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Scopes v. Tennessee

            Evolutionism or creationism, it is a long lasting controversy of how everything came into being. In certain areas of the United States, mostly the Bible belt in the South, there are laws or statues that make it illegal to teach certain theories, presumably evolutionism, to students in public schools. Everyone has their own beliefs about the subject but the real question is, "Should everyone's beliefs be taught in public schools?" Well, this debate has been going on ever since 1925 when the first Supreme Court case of this kind was being started in Tennessee. It all started when John Thomas Scopes, a biology teacher, was convicted of a violation of the Act of 1925, which stated people could not teach the idea that man descended from a lower order of animals in the public schools of Rhea County. .
             Although he only was fined $100.00 in Rhea County he believed this decision was in violation of his 1st and 14th Amendment rights and decided to take this case to the Supreme Court in Tennessee. There it was decided that banning the teaching of any theory other than the one taught in the Bible was considered unconstitutional on the bases of combining church and state. This was the first of many Supreme Court cases concerning the teaching of evolutionism in public schools. Perhaps the most well known Supreme Court case was Epperson v. Arkansas. In October of 1968 Susan Epperson, an Arkansas public school teacher, was brought to court for violating the "anti-evolution" statue. Like Scopes, she was charged with teaching the theory of evolution in her class room, and was in fear of being dismissed from her job. The Judge presiding over the case decided this statue was unconstitutional for two main reasons; the first Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion. Also, a state's right to prescribe the public school curriculum does not include the right to prohibit teaching a scientific theory or doctrine for reasons that run counter to the principles of the first Amendment.

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