Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
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Epperson v. Arkansas was the first Supreme Court case to protect the teaching of evolution from state statutes. Decided only a few years after the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial," it established the precedent that a state's right to control its educational curriculum did not permit it to promote religious principles through that curriculum. In 1928, Arkansas passed a statute prohibiting public schools from teaching evolution or using textbooks that featured the theory. Years later, on the recommendation of its biology teachers, a Little Rock high school added evolutionary theory to its curriculum. A teacher there, legally prohibited from teaching evolution, filed suit against the state on the claim that the law violated the Establishment Clause, as well as her right to free speech. Using the test formalized in School District of Abington Township, PA v. Schempp, the Court ruled unanimously that the Arkansas law was unconstitutional because its primary intent and effect was to protect a religious view. The law was based solely upon religious, not secular, considerations. Though the state had a right to prescribe a curriculum, it could not establish an official religious view by prohibiting the teaching of contrary scientific theories.