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This is a brief overview of major court decisions in recent years on this subject. This is science vs. evolution—a Creation-Evolution Encyclopedia, brought to you by Creation Science Facts.

CONTENTS: Court Cases: The Teaching of Creation in the Schools

Creation Can Be Presented in the Schools: Several state court rulings have affirmed this
The Supreme Court Decision: Here is what the Supreme Court has ruled in this matter
Additional Court Decisions: Here is more helpful information
Summary: From Dayton to our own day

This material is excerpted from the book, EVOLUTION AND OUR SCHOOLS. An asterisk ( * ) by a name indicates that person is not known to be a creationist. Of over 4,000 quotations in the books this Encyclopedia is based on, only 164 statements are by creationists.
You will have a better understanding of the following statements by scientists if you will also read the web page, Evolution and Our Schools.

Listed below is a brief overview of major United States court rulings on this subject. A more extensive collection of materials on this subject will be found in the book, Evolution and Society.  


Court rulings regarding the creation / evolution controversy have been handed down in several states.

These states include Tennessee, Indiana, California, New York, Arkansas, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, and other states. Each of these federal court rulings only affected the jurisdiction presided over by the particular federal district court.

"Rulings by Federal judges are limited to the jurisdiction of the judge. Thus the Judge Overton ruling, in Arkansas, pertained essentially to the litigation in Arkansas. Eventually, however, the mere suggestion of `legal blackmail' by organization personnel from outside public-schools systems has deterred some creative, innovative educators in many states with regard to teaching about origin questions."—John N. Moore, "Teaching about Origin Questions," in Creation Research Society Quarterly, December 1984, p. 119.


The issue finally reached the Supreme Court in 1987, at which time it rendered its decision in the matter.

The most influential evolutionist in America at the present time, *Stephen Jay Gould, very recently summarized the situation:

"The Supreme Court said you can't force the teaching of creation science, but it didn't say that if individual teachers happen to want to teach it they can't."—*Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution, Extinction and the Movies," in Time, May 14, 1990, p. 19.

The following quotation is from the 1987 Supreme Court decision:

"The Act's reference to `creation' is not convincing evidence of religious purpose. The Act defines creation science as `scientific evidence,' and Senator Keith and his witnesses repeatedly stressed that the subject can, and should, be presented without religious content . . We have no basis on the record to conclude that creation science need be anything other than a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that life abruptly appeared on earth . . Creation science, its proponents insist, no more must explain whence life came than evolution must explain whence came the inanimate materials from which it says life evolved."—*U.S. Supreme Court, Edwards vs. Aguillard, U.S. 482 (1987), p. 549.

There are only three things which the Supreme Court has declared to be illegal in tax-supported school classrooms: The State cannot require prayer, Bible reading, or religious training.

"The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have designated only three acts that violate the First Amendment in public schools: (1) state-required prayer: Engel vs. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962); (2) state-required Bible reading: School District of Abington Township, Pa. vs. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963); and (3) state-required on-premises religious training: McCollum vs. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)."—John N. Moore, "Teaching about Origin Questions," in Creation Research Society Quarterly, December 1984, p. 119.

Let us, briefly examine each of the above three points:

(1) A State cannot require that students pray, but it cannot forbid a staff member or student from praying on his own, if he wants to do so. (2) A State cannot require that students read the Bible, but it cannot forbid a student from reading the Bible on his own, and it cannot forbid a teacher from using the Bible as a historical book in history class. (3) A State cannot require that a certain religion be taught, but it cannot forbid a student from delving into creationism topics on his own, and it cannot forbid a teacher from presenting contrasting evidence in relation to any aspect of science.

Even the NEA recognizes the right of the teacher to present alternative viewpoints, and permit students to study them.

"Even the National Education Association has agreed with the general principle that an educator shall not reasonably deny students access to varying points of view."—Wendell R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited (1954), p. 419.

An attorney who has dealt with creationism cases explains the 1987 Supreme Court ruling. You will want to read it carefully.

"The U.S. Supreme Court recently has ruled for the first time on the constitutional issue of `balanced teaching of creation-science and evolution' in public schools. The Court overturned a Louisiana law that required balanced treatment, on the ground that the particular legislature's purpose was to advance religion, although the opinion did not say that teaching the theory of creation would necessarily advance religion. The majority opinion expressly reaffirmed that teachers `already possess' a `flexibility . . to supplant the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life,' and that teachers are `free to teach any and all the facets of this subject' of `all scientific theories about the origins of humankind.'

"Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, went further and argued as follows: `Infinitely less can we say (or should we say) that the scientific evidence for evolution is so conclusive that no one could be gullible enough to believe that there is any real scientific evidence to the contrary,' while on the other hand they `have no basis on the record to conclude that creation-science need be anything other than a collection of scientific data supporting the theory that life abruptly appeared on earth.'

"In fact, the U.S. Court of Appeals split narrowly on those issues (eight to seven), with the seven dissenting judges concluding firmly that balanced treatment `does not infringe the Constitution,' that `evolution is not an established fact, and that there is strong evidence that life and the universe originated in a different manner' in the view of many scientists, and that the theory of creation is `scientific evidence . . for the sudden appearance of highly developed forms of life.'

"Even John Scopes . . said that `education, you know, means broadening, advancing; and, if you limit a teacher to only one side of anything, the whole country will eventually have only one thought . . I believe in teaching every aspect of every problem or theory.' "—W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, Vol. 1 (1989 edition), p. 9. [Italics ours; his two-volume set is an in-depth study, and would be an excellent resource for teachers as well as for students who wish to study more deeply into this subject.]

It would seem logical that any court decision that uses the establishment clause of the Constitution to forbid the teaching of creation on a religious basis should also apply to the teaching of evolution which, in the opinion of many, is also considered to be a religious belief.


Here are additional court conclusions which you will find of interest.

"And we have recognized that `the State may not, consistently with the spirit of the First Amendment, contract the spectrum of available knowledge.' Griswold vs. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 482 (1965).

"In keeping with this principle, we have found that in a variety of contexts, `the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas.' Stanley vs. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969); see Kleindienst vs. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 762-763 (1972).

"This right is an inherent corollary of the rights of free speech and press that are explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, in two senses. First, the right to receive ideas follows ineluctably from the sender's First Amendment right to send them: `The right of freedom of speech and press . . embraces the right to distribute literature, and necessarily protects the right to receive it.' Martin vs. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141, 143 (1943).

" `More importantly, the right to receive ideas is a necessary predicate to the recipient's meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom.' Board of Education of Island Trees Union Free School District vs. Pico, U.S. 457 (1982), p. 867.

"The classroom is peculiarly the `marketplace of ideas.' The Nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth `out of a multitude of tongues rather than through any kind of authoritative selection.' "— *United States vs. Associated Press, 52 F. Supp. 362, 372, U.S. 385 (1967), p. 589.

Court statements from five other cases:

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."—*U.S. 319 (1943), p. 624.

"In our system, state-operated schools may now be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school, as well as out of school, are `persons' under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State. In our system, students may not be regarded as closed-circuit recipients of only that which the State chooses to communicate. They may not be confined to the expression of those sentiments that are officially approved. In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views."—*U.S. 393 (1969), pp. 503, 511; cited in Board of Island Trees Union Free School District vs. Pico, U.S. 457 (1982), pp. 853, 868.

"Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study, and to evaluate."—*Sweezy vs. New Hampshire, U.S. 354, p. 250.

"The record contains affidavits—some of them by highly qualified scientists who there proclaim themselves agnostics and believers in evolution as a theory—which affirm the fact that there is strong evidence that life and the universe came about in a different manner, one perhaps less inconsistent with religious doctrine . . For purposes of reviewing the summary judgment which our panel's opinion affirms, then, the propositions stated above must be taken as established . . There are two bona fide views."—*U.S. Court of Appeals, "Edwards vs. Aguillard," F.2d 778, p. 226.

The following is an affidavit, submitted in the 1987 Supreme Court case:

"My conclusions are that creation-science is scientific, nonreligious, and educationally worthwhile in comparison with evolution. It can be taught and be present in a textbook without any religious content. It is affirmative scientific evidence that supports creation-science, and the evidence is not compellingly persuasive that supports evolution.

". . Creationist scientists offer several areas of what can properly be called affirmative evidence and analysis . . These involve scientific data and do not involve religious concepts."—*W. Morrow, Affidavit in court case Edwards vs. Agullard, U.S. 482 (1987), p. 510.

Legal support for teaching creation as an alternative nonsectarian scientific model is very clear. A carefully researched study was made on this matter and reported in the Yale Law Journal.

"Neutralization, by means of instruction in scientific creationism also would not necessarily have a legislative purpose of furthering religious, rather than secular, concerns that would contravene the establishment clause . .

"Similarly, addition of scientific creationism to a biology course that exclusively teaches the general [evolutionary] theory has the secular legislative purpose of presenting more than one nonreligious explanation of the origin of the world and life. Even Clarence Darrow of the Scopes Trial fame remarked that it is `bigotry for public schools to teach only one theory of origins.' "—Wendel Bird, "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools," Yale Law Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, January 1978, pp. 515-570. [See also his more recent two-volume work, Origin of the Species Revisited (1987).]


