U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review of 'Jesus Glasses' Case

The decision means an August ruling favoring academic freedom in the classroom stands.

UPDATED with comments from teacher James Corbett below.

UPDATED Feb. 25 with comments from Advocates for Faith and Freedom, the firm that represented student Chad Farnan.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case of a former local student who sued his history teacher at for disparaging Christians, justices decided Tuesday.

This means an in what they say in the classroom will stand.

“The Supreme Court’s denial of review ends the litigation,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, appellate attorney for teacher James Corbett and dean of UC Irvine’s law school. “I am pleased that the lawsuit against Dr. Corbett is over and that he has prevailed.”  

A little more than a year ago, lawyers for Chad Farnan, now a student at , and Corbett headed to Pasadena to .

Farnan had sued Corbett for telling students, among other things, during a 2007 classroom lecture at the Mission Viejo school that "when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth,"  and that religion is not "connected with morality."

A lower court judge,  District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana ruled in May 2009 that one of the statements Farnan recorded during Corbett’s classes violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Six months after hearing the arguments from both sides, the three-member appellate panel decided in August that Corbett could not be sued over classroom comments ridiculing Christianity, but the judges sidestepped the question of whether the remarks themselves were unconstitutional.

Because previous court cases have never established how far a teacher can go in criticizing religion, history teacher James Corbett couldn't have known if he was crossing a line, the panel said.

That is now the rule of the land in the 9th Circuit, which covers nine Western states and two U.S. territories.

“I think that the victory for Dr. Corbett is a victory for teachers and academic freedom,” Chemerinsky said. “Allowing teachers to be sued for what they say in the classroom would set a dangerous precedent that would chill speech and even discourage people from being teachers.”

Farnan was represented by Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a not-for-profit in Murrieta that takes on cases which challenge religious liberties.

The law firm said in an emailed statement Friday its client "had to endure almost daily statements from his teacher that Chad argued were an unconstitutional attack on Christianity and religion."

"We are disappointed that the highest Court in our nation will not hear this important case," Advocates said, "and we agree with Douglas Laycock, a constitutional scholar at the University of Virginia School of Law, who was quoted last year in the Orange County Register:

"They can't hold the teacher liable because the law was not clearly settled. Because they can't hold him liable, the law will never become clear on what teachers can say in class."

"Please join us in prayer as we continue to work in defense of the religious and individual freedoms of our students," the statement continues.

Reached by phone, Corbett told Patch he's glad the case is over, but it's hard to celebrate.

"It's like getting hit in the head. You don't want to be happy you're not getting hit in the head anymore. You just wish you didn't get hit in the head," he said.

While the case is concluded for Farnan, Corbett said he may work on legislation to stop frivolous lawsuits. He will be facing as the Democrat candidate for the 73 state Assembly District, he said.

"Really, did we have to go to court in this at all? No. All he needded to do is come up to me and say, 'Hey I have a problem,' " Corbett said.

Between the student's lack of communication and his lawyers efforts to use the case as a fund-raising vehicle for their legal ministry, "that's the definition of a frivolous lawsuit," he said.

"It could have been settled so easily," Corbett said.

— Patch Local Editor Maggie Avants contributed to this report.

