What was the Scopes Trial?

1 Answer
Dec 19, 2016

A bit of grandstanding by the ACLU to overturn anti-evolutionary legislation. Scopes was found guilty which surprised no one. The discussion of the issues was important.


In 1925, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) trying to represent the rights of teachers to teach Evolution in the face of Creationist Legislation. The ACLU offered to defend anyone against the Butler Act which stated that no one could teach evolution in Tennessee State Schools. The trial and the issues took on a life of their own.

John Scopes, a substitute teacher in the Tennessee State School system, agreed to stand accused of teaching evolution against the Butler Act. The ACLU wanted to show that the State School system provided text books that taught evolution and that forcing the teacher not to teach that was a violation of their civil rights.

Civic leaders in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee chose to stage the Event. Legal representation evolved to two giants of the America legal system, William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense. The trial was a national sensation.

Trial turned into a full on conflict between evolution and creationism. Scopes himself never testified. The defense contented that there was no conflict between evolution and the creation account in the Bible. The trial took 8 days. The Jury deliberation took 9 minutes. The verdict was Guilty. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

The Supreme Court denied the appeal but voided the trial on a technicality. Bryan died within a week of the end of the trial. The issue was not reviewed by the Tennessee Legislature until 1965. The School text books were changed to skirt the issue in the mean time.

The conflict between Creationism and Evolution continues to this day.