Scopes Trial In The Movie Inherit The Wind
After watching the movie “ Inherit the Wind” I think that it was the right thing to prosecute Mr Cates or any teacher for teaching evolution at that time. In that day and age the law specifically stated that schools were only legally allowed to teach from the bible in regards to how humans were created. Only because he did not follow the law, they had every right to arrest and try him.
This movie was a fictionalized version of a true story of a case called the Scopes Trial. The Scopes Monkey Trial was a nationally-famous Tennessee court case that upheld a state law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools in that state in 1925. John Scopes, a biology teacher in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, disobeyed the law by teaching evolution in his classroom and was found guilty with a fine of one hundred dollars. The verdict was overturned on a technicality. The importance of the trial was not the verdict, however; the Scopes trial increased American awareness and interest in the issue of teaching theology and/or modern science in public schools.
This case led to strict rules being established in America. There are clauses like the establishment clause, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion in America and the free exercise clause which prohibits the government from interfering with individuals’ right to hold religious beliefs.
The Abington vs Shemp case in 1963, led to prayers being taken out of public schools. Prayer in public schools are officially restricted. Schools and teachers can not officially encourage prayer but students can pray as long as they are not disruptive to school plans (Kauchak). Religious symbols are also not allowed on classroom walls, however, people can wear cross jewelry because they are considered personal items.
After the Board of Education of the Westside Community School vs Mergans case in 1990, religious clubs and organizations earned the right to hold religious or philosophical meetings on school properties, if they go through the correct channels (Kauchak). Since we live in America, the right to hold your own opinion can lead to radical ideas being forced onto public property, if the organizations get approval. If schools do not allow the organizations to hold their meetings or protests, then they can sue the schools because it is their right.
Religion in the public school curriculum was addressed with the Scopes trial. This decision to only allow evolution was not popular amongst the people for a few decades, but since intelligent design and creationism are not scientifically proven; evolution is what is taught. As seen in the movie, the southern community surrounding this case was very much against the teaching revolution. To this day, the southern stereotype is that they are all religious and some do not believe in evolution. In the northeastern areas, this seems backward or outdated. Even though all people might not agree with this new law, it is the law. If someone tried to teach and preach religion in a public school today, they would be tried as well.
The teachers in public schools can teach of religion only in regards to history and English classes. They can bring in religious objects like the Bible or Quran because it relates to the lesson of both curricula. Although they have this substantial right, they can not advocate any religion and not interfere with students’ religious beliefs (Kauchak).
My answer would not be different if a person was prosecuted for teaching religion. Nowadays, if someone tried to teach and force religion onto students in a public school, it would make more than enough sense to wrest and try them. It all depends on the time you love in and the laws that are being implanted at the time to be able to decide if it is right to prosecute someone.
In fact, this has happened recently. In 2015, at Airline High which is a public school in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. The students were read Bible passages and once they read the passages, their teachers asked them to identify their favorite verses. The students even claimed that they were being taught creationism as science and pressured into attending Fellowship of Christian Athletes club meetings. During gym class, girls were warned against contraception by a “born again virgin” from the local crisis pregnancy center (Kopplin). This was illegal, since this Christian anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-premarital-sex advocacy center should not have been allowed into their school environment.
I think that these teachers should be prosecuted and tried because of the Scopes Trial verdict. Just like Mr. Cates was prosecuted and tried because of the laws in his time. It is illegal to teach and force religion into students, so the teacher violating this law should be punished. These public school students feel they are having Christaiany forced onto them and that is simply not the situation they should be put in at their school environments, even if their communities adults think it is up for debate.
Americans continue to fight over the place of religion in public schools, even after laws are established. However, questions about religion in the classroom are not as popular as they used to be. The issue is still important, but in this day and age it is a conflict over religion’s role in public life.
Some Americans do not like how the part of federal courts and civil liberties exclude God and religion from public schools. They believe that this negatively affects their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. This makes sense, but with so many religions in the United States, it would not be fair to choose one and not include the others.
Other civil libertarians are concerned that conservative Christians and others are trying to impose their values on students, this would be the case if Christianity was the religion that was chosen to be taught in all public schools. Thankfully, the law prohibits that. Federal courts have consistently interpreted the First Amendment’s prohibition on the establishment of religion to not allow state sponsorship of prayer and other religious activities in public schools.
This debate centers on public schools; few people are arguing that religious doctrine cannot be taught at private schools or that teachers at such schools cannot lead students in prayer. Particularly in Catholic schools, this has never been an issue. Even in public institutions, there is little debate about the right of individual students, teachers and other school employees to practice their religion.
Personally, I do not think that there is any question in regards to what should be taught. But a good point to be made here is that the religious people in the movie also did not think there was any question that their kids should be taught creationism. I believe in evolution and the scientific bases of evidence to support it are strong. This was something that other clearly thought too, since the law was changed for public schools to exclusively teach it. I think that because of the time that I was born and raised, I have the opinion that evolution should be taught, but the upset people in the courtroom and the southern states in the movie were brought up in a different way. Most people in my generation and the generations surrounding mine believe in this as well, for example, (Jones), there has been a decline in religious belief in the United States, and I believe that the drop has a direct correlation with the teaching of evolution.
People were being taught a scientifically proven base after the Scopes Trial ended and this changed how humans believed they were created. This led people to realize that their faiths’ stories like in the Bible did not quite make sense, in regards to modern laws like natural laws. From this realization, people changed their beliefs in how humans came to be because there is no proof of a higher power placing us here. Because of this different era that I have been raised in, I believe in evolution, just like the bystanders in the movie were raised to believe in religion. Religion and evolution should be separated when it comes to school, or else children will feel that they are being forced to think certain things and what to believe.
- Jones, Jeffrey M. “U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 12 Sept. 2019, https://news.gallup.com/poll/248837/church-membership-down-sharply-past-two-decades.aspx.
- Kauchak, Donald P., and Paul D. Eggen. Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional. Pearson, 2011.
- Kopplin, Zach. “Public School Students Say Christianity Is Being Forced on Them.” Google, Google, 2 Nov. 2015, https://www.google.com/amp/s/slate.com/technology/2015/11/christianity-forced-on-public-school-students-in-louisiana.amp.