Penny Arévalo (Editor) February 23, 2012 at 03:55 AM
In his defense, Alberto, Dr. Corbett did refer to the the circumstances of him winning election as a "fluke."
shelly February 23, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I think many of the statements made in the AP Euro (a college course) class by Dr. Corbett are meant to evoke discussion and thought. From what I hear from kids who had him as a teacher and parents of these students he inspires kids to think about and analyze what they were studying and he promotes discussion and dialog. Isn't this what we want teachers to do. Inspire our children to think and speak up and discuss.
hong kong February 23, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Putting on Jesus glasses is a metaphor n it's meaning depends on the definition of truth,I think he meant the truth that can be seen is religious truth,how can this be disparaging? Again,religion is not connected with religion,connected is another metaphor,I think he meant religion does not have direct knowledge of morality,are Americans English speaking enough to properly understand English as spoken n used by English people in the united kingdom?
hong kong February 23, 2012 at 06:56 AM
Again,morality is not connected.....correction
jeff s February 23, 2012 at 02:47 PM
It's so funny to me why these types always always attack Christians.. Why no Buddha glasses or Mohammed spectacles? How about Joseph smith magic seeing stones? Oh wait I know.. Because deep down they know and fear the true God, and their pathetic rebellious spirit knows it.. It's just so plain as day to me.. The more they ridicule the sadder and needy they appear to me..
hong kong February 23, 2012 at 05:26 PM
People attack Christianity more often because of Christians inject their religious belief in the social issues more aggressively n openly.Christians claim the only morality that people of the United States should adhere to is that of Judea-Christian morality.So this absolute exclusion is attacked by no other than the other native sons n daughgets of the US.Nothing funny,just engage them to debate your absolute position of Christian moral belief.
ca February 23, 2012 at 10:55 PM
i agree!
ca February 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM
as a parent, i've seen this pathetic character in action berating a student in the hallway outside of his classroom... it was his animated action (arms akimbo) and facial expression that first caught my eye... i slowed down as i passed to listen and was so appalled and agitated that i went to the office, requested to speak to the principal as i hope any parent would do having witnessed someone's kid being "educated" by this bully... what i learned was that he well known for this behavior through his years @ Capo High School and administration apparently accepted this...he is not particularly liked nor respected.. so, those of you who believe that he is "enlightened"... what i saw and know to be true is he is a pathetic bully....
Darren Christman February 24, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I wonder what the result would be if the teacher made the case that Jews were evil for their treatment of Palestinians. And I wonder if Cherminsky -- who helped persecute some Muslim student protesters in OC would have helped had the teacher made anti-Jewish comments. Such hypocricy - the state can be anti-Christian but not anti-Jewish?!
Darren Christman February 24, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Why isnt Cherminsky defending the Muslim protestors at UC Irvine? Where is the free speech argument for them? You see Cherminsky is Jewish so he is ok with Anti-Christian statements and anti-Muslim statements -- but not anti-Jewish ones. Unreal. Of course had the teacher made an anti-Jewish remark he'd have been fired and probably jailed. Unreal the hypocracy. The Constitution forbids one religion being treated with favor over another but clearly Judaism is more protected than Islam or Christianity in the OC. Scary.
shelly February 24, 2012 at 05:48 AM
ca, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/orange/la-me-protest20dec20,0,4993603.story There are many that disagree with you.
ca February 24, 2012 at 06:55 AM
shelly, i'm speaking about what I SAW AND HEARD and did what i thought was appropriate at the time, just as i stated... the student was being chastised and bullied... i'm a mother of 3(now grown) kids... i know bullying when i see it and hear it... and this stopped me in my tracks... shelly, i wouldn't allow anyone to speak to me in such belittling manner... i don't care what anyone else says that someone else said.. i've NEVER witnessed a teacher treating a student like he did that poor student that day... the guy is pathetic and foolish!
Pam Sunderman February 24, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Alberto, are you suggesting that once a particular party has won an election (or even has won many elections) in a specific district, it is stupid to run against a member of that party? Odd interpretation of democracy....
Alberto Barrera February 25, 2012 at 02:35 AM
@Jollygirl I'm suggesting that given the demographic of the area, running as anything but a Republican is futile and a complete waste of money, it's like Rick Santorum running for governor of California.
Pam Sunderman February 25, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Or for president...
Iraq vet February 25, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Umm there is this thing, it is called free speech.
Iraq vet February 25, 2012 at 04:11 AM
I am lost as to how this would not fall under free speech? In my eyes he was not being hostile towards a religion, just trying to teach his students to forget all religion and just look at the bare naked facts. At least we are in this country, if he was in many of the other countries I have been in and talked about the primary religion there he would have been burred to his neck, and stoned to death. I for one am more than happy to at least have a neutral stance on this subject and wish that they would have ruled more for the separation of church and state. His choice of words might not have been the best, but his thought process to me is proper for a learning institution.
Iraq vet February 25, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Jeff and Hong Kong, it is because we are in the US, and people are trying to make religious laws biased upon Christian values. In other countries where Islam is the dominate religion, it is there laws, and not being a Muslim there is a possible death sentence there as soon as you do anything that is ageist Shira law. Our country is not perfect, but a lot of people fight to keep secular laws instead of religion. Our personal feelings, religion, or even our personal ethics should not get in the way of others freedoms as long as it creates a safe environment for everyone.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) February 25, 2012 at 08:27 AM
Just updated with a comment from the law firm that represented former Capo student Chad Farnan.
