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The Scopes Monkey Trial
Transcript of The Scopes Monkey Trial
Where it began
begins in the small town of
Scopes Monkey Trial
of Evolution is the widely held notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor: the birds and the bananas, the fishes and the flowers -- all related
Genesis disagrees with Darwin's theory of
Genesis tells the story of God speaking everything into existence, rather than any evolutionary processes
Charles Darwin's Theory
formally known as
The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes
passed in 1925, in
Tennessee. Prohibiting public school teachers from
denying the Biblical account of man's origin
That 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
"AN ACT prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, and all other public schools of Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof"
It additionally outlined that an offending teacher would be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined between $100 and $500 for each offense
The origins of the trial are generally unknown.
It was begun as a public relations stunt by a group of Dayton businessmen. They had heard of the challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) regarding a test case for the Tennessee law against teaching evolution in the public schools.
They thought that if they could get someone in Dayton to confess to having taught evolution in the local high school, the town would get a lot of free publicity.
Though, he was not sure that he had actually taught from the sections of the biology textbook that taught Darwinism.
Had he been put on the witness stand and asked by the defense if he had taught evolution, he would have had to say he did not recall. He was never put on the stand.
agreed to be the official defendant.
a Tennessee farmer and head of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, lobbied state legislatures to pass anti-evolution laws
The Butler Act
he succeeded when
John W. Butler,
The men then summoned 24-year-old John T. Scopes, a Dayton high school science and math teacher. The group asked Scopes to plead guilty to teaching the theory of evolution
On April 5, 1925,
George Rappleyea, local manager
for the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company, arranged a meeting with county superintendent of schools Walter White and local attorney Sue K. Hicks at Robinson's Drug Store,
convincing them that the controversy of such a trial would give Dayton much needed publicity.
Rappleyea pointed out that, while the Butler Act prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution, the state required teachers to use a textbook that explicitly described and endorsed the theory of evolution, and that teachers were, therefore, effectively required to break the law
"If you can prove that I've taught evolution and that I can qualify as a defendant, then I'll be willing to stand trial."
The original prosecutors were Herbert E. and Sue K. Hicks, two brothers who were local attorneys and friends of Scopes, but the prosecution was ultimately led by Tom Stewart, a graduate of Cumberland School of Law, who later became a U.S. Senator.
Stewart was aided by Dayton attorney Gordon McKenzie, who supported the anti-evolution bill on religious grounds, and described evolution as "detrimental to our morality" and an assault on "the very citadel of our Christian religion."
later, this viewpoint would be called theistic evolution
In response to this decision, Darrow made a sarcastic comment to Judge Raulston on how he had been agreeable only on the prosecution's suggestions. He apologized the next day, keeping himself from being found in contempt of court.
The judge, John T. Raulston, was accused of being biased towards the prosecution and clashed with Darrow. Raulston quoted Genesis and the Butler Act.
The jury foreman himself was unconvinced of the merit of the Act but he acted, as did most of the jury, on the instructions of the judge.
He also warned the jury not to judge the merit of the law but on the violation of the act, which he called a 'high misdemeanor.'
By the later stages of the trial, Clarence Darrow had largely abandoned the ACLU's original strategy and attacked the literal interpretation of the Bible as well as Bryan's limited knowledge of other religions and science
Only when the case went to appeal did the defense return to the original claim that the prosecution was invalid because the law was essentially designed to benefit a particular religious group, which would be unconstitutional.
the defense team consisted of Darrow, ACLU attorney Arthur Garfield Hays, and Dudley Field Malone, an international divorce lawyer who had worked at the State Department.
The ACLU had originally intended
to oppose the Butler Act on the grounds that it
violated the teacher's individual rights and academic freedom, and was therefore unconstitutional.
Mainly because of Clarence Darrow, this strategy changed as the trial progressed,
and the earliest argument proposed by
the defense once the trial had begun was that there was actually
conflict between evolution and the
creation account in the Bible;
In support of
this claim, they brought in eight experts on evolution.
But other than Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist from Johns Hopkins University, the judge would not allow these experts to testify in person.
