• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down a state law requiring balanced treatment of “evolution science” and “creation science,” based on the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

In Epperson v. Arkansas[case]Epperson v. Arkansas[Epperson v. Arkansas] (1968), the Supreme Court infuriated many religious groups when it overturned a state law that prohibited the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public schools. A Louisiana statute, designed to get around the ruling, prohibited schools from teaching evolutionary theory unless the theories of creationism were also taught. Proponents of the statute argued that evolutionary theory is an integral part of the religion of secular humanism and asserted that creationism is a respectable scientific theory. Principal Don Aguillard, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union,American Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of the law.Church and state, separation ofReligion, establishment of;Edwards v. Aguillard[Edwards v. Aguillard]Church and state, separation of

By a 7-2 vote, the Court agreed with the challengers. Applying the three-part Lemon testLemon test[Lemon test] (established in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971), Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Edwards v. Aguillard[Edwards v. Aguillard] emphasized that the purpose of the statute was to restructure the science curriculum in conformity with a viewpoint associated with particular religious sects. Rejecting the academic freedomAcademic freedom defense, Brennan noted that science teachers in Louisiana already enjoyed the freedom to teach a variety of theories about the origins of life. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the majority for looking at the intent rather than the effect of the statute, and he also argued against the portion of Lemon requiring a secular purpose for statutes.[case]Edwards v. Aguillard[Edwards v. Aguillard]

Epperson v. Arkansas

Lemon v. Kurtzman

Religion, establishment of

Religion, freedom of

Categories: History