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.

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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