On Friday, July 10, 1925, a world-famous trial began. On Tuesday, July 21, it ended and a teacher was fined $100 for having taught a different theory of origins (evolution) in a public school, when only one was permitted by state law. Today it is recognized that scientific evidence for both viewpoints can be discussed,—although one of them (creationism) cannot be required by state authorities or tax-funded school personal.

Young Scopes himself (only 24 at the time) had his own opinion of the matter. He told it to the newspaper reporters during the eight-day trial. Here is what he said:

"Education, you know means broadening, advancing; and, if you limit size to only one side of anything, the whole country will eventually have only one thought, be one individual. I believe in teaching every aspect of every problem or theory."—John Thomas Scopes, statement made to the press at the Scopes Trial, quoted in *P. Davis and *E. Solomon, The World of Biology (1974), p. 414.

The following material is from our book, The Scopes Trial (see Order Form), and presents a brief overview of the post-1925 history of the creation-evolution fight in the courts:

After the Scopes Trial in 1925 all motions for a new hearing were denied, and the Butler Act remained on the [Tennessee] books until 1967, when it was quietly removed. That came at a time when similar statutes were quietly being removed from other State books also, under threat from the ACLU and scientific organizations to bring them a "monkey trial" if they did not comply.

The 1967 Tennessee State repeal of the Butler Act occurred because a teacher had been expelled for teaching evolution in a public school, but later had been reinstated. The teacher then filed a suit against the State, charging that the law "interfered with academic freedom." Rather than go through another lawsuit, the State repealed the law.

The year before, in Arkansas, a federal court ruled that their state anti-evolution law was unconstitutional; but, the following year, the Arkansas State Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court and upheld the constitutionality of the law.

The next year (November 12, 1968), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in tax-supported schools is unconstitutional.

In 1987, the high court ruled that a State could not require the teaching of creationism in tax-supported schools.

But please note that, in these decisions, the Supreme Court has not ruled that creationism and the scientific evidences favoring it could not be discussed in a setting in which it is contrasted with the evidences for evolution! Both can still be discussed in the classrooms of America. The discussion of neither of these opposing theories has been forbidden. Evidence in favor of Creation and the Flood can indeed be presented in state-supported schools. But in doing so, religion should not be woven into the presentation. The creationist evidence should not be presented as "religious information" or in defense of religion in general or particular. Scientific facts and ancient historical records (such as the Bible) may be used in the presentation, but evolutionary teachings must be presented as well. A clear-cut contrast between evidence for the two views should be made.

Henry Morris outlines three basic subject areas that need to be dealt with in a classroom discussion. He suggests that each one, by itself, merits a detailed class discussion. Of course, each such discussion will include a presentation of evidence on both sides of the issue.

"There are three basic questions at issue here:

"[1] Special creation versus naturalistic evolution as the ultimate explanation of the universe, life, and man.

"[2] Age of the earth; ancient earth versus young earth.

"[3] Uniformitarianism versus catastrophism (including not only intermittent local catastrophism, but also a global cataclysm) as the basic framework of interpretation in earth history.

"Each of these issues can, and should, be treated as a separate issue in public education. They are related issues of course, but each is important in its own right and is capable of discussion and evaluation quite independently of the others."—H. Morris, Creation and Its Critics (1982), p. 27.

Here is another clear statement, to the effect that teachers can indeed present scientific facts in support of creationism in tax-supported schools:

"All educators need to recall that exercise of academic freedom is fully legal in the United States. Thus wherever questions of ultimate origin of the universe, or life on the earth, or mankind arise there are no legal prohibitions against open, candid discussion of different interpretations of objective, scientific data in science classes or in any social studies, history, or anthropology classes."—John N. Moore, "Teaching about Origin Questions," in Creation Research Society Quarterly, December 1984, p. 115.

The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any and all efforts to restrict teachers from being able to present both sides of evidential facts in regard to origins or transitions.

"The freedom of speech and religion clauses of the First Amendment would prohibit establishment by the state, in Lysenko-like fashion, of any single scientific theory, doctrine, or dogma as to what it means to be `adult,' `mature,' `wise,' or `ethical.' "—*J. Goldstein, "On Being Adult and Being an Adult in Secular Law," Daedalus (Fall 1976), p. 70.


Forward to the next major topic in this series:

THE TRUTH ABOUT ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATING: The fraudulent effort to change archaeological dating. Archaeological finds do confirm the Bible, after all!