Reprinted from the September 2013 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
Tennessee Code Annotated Title 49 (Education) Section 1922 was signed into law by Governor Austin Peay in 1925. It came to be known as the Butler Act, and it prohibited public school educators from teaching that humans evolved from lower animals. Members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) declared the law to be a violation of the right to free speech, and they looked for a way to challenge it in court. As a result, the ACLU advertised in newspapers throughout Tennessee that they would pay the expenses of legal defense if a teacher would come forward to challenge the law.
The citizens of the small town of Dayton, Tenn., saw this as an opportunity to gain attention for their town. The men of Dayton approached John T. Scopes, a young teacher, and asked if he would be willing to be prosecuted for violating the Butler Act.1 Scopes agreed; the warrant and legalities were duly arranged; and thus began what has been called “The Trial of the Century” or “The Scopes Monkey Trial.”
The Truth About the Trial
Few people, however, know what really happened during the trial. That is not because proper records were not kept. On the contrary, the trial was copiously documented. The reason few know what really happened is because most people have seen a version of the events that never took place. The vast majority who know anything about the trial have been fed their information through a play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee titled Inherit the Wind. The play was made into a movie in the 1960s and has been seen by millions.
Although the play was not billed as “history,” it was clearly based on the trial. The presentation was so different from reality, however, that James Perloff stated: “Inherit the Wind did not alter facts merely to stimulate the audience. It grossly perverted the Scopes trial to advance a specific agenda.”2 Phillip E. Johnson stated, “Inherit the Wind is a masterpiece of propaganda, promoting a stereotype of the public debate about creation and evolution that gives all the virtue and intelligence to the Darwinists.”3