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The Flip Side of the Establishment Clause

Scott on December 13, 2007 at 9:46 am

When liberal wackjobs on the left complain about the impending theocracy that the U.S. may become, they usually point to the Establishment Clause of the Constitution as proof that the State needs to stand up to religious indoctrination within any public arena.

According to Wikipedia

the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment refers to the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” Together with the Free Exercise Clause, (“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), these two clauses make up what are commonly known as the “religion clauses” of the First Amendment. The establishment clause has generally been interpreted to prohibit 1) the establishment of a national religion by Congress, or 2) the preference of one religion over another or the support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose.

What is forgotten at times in the discussions and arguments related to this issue is that there is a flip side to the Establishment Clause. If the State cannot establish a religion or encourage the participation in a religion, then it most certainly cannot denigrate a religion or target a particular faith for animus.

Which brings us to this story in the Los Angeles Times – The family of a 10th grade Advanced Placement European History student has filed suit against Capistrano Valley High School and James Corbett, the teacher of the afore mentioned A.P. European History class. The suit alleges that Corbett, a 15 year teacher, “demonstrates a sense of hostility toward religion, causing Christian students to feel ostracized and treated as second-class citizens.”

It appears as though the family who filed the lawsuit has recordings of Corbett in the classroom doing just that. If the recordings weren’t legit, I doubt they would have filled the suit. Among Corbett’s comments we find these priceless gems:

He repeatedly states that “when you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth”

He frequently compares Christians to Muslim fundamentalists, claiming that they want women to “stay pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen and have babies until your body collapses”

He repeatedly has suggested that churchgoers are more likely to commit rape and murder.

To be honest, I am not surprised by this. I have actually taught at schools with people who make this guy sound like a member of the John Birch Society. I taught at a middle school for three years where the French teacher (an avowed atheist and pseudo-Communist) spent hours of class time railing against President Bush, the war in Iraq, the Republican Party, Christianity, etc. Unfortunately, this happened at a school that served a segment of the population that wasn’t interested in complaining about a teacher but was more concerned about making sure their students stayed out of trouble.

While I believe that teacher’s unions have a valuable place in the system (which is another post for another time), I also believe that times like these demonstrate how/why the unions do a disservice to the field of education. Teachers who have tenure and who know that the weight of the most powerful union and political lobby in the nation is behind them will tend to feel a sense of invulnerability in their classroom. They will spout what they want, and if anyone challenges them they will file a grievance with the union.

I can almost guarantee that if this guy in Capistrano is found at fault, it will take quite a while to get him out of the school. The union will back him up and will file its own lawsuit, which will have to be mediated and moderated until the guy is simply transferred to another school or is given a financial settlement to leave it alone and go quietly to another district (or until he writes a book about his fight for freedom of speech and freedom from religious intolerance in the classroom).

And again, I must hang my head in semi-embarrassment at being a teacher.

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Category: Health & Education, Religion & Faith |

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