I haven't yet read the full judgment in this court case, only a couple of media reports, so maybe I'm missing some facts. I'll see if I can learn more. On the face of it, though, the case was correctly decided.
A teacher in an American public school made a statement to the effect that creationism is superstitious nonsense (plus, I gather, various other anti-religious comments). This was found by the court to contravene the freedom of religion clauses in the First Amendment to the US constitution.
There's been quite a bit of fuss about this in the secularist blogosphere this morning, but I don't think it's justified. The case concerned a trivial incident, so any actual damages should be minimal (these are yet to be assessed). Perhaps nothing more than a declaration of the parties' rights is required, though I expect that more relief than that will be given. But in any event, the finding of law appears correct.
Teachers in public schools should just teach the science, or the history, or whatever subject it is that they are paid to teach. If some of the content is inconsistent with a student's religion, then it's up to the student to work out the reconciliation. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to go through life without being exposed to scientific or other knowledge that may happen to be inconsistent with her particular religious beliefs. How could it? People have all kinds of strange beliefs that are inconsistent with research by scientists, historians, and others. A teacher does nothing wrong if simply teaching secular knowledge in a religion-blind way. In particular, there is nothing wrong with teaching well-supported science, such as the theory of evolution. But the teacher shouldn't be expressing either a religious view or an anti-religious view.
I do realise that this can be a fine line, and it is going to get more and more difficult to maintain strictly in a litigious society such as the United States. There could be embarrasssing situations for teachers, and an overly-officious application of the principle could chill valuable discussions in such subjects as English literature, where it may be necessary to explore the worldviews of authors and the responses of students. Courts should allow teachers some margin for discretion, though not too much margin or we'll find teachers exploiting it to indoctrinate school children with blatantly religious views.
Be that as it may, this particular case looks clear-cut to me. From a quick look at the reports, I can't see anything in the situation that forced the teacher to refer to a particular religious view as superstitious nonsense (even though that's obviously what it was).
We need to be consistent about secularism. Religious teachers in American public schools don't get to teach that religion - or a particular religion - is correct. Teachers in public schools don't get to teach that a particular religious viewpoint that they disagree with is incorrect. If they teach material that happens to be inconsistent with a student's religious view, that's fine - they do so in a religion-blind way for the secular purpose of imparting knowledge. But it's gratuitous for them to go the extra step and express the conclusion that some religious position (such as creationism) is wrong.
Unless there are facts not obvious in the media reports, the court has simply applied these secular principles, which we should all subscribe to.
This case also highlights why it's so important that legal training and intense advocacy experience teaches judges to be objective. As today's blogosphere discussion shows, it's obviously very difficult for people to resist the temptation to cheer for their "side" - the side for which they feel sympathy - on every issue that comes up. But that is not the role of judges; they are there to apply the law to the facts, without playing favourites.
We need to know that our legal rights are safe in the hands of people who have the capacity to distance themselves from personal likes and dislikes and to apply the law neutrally. What would worry me far more than this case would be a judge who seemed not to be neutral and objective, or who displayed a shaky understanding of legal fundamentals, even if my "side" of a dispute won the case in question. I suggest we not be too quick to attack judges just because the side that we're sympathetic to loses a particular case. The important thing is that sound legal principles be upheld, even if the result in a particular case seems unfortunate in the sense that the "bad guys" have a win.
We should criticise judges when they seem to fudge the law to produce an outcome that they favour, even if we are sympathetic to the winning party. When judges apply sound legal principles objectively, based on a plausible construction of the facts, they are simply doing their job - a very important job in any society, and absolutely critical for the functioning of a liberal democracy.