious belief in the history of the world? How about the belief that the world is flat? Or that the sun orbits the earth? I think you are wrong to think that I am biased because I defend a teacher's right to speak the obvious truth. The world is not flat. The sun does not orbit the earth. I don't know where you got the idea that anyone was calling anyone else a "liar." Being superstitious is different from being a liar. I advocate for allowing teachers to inform students of the conclusions of scientists who have carefully and logically analyzed the facts. A person who has religious faith may believe that the scientists are wrong; that is the definition of faith. Faith does not require proof. Since I live in a democracy that allows free speech, I will continue to criticize court decisions that, in my opinion, violate the constitution.