Epperson v. Arkansas

Teaching Evolution in Public Schools

Constitutional Issue

Does a law that forbids the teaching of evolution violate the establishment clause of the first amendment?

About the Case

In 1928, the state of Arkansas adopted a statute that prohibited teaching "the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals," or using textbooks that included material on evolution. Susan Epperson, who had a masters degree in zoology and taught 10th grade biology, filed a suit against the state of Arkansas where the court ruled in Epperson's favor. Arkansas then appealed to the Arkensas Supreme Court, and the court reversed, stating that the law is a valid exercise of the state's power to specify curriculum in their public schools. Epperson then appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1968.
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Supreme Court Sides With Epperson!

Tuesday, Nov. 12th 1968 at 6pm

Washington, DC, United States

Washington, DC

During the trial, neither side focused heavily on the actual theory of evolution. Instead, they focused on the state's right to control the curriculum in their public schools. The court found the reversal to be in error and concluded that the only reason Arkansas created this statute was to protect a certain religious view and was thus unconstitutional. The court ruled in favor of Epperson 9 to 0.

What clause of the first amendment did Epperson claim the Arkansas statute violated?