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Scopes Monkey Trial Essay

2264 words - 10 pages

The decade of the 1920's brought about many changes in the way Americans thoughtand lived. People were relieved the World War ended. New inventions were beingintroduced to the public. Relaxed morals left behind the prim attitudes of earlier times.But some things could not be easily changed. Science could not change religious beliefs.It was in the early 1920's that they met head on. The 'war' between evolution andreligion was brought before the people.Evolution is the study of how things are formed. It traces the life on earth throughmillions of years. Charles Darwin, an English Naturalist, published The Origin ofSpecies in 1859. It explained his theory of evolution. Darwin's theory was based ...view middle of the document...

5The American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1920to protect the civil rights in America. Its aim was to deal with public interests and defendthe rights of individual people to express their views on certain matters.6 'So long as wehave enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we will be called ademocracy', stated the ACLU's founder, Roger Baldwin.7 The Butler law caught theattention of the ACLU. The ACLU proclaimed that the foundation would pay legalexpenses for anyone wanting to test the constitutionality of the new Tennessee law.8The ACLU believed this law was in violation of the constitutional rights of allAmericans.About this time in Dayton, Tennessee a group of men were in Robinson's Drugstorediscussing the latest stories on the theory of evolution. George W. Rappelya found apress release in a Tennessee newspaper from the ACLU stating it would give legalsupport to any teacher who would test the law.9 The men agreed to take the ACLU up onits offer, to provide a test case and challenge the new law. Now all they needed was aperson who would be willing to do the job.10As fate would have it, John Scopes, a 24 year old coach and substitute biologyteacher, entered the drugstore. He was reading a copy of 'Civic Biology' to prepare forhis class on Monday. The men asked him if he would like to participate in a test case toexamine the Butler Law in court, John Scopes agreed.11 The owner of the store, DocRobinson, immediately called the head department of the 'Chattanooga News'. Hestated, ' This is F.E. Robinson in Dayton, I'm chairman of the school board here. Wehave just arrested a man for teaching evolution.' 12 On May 5th, 1925 John ThomasScopes was arrested under the Butler law and faced a full court ahead of him.132National attention was focused on Dayton, Tennessee, a small county not to far fromChattanooga, where the 'monkey' trial was taking place. John Scopes became a memberof the 'holy war', which was being fought for the opposing ideas of science andliberalism. People from all walks of life came to see the trial. Many were notablepeople, writers, and even souvenir vendors. The city was described as a carnival, 'a halfcircus and half revival meeting'.14 The event was heralded by reporters and journalistsfrom throughout the country, headlined by H. L. Mencken. Mencken was a reporter forthe Baltimore sun and The American Mercury. He was most widely acclaimednonconformist of his day.15 The media reporting fueled the nation's attention on thecase.The ACLU chose two of its top leading lawyers to work on the 'monkey' trial;William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.16 William Jennings Bryan was a wellliked man, and a kind-hearted fundamentalist. He became the prosecutor in the trialbecause he favored the Tennessee law. Bryan stated, ' The people of Tennessee have aright to protect the Bible as they understand it. They are not compelled to consider theinterpretations placed upon it by people...

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