Excerpts from Court Cases

Since the 1925 trial of John Scopes, which investigated the legality of a Tennessee law that forbade the teaching in public schools of “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible,” a number of court cases have looked at laws involving the teaching of creationist ideas. Several court decisions, including the 1987 Supreme Court case Edwards v. Aguillard and, more recently, the 2005 federal district court case (in central Pennsylvania) of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, have ruled that the various forms of creationism, including intelligent design creationism, are religion, not science, and that it is therefore unconstitutional to include them in public school science classes. Below are excerpts from three of the most prominent cases.

Supreme Court of the United States, Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968

“Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of non-religion, and it may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite.”

Supreme Court of the United States, Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987

“[The] primary purpose [of the Louisiana ‘Creation Act,’ which required the teaching of ‘creation science’ together with evolution in public schools] was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety. Thus, the Act is designed either to promote the theory of creation science that embodies a particular religious tenet or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain religious sects. In either case, the Act violates the First Amendment.”

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