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Teacher Sued For Bashing Christianity -- Will Others Be Censored?

A teacher in California was found to have violated a student’s First Amendment rights by disparaging religion in the classroom. The ruling could silence outspoken teachers.

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Praise, some criticism, for Corbett

Ishii’s praise for Corbett’s teaching echoes many of the sentiments expressed on Ratemyteacher.com and Facebook's I Support Dr. Corbett page, with 571 members. Some 300 students demonstrated on Corbett’s behalf in 2007, and he has received hundreds of notes from former students. Excerpts from emails and comments from online venues include:

-- I want you to know that you remain one of the best teachers I ever had, even after attending undergrad and grad school. Your class was outstanding preparation for the intellectual discourse I encountered in higher education. I thoroughly enjoyed your course because you challenged us to evaluate and defend our beliefs and our views of historical events.

-- I am the father of [name removed], one of your last year's students. We are quite "conservative" in our house and we enjoyed the family discussions from the reports of your classroom discussions. For what it's worth, we never felt you crossed any "line.…"

-- I found your style to be incredibly useful in preparing for college classes and that your comments/asides stimulated critical thinking and made the connection between historical events and current issues. Plus, I can still remember standing in front of the classroom singing "Napoleon Bonaparte / had a very long reign [like Victoria!] / And if you ever saw him / you would think that he's insane" to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. That occurred eight years ago, and I still remember.

But Corbett is not without detractors. Among positive recommendations on Ratemyteachers.com, one student wrote in 2003, “If your [sic] a christian, then i'd be careful around him.”

Court documents contain a statement from parent Lynley Rosa, who said she found his comments offensive and met with him to explain her position, finally withdrawing her son from his class.

In an email to then-principal Tom Ressler, one former student wrote:

“Dr. Corbett regularly spent a large portion of class time ranting about religion, mainly Christianity. He expressed extreme loathing of Christians, and often mocked the Christian faith. He would regularly refer to Christians as ‘narrow-minded bigots who cannot think for themselves’ and other things of the same nature... When he was not bashing Christians, he would talk about how stupid and idiotic Republicans are….”

The author goes on at length to recount bitter memories of being a captive audience to Corbett’s views and complain that Christian teachers are fired for mentioning their faith while Corbett faces a “slap on the wrist.”

“As far as Chad’s outlook on the case, he seems to just feel like everyone’s views should be accepted in the classroom. He doesn’t want to feel ridiculed in his beliefs while attempting to learn,” says Griffin Beltran, a longtime friend of Chad Farnan's and fellow Capo senior. He described Chad as a boisterous kid who, at 6’5”, towers over his friends. A highly decorated swimmer and water polo player, Chad is not a politico by reputation. (Though he has a Web site with an image of Jesus’ face in the two lenses of a pair of glasses -- literally "Jesus glasses" -- and has spoken at political events, such as a GOP fundraiser.)

“I personally am nonreligious and he respects that a great deal,” says Griffin, who did not take Corbett’s class but whose brother did and spoke highly of him. What might be more relevant than Chad’s political activism is his mother’s. Internet searches reveal that Teresa Farnan worked on the Mike Huckabee campaign, is a member of a conservative women’s group called Concerned Women for America and belongs to a Tea Party organization. I called to ask for an interview but she did not respond to my request.