Laws block the teaching of evolution in public schools
Tennessee was the first state in the United States to crack down hard on the teaching of evolution in public schools. Others had dabbled, but Tennessee went all the way. The ACLU wanted to challenge the validity of the case in the courts. In order to do that they needed an educator to teach it, get busted, and be brought to trial.
Dayton, Tennessee’s plan to boost tourism
At the same time, the town of Dayton, TN needed a boost. After the biggest employer closed down it faced serious economic trouble. What if the men of Dayon could manufacture a court case to draw the attention of the nation? They found a young teacher named John Scopes and convinced him to participate in their scheme. They booked Scopes, even though he probably never taught evolution. The ACLU had its case.
William Jennings Bryan’s crusade against Darwin
Soon William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow hopped on board and it went from a publicity stunt to something for the history books. This is the event that some historians (wrongly) point to as the death of Christian fundamentalism in the United States until it was revived by the Moral Majority. One man fighting for the biblical idea of creation and another for godless atheism. But the real history is far more complex.
Edward Larson, professor at Pepperdine University, joins us to discuss the trial and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Summer for the Gods”.
- “Summer for the Gods” by Edward Larson
- Rhea County Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum Worth a visit!
- Court Transcript of the Scopes Trial (easy to find online)
- “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin
- What events led to the Scopes trial?
- Why did the ACLU feel they had to try the Tennessee Law?
- Who should decide what is taught in schools? Teachers? Parents? Lawmakers? Or some combination?
- What were William Jennings Bryan’s motives for joining the prosecution?
- What were Clarence Darrow’s motives for joining the defense?
- Should prayer be allowed before a trial about religion?
- Should Christians get involved in what is taught in schools? To what degree?