1968 November 12

Freedom to Teach: Scopes Finally Vindicated

 

In Epperson v. Arkansas, decided on this day, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional an Arkansas law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools. With this decision, the Court finally addressed the issues raised in the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial,” involving a similar Tennessee law: academic freedom and the place of religion in American public life.

The Scopes case began on July 10, 1925, and Scopes was subsequently convicted of teaching evolution in violation of a recently passed Tennessee law. The case never reached the Supreme Court, however, because the trial judge erred when imposing sentence.The conviction was overturned, and the state of Tennessee, embarrassed by the publicity surrounding the law and the trial, chose not to retry Scopes.

The Court: “Arkansas’ law cannot be defended as an act of religious neutrality. Arkansas did not seek to excise from the curricula of its schools and universities all discussion of the origin of man. The law’s effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read.”

Learn more about Susan Epperson: Peter Irons, The Courage of their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court (Ch. 9) (1988)

Listen to the oral argument in the case: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_7

Read: Edward J. Larson, Summer of the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997)

Learn more about science education and evolution: http://ncse.com/evolution

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!