Source: Los Angeles Times
By Ann Reid
Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Obergefell vs. Hodges. Supreme Court cases involving the role of religious beliefs in civic life have repeatedly made headlines in recent years. Such conflicts, of course, are not new. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Epperson vs. Arkansas, which struck down the state’s ban on teaching evolution in public schools.
Tennessee vs. Scopes (the so-called monkey trial) is perhaps more famous. But teacher John T. Scopes lost that 1925 case, and in 1928 Arkansas — following Tennessee’s lead — enacted its own ban on teaching evolution. It was 40 long years before the U.S. Supreme Court finally validated the demand of a teacher — Arkansas’ Susan Epperson — that students get a complete and accurate science education, including evolution.
The Epperson ruling did not, however, end interference with the teaching of evolution. Over the years, there was a series of efforts to require that the teaching of evolution be “balanced” with alternatives dressed up to seem scientific — first biblical creation, then creation science and finally intelligent design. Each, in turn, failed to pass constitutional muster. The legal situation is clear: The government cannot prohibit the teaching of evolution nor can it require teachers to muddy the teaching of evolution by presenting non-scientific alternatives.