UPDATE, AUG. 23, 8:06 A.M.: Just want to give our morning readers a heads up to the debate going on in the comments section to this post from yesterday afternoon, featuring Mr. James "Jesus Glasses" Corbett himself (or someone identifying him/herself as the history teacher at the center of the case).
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 22, 3:46 P.M.: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Friday in favor of Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett, who former student Chad Farnan had sued for disparaging his Christian religion with remarks like, "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth."
Below are five reactions to the ruling, which essentially states Corbett could not have known whether he was overstepping his bounds because no markers were set in previous rulings.
But first, a quick backgrounder: During Advanced Placement European History lessons at the Mission Viejo high school, Corbett had made comments like this: "The people who want to make the argument that God did it, there is as much evidence that God did it as there is that there is a gigantic spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it. When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth."
The three-judge panel, which heard oral arguments from each side's attorneys in February, said in its 24-page opinion (which you can read here) that a teacher's comments may sometimes rise to the level of unconstitutional hostility, "[b]ut without any cases illuminating the 'dimly perceive[d] . . . line of demarcation' between permissible and impermissible discussion of religion in a college-level history class, we cannot conclude that a reasonable teacher standing in Corbett's shoes would have been on notice that his actions might be unconstitutional."
"My classes have Jews, Hindus, Bahai, Muslims, Buddhists, and others. Chad would demand a special place for his views, but in America, all beliefs should be treated equally by government."
-Corbett (via Orange County Register)
"This looks like a solid win for Corbett, and a wash-out for the creationist student. . . Chad's lawyers can still run around staging fund-raisers to keep their activities going, but we imagine Dr. Corbett is feeling rather good about the opinion. Unless Chad and his lawyers try to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, it's over. And it's a happy ending."
-The Sensuous Curmudgeon (via The Sensuous Curmudgeon)
"It's really frightening to me that teachers would get sued for monetary damages for what they say in class. . . . I would be shocked if there was either an en banc review or Supreme Court review."
-Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine's School of Law dean, who represented Corbett pro bono and has vowed to continue offering his services should they be needed (via Courthouse News Service)
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"The case is far from over."
-Robert Tyler of the nonprofit Advocate for Faith and Freedom law firm of Murrieta that represented Farnan and has vowed to appeal again--to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary (via MurrietaPatch).
"[Farnan] was backed by a 'not-for-profit' 'Christian' legal 'ministry' that has, among other things, sued on behalf of a fundamentalist physician who didn't want to provide reproductive services for gays, on behalf of fundamentalist schools who want the "Christian" history of the US to be treated as equal to AP U.S. History by the Un. of Calif., on behalf of a fundamentalist pharmacist who refused to sell birth control to single women and on and on. They file, they go on O'Reilly (like Chad) and beg for donations from the faithful. They are proof that, as Twain said, religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool."
-corribean, student (via The James Randi Educational Foundation)