Major Decisions: Epperson v Arkansas

Major Decisions: Epperson v Arkansas

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Major Decisions: Epperson v Arkansas

The Epperson
v. Arkansas trial proved to be among the landmark Supreme Court decisions that
would have certain questions or considerations based on the application of the
United States Constitution. The Epperson v. Arkansas case invokes the
occurrences that happened nearly forty years earlier in Tennessee with the
infamous Scopes Trial of 1927. Even though Tennessee is one of the most famous
states in which the teaching of evolution in schools was prohibited, it was not
the only State to apply similar provisions at the State level.

The Scopes trial would be one of the landmark
Supreme Court Decisions that would prove to be repeated in similar fashion once
again with the Epperson v. Arkansas trial. The case revolved around an Arkansas
State provision that prohibited the teaching of human evolution in schools.
This statute, if violated, could levy hefty fines and dismissal from a teaching
position under Arkansas laws.

The
provision would be challenged by a tenth grade biology teacher, Susan Epperson.
Initially, the lower courts would rule in her favor, but an appeal at the
Arkansas Supreme Court would overturn the decision, citing almost no
legislation for the basis of its decision. Epperson would then also appeal and
the case would reach the
 Supreme Court. Chief Justice Warren would oversee the
proceedings and eventually render a decision in favor of Epperson.

The Supreme Court decision would have ramifications at the
Constitutional level on the basis that Arkansas could not implement statutes or
laws to remove a segment or part of a curriculum on the basis that it conflicts
with certain religious beliefs. This practice is in violation of the First
Amendment
 of the United States Constitution, and
therefore, unconstitutional. More specifically, it violated the Establishment
Clause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion.” In seeking to protect certain
religious views that were in conflict with the teaching of evolution, the
Arkansas State laws would effectively be establishing a preference or
inclination toward a particular religious sect.

The Supreme Court decision also
regarded that such laws would also infringe on the Fourteenth Amendment
, which protects the citizens’ from interference imposed
by the State legislation or laws with their rights under the First Amendment.
Though the main issue at hand was the violation of the First Amendment, the
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment was also applied because the State laws
imposed a restriction upon the freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Even though
the Court would agree that the issue of school curriculum is to be determined
and established by local officials and State governments, it could not impose
teachings in which a particular favoritism or inclination toward a religious
faction is implemented, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, the Supreme
Court decision of Epperson v. Arkansas would not allow the prevention of
teaching evolution in schools.

Even though
certain states would integrate biblical creation along with evolution as a way
to circumvent the landmark Supreme Court decisions, this would only lead to
further court decisions in which Epperson v. Arkansas would be used as
precedent in the rulings.

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