Scopes Trial

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Scopes Trial

July, 1925

Who was John Scopes?

Why Did The ACLU Care?

What Happened at the Trial?

John Scopes was a 24 year-old teacher in Dayton, TN who agreed to be part of a law suit by the American Civil Liberties Union. He taught biology occasionally, and he disagreed with the Butler Act that banned the teaching Darwin's biological theory of evolution. The ACLU wanted to fight the ban on the teaching of evolution, and John Scopes volunteered to be part of the law suit . The leaders of the city of Dayton, thought the lawsuit would bring notoriety to their city so they agreed to be a test case to fight the constituionality of the law. Scopes was arrested, and the case went to trial.

The American Civil Liberties Union wanted a to test the case because they believed in The separation of church and state. The Bultler Act was passed in Tennesse because a lot of fundamentalist Christians were afraid that science and the theory of evolution went agains the literal interpretation of the Bible. Thirty-seven bills were introduced in 20 states opposing the teaching of evolution. The ACLU thought these laws were against the constitution.

William Jennings Bryan felt that Darwin's Theory of "Survial of the Fittest" was very elitist an and was also not a proven theory, so he decided to help the District Attorney A. T. Steward prosecute the case to convict Scopes. Clarence Darrow was a very famous lawyer led the defensive, and volunteered his services. He was not a Christian, and he felt strongly about the case. The prosecution made one simple point.Three boys testified and say that Mr. Scopes taught them evolution. While Darrow wanted to put the Butler Act on trial, not Scopes.

In the end, the defense let Scopes be convicted in the hopes that they could appeal the case. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100.

Darrow, who was a fundamentalist Christian, shocked other fundamentalists when he admitted that he did always take the Bible literally. Saying that out loud was really hard on him and he ended up dying 5 days later.

Significance of Scopes TrialWhen the appeal's court threw out the John Scope's conviction on technicality, Clarence Darrow could no longer take the case to the Supreme Court where he hoped it would be found unconstitutional.

People thought that religious fundamentalism would not be so strong but the opposite happened--evolution was removed from many textbooks. It was decades before Tennessee allowed textbooks that taught evolution. Even now the controversy continues.

Scopes Trial

Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes


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