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The Scopes Monkey Trial. By: Corie Stretton. Background. Fundamentalist Movement People wanting to return to life before WWI Find comfort and stability in religion Butler Act (1925)

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the scopes monkey trial

The Scopes Monkey Trial

By: Corie Stretton

  • Fundamentalist Movement
    • People wanting to return to life before WWI
    • Find comfort and stability in religion
  • Butler Act (1925)
    • “It shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”
    • Ruled unconstitutional in 1967, goes against the Establishment Clause
  • John Scopes
    • High school science teacher in Tennessee
    • Taught theory of evolution in his classroom, despite the Butler Act
  • Prosecution- William Jennings Bryan
    • Leader of the Fundamentalist movement
    • Baptist
  • Defense- Clarence Darrow
    • Widely respected lawyer
    • Atheist
courtroom proceedings
Courtroom Proceedings
  • Prayer before the trial
    • Darrow objects because the basis of the trial is on the “conflict of science and religion”
    • Judge overrules him and continues with the prary
  • “Read Your Bible” sign in courtroom
    • Darrow objects because of its influence on the jury
    • Judge agrees and orders it be taken down
bryan called to the stands
Bryan Called to the Stands
  • Darrow calls Bryan to the stands as an expert on the Bible
  • Questions about the extent to which the Bible can be taken literally
  • Bryan lost all credibility as a source
    • “I do not think about things I don’t think about.”
    • “I do not think they were twenty-four hour days…My impression is that they were periods.”
arguments for the prosecution
Arguments for the Prosecution
  • “Your honor has already held that this act is constitutional, it being the law of the land, there is but one issue before this court and jury, and that is, did the defendant violate the statute. That statute interprets itself, and says that whenever a man teaches that man descended from a lower order of animals as contradistinguished from the record of the creation of man as given by the word of God, that he is guilty. Does the proof show that he did that, that is the only issue, if it please the honorable court, before this jury.”

-Benjamin D. McKenzie, Day 4 of the trial

arguments for the defense
Arguments for the Defense
  • “If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools…Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men…After while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.”

- Clarence Darrow, Day 2 of the trial

media representation
Media Representation
  • H.L. Mencken
    • Popular reporter for The Baltimore Sun
    • Wrote about the case in favor of the defense
      • Called the prosecution team “buffoons” and “morons”
  • Political cartoons
    • Represent both sides of the case
    • Large influence over people’s opinions
  • Scopes found guilty of violating the Butler Act
    • Fined $100
    • Later appealed to the Supreme Court
  • “Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom-that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust.”

- John T. Scopes

  • John Scopes arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in his classroom
  • Prosecution/Bryan focus on breaking the actual law
  • Defense/Darrow focus on the effect restricting science education has upon society
  • Media had incredible influence on how the issue was viewed by the public
  • Still an issue to this day
  • Bryan and Darrow at Dayton : the record and documents of the "Bible-Evolution Trial". New York, [c1925]. The Making of Modern Law. Gale. 2008. Gale, Cengage Learning. 2 November 2008 .
  • "Bryan's Last Speech." American Experience: Monkey Trial, Primary Sources. 2002. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 1 Nov. 2008 .
  • De Camp, L. Sprague. The Great Monkey Trial. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968.
  • "Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)." American Experience: Monkey Trial, People & Events. 2002. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 1 Nov. 2008 .
  • Herndon, Peter N. "The Constitution, Censorship, and the Schools: Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes." The Constitution, Censorship, and the Schools. 1997. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. 10 Nov. 2008 .
  • Levy, Leonard W. Constitutional Problems in Church-State Relations. New York: Da Capo P, Inc., 1966.
references cont d
References (cont’d)
  • Linder, Douglas O. "State v. John Scopes ("The Monkey Trial")." An Introduction to the John Scopes (Monkey) Trial. UMKC School of Law. 1 Nov. 2008 .
  • Mencken, H.L. "Tennessee in the Frying Pan." The Scopes Trial. 20 July 1925. Positive Atheism. 2 Nov. 2008 .
  • Moore, Randy. The Lingering Impact of the Scopes Trial on High School Biology Textbooks. BioScience, Vol. 51, No. 9. American Institute of Biological Sciences. Sept. 2001 .
  • “State v. Scopes: Trial Excerpts.” State v. Scopes- UMKC Law School Famous Trials Series. 1925. UMKC School of Law. 10 Nov. 2008 .
  • "Tennessee Evolution Statutes." Tennessee Anti-Evolution Statute. 1925. UMKC School of Law. 10 Nov. 2008