Instead, they were allowed to submit written statements so that their evidence could be used at
An area of questioning involved the book of Genesis, including questions such as
Adam & Eve
where did Cain get his wife,
and how many people lived in Ancient Egypt.
Darrow used these examples to suggest that the stories of the Bible could not be scientific and should not be used in teaching science with Darrow telling Bryan,
if Eve was actually created from Adam's rib,
"You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does not believe in your fool religion."
Tom Stewart, leader of the prosecution, objected, demanding to know the legal purpose of Darrow's questioning.
Bryan snapped that its purpose was
Darrow, with equal vehemence, retorted,
"We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States."
Darrow asked where Cain got his wife;
Bryan answered that he would "leave the agnostics to hunt for her" (pp. 302–03).
When Darrow addressed the issue of the temptation of Eve by the serpent, Bryan insisted that the Bible be quoted word for word rather than allowing Darrow to paraphrase it.
However, after another angry exchange, Judge Raulston banged his gavel, adjourning the court.
After eight days of trial,
it took the jury only nine minutes to deliberate. Scopes was found guilty on July 21 and ordered to
pay a US$100 fine (approximately $1,309
in present day terms
from 1925 for
Raulston imposed the fine before Scopes was given an opportunity to say anything about why the court should not impose punishment upon him and after Scope's Attorney, John R. Neal brought the error to the judge's attention John Scopes spoke for the first and only time in 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."
Second, the lawyers argued that the statute violated Scopes's constitutional right to free speech because it prohibited him from teaching evolution. The court rejected this argument, holding that the state was permitted to regulate his speech as an employee of the state:
Third, it was argued that the terms of the Butler Act violated the Tennessee State Constitution, which provided that "It shall be the duty of the General Assembly in all future periods of this government, to cherish literature and science." The argument was that the theory of the descent of man from a lower order of animals was now established by the preponderance of scientific thought, and that the prohibition of the teaching of such theory was a violation of the legislative duty to cherish science.The court rejected this argument, holding that the determination of what laws cherished science was an issue for the legislature, not the judiciary:
Fourth, the defense lawyers argued that the statute violated the provisions of the Tennessee Constitution that prohibited the establishment of a state religion. The Religious Preference provisions of the Tennessee Constitution (section 3 of article 1) stated, "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Grafton Green rejected this argument, holding that the Tennessee Religious Preference clause was designed to prevent the establishment of a state religion as had been the experience in England and Scotland at the writing of the Constitution, and held:
Further, the court held that while the statute forbade the teaching of evolution (as the court had defined it), it did not require the teaching of any other doctrine, so that it did not benefit any one religious doctrine or sect over the others.
having found the statute to be constitutional, the court set aside the conviction on appeal because of a
legal technicality: the jury should have decided the fine, not the judge,
since under the state constitution, Tennessee judges could not
at that time set fines above $50,
and the Butler Act specified a minimum fine of $100.
The Butler Act remained until May 18, 1967, when it was repealed by the Tennessee legislature
Scopes may have actually been innocent of the crime to which his name is inexorably linked.
After the trial Scopes admitted to reporter William Kinsey Hutchinson
explaining that he had skipped the evolution lesson, and that his
"I didn't violate the law,"
lawyers had coached his students to go on the stand; the Dayton businessmen had assumed he had violated the law.
Hutchinson did not file his story until after the Scopes appeal was decided in 1927.
The immediate effects of the trial are evident in the high school biology texts used in the second half of the 1920s and the early 1930s.
Of the most widely used textbooks, there is only
listing evolution in the index and in the wake of the trial, under the pressures of fundamentalist groups,
the entry is countered with biblical quotations.
Scopes was fined $100 and charged with having taught from the chapter on evolution to an April 24, 1925, high-school class in violation of the Butler Act and nominally arrested, though he was never actually detained.
National reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the big-name lawyers who had agreed to represent each side.
William Jennings Bryan
(three-time presidential candidate for the Democrats)
argued for the prosecution, while
spoke for Scopes
(the famed defense attorney)
"to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible".
First, they argued that the statute was overly vague because it prohibited the teaching of "evolution," a very broad term. The court rejected that argument, holding: ....
the law was essentially designed to benefit a particular religious group