Edwards v. Aguillard

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Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) was a legal case about the teaching of creationism that was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1987. The Court ruled that a Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught in public schools, along with evolution, was unconstitutional because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

In support of Aguillard, 72 Nobel prize-winning scientists,[1] 17 state academies of science, and 7 other scientific organizations filed amicus briefs which described creation science as being composed of religious tenets.

Contents

Background

Modern American creationism arose out of the theological split over modernist higher criticism and its rejection by the Fundamentalist Christian movement which promoted Biblical literalism and, post 1920, took up the anti-evolution cause led by William Jennings Bryan. Teaching of evolution had become a common part of the public school curriculum, but his campaign was based on the idea that “Darwinism” had caused German militarism and was a threat to traditional religion and morality. Several states passed legislation to ban or restrict the teaching of evolution. The Tennessee Butler Act was tested in the Scopes Trial of 1925, and continued in effect with the result that evolution was not taught in many schools.[2]

When the United States sought to catch up in science during the 1960s with new teaching standards which reintroduced evolution, the creation science movement arose, presenting what was claimed to be scientific evidence supporting young earth creationism. Attempts were made to reintroduce legal bans, but the Supreme Court ruled that bans on teaching evolutionary biology are unconstitutional as they violate the establishment clause of the US constitution, which forbids the government from advancing a particular religion.[2]

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