EPPERSON v. ARKANSAS

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
7
Appellee 
Arkansas
Appellant 
Epperson
Opinion 
Advocates
(Argued the cause for appellee)
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The Arkansas legislature passed a law prohibiting teachers in public or state- supported schools from teaching, or using textbooks that teach, human evolution. Epperson, a public school teacher, sued, claiming the law violated her First Amendment right to free speech as well as the Establishment Clause. The State Chancery Court ruled that it violated his free speech rights; the State Supreme Court reversed.

Question 

Does a law forbidding the teaching of evolution violate either the free speech rights of teachers or the Establishment clause of the First Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Epperson, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

Yes. Seven members of the Court held that the statute violated the Establishment clause. Writing for the Court, Justice Abe Fortas stated that the law had been based solely on the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians, who felt that evolutionary theories directly contradicted the biblical account of Creation. This use of state power to prohibit the teaching of material objectionable to a particular sect ammounted to an unconstitutional Establishment of religion. Justice Fortas wrote, "The State's undoubted right to prescribe the curriculum for its public schools does not carry with it the right to prohibit, on pain of criminal penalty, the teaching of a scientific theory or doctrine where that prohibition is based upon reasons that violate the First Amendment." The two other members of the Court concurred in the result, writing that it violated either the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment (because it was unconstitutionally vague) or the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment.

Cite this Page
EPPERSON v. ARKANSAS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_7>.
EPPERSON v. ARKANSAS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_7 (last visited August 29, 2014).
"EPPERSON v. ARKANSAS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 29, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_7.