Saturday, December 7, 2013

Epperson v. Arkansas case brief

Epperson v. Arkansas case brief summary
393 U.S. 97 (1968)

Plaintiff teacher brought an action that sought a declaration that an Arkansas statute, Ark. Stat. Ann. §§ 80-1627 and 1628, that made it unlawful for a teacher in a state-supported school to teach evolution, was unconstitutional. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed the chancery court's decision and held that the statute was a valid exercise of the state's power to specify the curriculum in its public schools. The teacher appealed.

The teacher had challenged the constitutionality of the Arkansas law that made it a misdemeanor to teach the evolution theory and subjected her to dismissal from her position.

  • The Court did not rest its decision on the vagueness of the Arkansas statute, but held that the statute could not stand because the State of Arkansas' right to prescribe the curriculum for its public schools did not carry with it the right to prohibit, on pain of criminal penalty, the teaching of a scientific theory or doctrine where the prohibition was based upon reasons that violated the First Amendment. 
  • There was no doubt that Arkansas had sought to prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution. 
  • Thus, the Arkansas law could not be defended as an act of religious neutrality because the State did not seek to excise form the curricula of its schools and universities all discussion of the origin of man. 
  • The law attempted to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account.

The Court reversed the decision of the state supreme court.

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