OC Mom February 26, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I agree with you Jeff. Iraq Vet, our laws are based on the 10 Commandments. Our country was founded by Christian leaders. They wanted religious freedom so that they wouldn't be forced to worship at the Church of England. They were still primarily Christian though. We have freedom of religion, not freedom from it. We aren't forced to be Episcopalian, Baptist, Muslim, Buddist etc. by our Federal or State Governments. Visit Washington D.C. and you'll see the scripture on monuments. Our country was absolutely founded on Christian values and beliefs. This is just one more example of how tenure protects an arrogant teacher who is trying to indoctrinate students into his very anti-Christian beliefs.
OC Mom February 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
CA, the administration can do nothing about it. He's tenured and this is CA. It would cost them millions to try to fire this arrogant buffoon. I'm hoping more parents wake up to the fact that teachers should be employed based on performance not only on their length of employment. Short of a Miramonte situation or him actually hitting a student he is employed for life. What other profession is like this? I would never allow either of my children in his classroom. It's child abuse in my book. Imagine if he attacked a Hindu, Buddist or Muslim child's beliefs? I think those in those communities would be up in arms. It's a shame that Christians can be openly persecuted and mocked by a government employee. He is establishing a secular religion in his classroom.
shelly February 27, 2012 at 06:03 AM
OC mom, The courts disagree with you and so do hundreds of students who have had Dr. Corbett as a teacher.
OC Mom February 27, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Shelly, The students don't know any better. They've been indoctrinated by this public servant. These kids will be running our country soon. Are you afraid of being euthanized by them at some point when your life doesn't match up to the quality and productiveness they think it should? Since we shouldn't base any laws on the Ten Commandments they'll have no basis for preserving yours, mine or the handicapped person who they don't feel is useful enough. This will be what will happen in the future. Why are there so many social problems? Our country took God out of our classrooms and removed the Ten Commandments from the courtroom walls where they used to be. We let the minority change our country for the worse. By minority I mean Athiests. I'm sure there are many parents in South OC who would agree with me. It's a shame that you are unable to see what has happened to our once great country. Teaching kids to think logically is one thing. Teaching kids to be able to argue both sides of an issue is acceptable. Teachers mocking a child's belief system is not acceptable. If a teacher mocked a Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Buddist, Muslim etc. child there would also be a lawsuit. Talk about bullying in schools. Sad that tenured teachers are allowed to harrass their students.
shelly February 27, 2012 at 04:26 PM
OC mom, So you believe that teenagers are easily indoctrinated and 100's of parents just stand by and watch? Do you actually know any teenagers or young adults or parents of teenagers or young adults? By stating that they are indoctrinated and that they do not know better you show little respect for these students or their parents. Did you actually read the court transcripts or are you just basing your opinion from the comments? Please read the court documents and look into the whole story of what occured and please speak to students and the parents of students who have have or have had Dr. Corbett as a teacher. He is very well respected and has a high success rate of students passing the AP test where students are asked to analyze and think logically on the exam. You believe our country is a "once great country". I still believe it is great. And if religion were taught in school which religion would you say should be taught? Was the parent who walked by in the hallway privvy to what may have occurred in the classroom or what the whole conversation was about? It does not sound to me that the parent had the full story. Our children are going to be exposed to all types of personalities out in the world.
OC Mom February 27, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Shelly, I don't want any religion taught in the classroom. These are public schools not Christian, Catholic or Hebrew schools. However, I also don't want my children subjected to revisionist History where all evidence of Christianity and Judeo-Christian values that this country was founded on are obliterated. Currently, children are being taught moral relatism and there are no absolutes. If it feels good, do it. If you want it, take it. Yes, I know many, many parents with High Schoolers in our schools. Usually, Christian parents (of many denominations) object to what is happening in our schools. That's who I hear a lot of stories from. A lot of people in our area are removing their children from our public schools and placing them in private or homeschooling them. There's your reason for declining enrollment. Middle schools and High Schools shouldn't be like prisons with gang and drug problems. But, when there are no absolutes, you get those kinds of problems.
OC Mom February 27, 2012 at 05:03 PM
shelly February 27, 2012 at 06:59 PM
OC mom, I have two high schoolers. Their school is not run like a prison. And gangs are not roaming the campus.They are safe. Drugs are everywhere even at private schools. Ask around. Did you read the court transcripts and the background of the case or are you basing your comments on a comment board? I have had the experience of many of my sons' peers going from private to public. I am involved at my sons' school and do not hear the unhappiness that you are talking about. The AP test is not based on historical revisionism. Dr. Corbett is teaching students the material they need to know in order to be successful and learn the stuff needed. He also encourages students to think, argue their points and put those thought down on paper and into discussion. Because that is what students will be required to do in college. The AP classes are college level classes and taught with the same rigor. Currently children are being taught to be respectful, follow the rules, study and they are taught subjects that are required and they are taking. My morals may not be the same as yours so I do not want the school to be my child's moral compass. I am teaching my children these. It is not the schools job. What absolutes do you want schools to teach? Your absolutes from your religion may not be anothers.
ca February 28, 2012 at 05:33 AM
to shelly re: "Was the parent who walked by in the hallway privvy to what may have occurred in the classroom or what the whole conversation was about? It does not sound to me that the parent had the full story." ....shelley.. take off your "dr. corbett glasses".....make a point or let it go.. you're the one commenting on everyone elses comments... i can give you all the particulars but i don't think it'll matter to you.... let's move on shall we?
shelly February 28, 2012 at 04:13 PM
ca, This is a comment board. People make comments on the article or other people's comments. I suggest people read the court transcripts about this case, speak to students and the parents of students who have had Dr. Corbett and not base their opinion on hear say or comments on a comment board.
ca March 02, 2012 at 05:08 AM
shel.... give it up...your tunnel vision is tiresome.....


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