Friday, April 15, 2011
The Scopes (Monkey) Trial
The Scopes (Monkey) Trial: In 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed the Butler Act, which precluded public school teachers from teaching evolutionary theory. This law cause immediate controversy, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) openly challenged it. John T. Scopes, a high school biology teacher, agreed to violate the statute for the ACLU by teaching some of Charles Darwin's ideas from On the Origin of Species (1859). Scopes' actions landed him in jail with a $100 bail and a grand jury indictment. The indictment led to a criminal trial, which was the first to be broadcast nationally on the radio. Aside from the radio, the trial attracted two of the nation's most prominent lawyers at the time; William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. The above video contains remade theatrical scenes from Inherit the Wind (1955), where the legal and theological debates of the prosecution and defense are on display. Although the ACLU originally planned to attack the constitutionality of the Butler Act on the grounds that it violated a teacher's right to academic freedom, Darrow later centered the argument on the difference between literal and allegorical interpretations of the Bible. Ultimately, the court found Scopes guilty of violating the Butler Act, as it upheld the law's constitutionality by stating it did not favor a particular religious view concerning man's origins. The Butler Act remained state law in Tennessee until 1967.