In a bizarre court decision involving a teacher in Mission Viejo, California, a federal judge ruled that one of his statements about creationism — just one, out of nearly two dozen — violated the First Amendment establishment clause. The Orange County (CA) Register reports on this:

The recent federal court ruling against a Mission Viejo high school teacher accused of displaying hostility toward Christians isn’t likely to set a legal precedent, but should remind public school teachers that what they say in class can cross murky legal boundaries, analysts say.

U.S. District Judge James Selna ruled last week that Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett, a 36-year educator, violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause by referring to Creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense.”

But the Santa Ana judge dismissed more than 20 other inflammatory statements attributed to Corbett cited in a 2007 lawsuit brought by Chad Farnan, one of Corbett’s former Advanced Placement European history students.

The OC Register describes the one remark that was ruled illegal:

Corbett made the “nonsense” remark during a class discussion about a 1993 court case in which former Capistrano Valley High science teacher John Peloza sued the Capistrano Unified School District challenging its requirement that Peloza teach evolution. Peloza lost in both a trial court and an appeals court.

Referring to his former colleague, Corbett told his class, “I will not leave John Peloza alone to propagandize kids with this religious, superstitious nonsense.”

In a 37-page decision, Selna determined the comment had no “legitimate secular purpose” and thus declared it was a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Corbett can appeal the decision, of course, and I hope he does. That Corbett spoke the truth … because after all, creationism is, in fact, “nonsense” … should be relevant to the appeal. Courts have decided in the past that it is religion, not science (which was Corbett’s point in most of his remarks), and its cousin “intelligent design” is an out-and-out sham. (That particular ruling was made by a conservative evangelical Christian judge who’d been appointed by George W. Bush. Thankfully he had enough integrity to recognize a swindle when he saw it, and said so, despite what he personally believed, and despite the backlash he endured later.)

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