Student Farnan had gone hunting for trouble, recording his teacher and including over 20 "objectionable" statements in the lawsuit. The judge ruled all but the one comment above were just fine under the Constitution. The following comments, ruled Judge James Selna, were just fine Constitutionally:
- "The Boy Scouts can't have it both ways. If they want to be an exclusive, Christian organization or an exclusive, God-fearing organization, then they can't receive any more support from the state, and shouldn't."
- "In the industrialized world the people least likely to go to church are the Swedes. The people in the industrialized world most likely to go to church are the Americans. America has the highest crime rate of all industrialized nations, and Sweden has the lowest. The next time somebody tells you religion is connected with morality, you might want to ask them about that."
- "Well, we know abstinence doesn't work. And we know one other thing, and that is, once people become sexually active, they often don't stop for, like, 40 or 50 years. I mean, generally, when you start you don't, like, have a conversion and try to become re-virginized, you know. It's not going to happen."
- "Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies – that's interfering with God's work."
- "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth."
But, as kids with an axe to grind and teachers know, if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, something will stick. And that one comment about creationism stuck.
Now to be honest, I think the judge might have made the right call on the wrong issue. Creationism is superstitious nonsense, based on a fallacious reading of Scripture as a literal, chronological account of physical events. Most of the other comments he made have a reasonable amount of truth to them. His statement about crime rates and religion doesn't say any particular religion is wrong; it only makes a valid sociological point that we ccan't count on religion to fully counter our sinful ways. #4 gets iffy...or, more accurately, it's not iffy enough, overgeneralizing the political motives of conservatives. But it doesn't establish any religion or irreligion.
Where I'd drop the First Amendment hammer would be on quote #5, about the Jesus glasses. Of all the listed statements, that's the only one I see that cuts to the heart of religious doctrine. Plus, it's demonstrably false. My wife wears Jesus glasses, and she sees truth about as well as fallible humans can be expected to see it. Maybe the context of that comment could save it, but on its own, to make a blanket statement (in a public classroom, in front of litigious Orange County students) that following a particular prophet blinds you to truth is Constitutionally problematic.
Creationism is superstitious nonsense (cue Donald James Parker). Religion doesn't stop crime. Some people do get the prescription wrong on their Jesus glasses and see things a little screwy. I admire Mr. Corbett for fighting the (mostly) good fight in California's conservative enclave. But even this secular humanist can tell Mr. Corbett needs to loosen his own worldview glasses and give alternative worldviews some breathing space in the public classroom.