*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 19th of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
20th-century religious history in the American courts is probably my guilty pleasure. I can riffle through dissenting opinions on Epperson v. Arkansas just like I can blast a whole Carly Rae Jepsen album while I’m starting work in the morning.
And today is the anniversary of the landmark SCOTUS ruling in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. This case regarding the teaching of evolution and “creation science” would throw one more spanner in the works and give fresh new grievances to culture warriors on every side.
And while this might be seen as supremely weird to some, for the history of religion and politics in America it is a pretty key story. As are most Supreme Court decisions regarding religion in public schools. Why is this?
The public school system is one of the last physical and diverse public squares in American life.
The American Supreme Court is a reflection of the views of a particularly slim minority of a particularly powerful group. While they can “move the ball forward” at times they are, for good or ill, a very conservative institution.
So, what’s this case?
Back in the 60’s Arkansas attempted to ban the teaching of Evolution. The court called the law unconstitutional as they believed the law had no clear secular purpose.
This case, Edwards v. Aguillard involved a Louisiana law entitled the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act.” The LA law did not require anyone to teach Creation Science, but if they taught evolution, they had to balance it with Creation Science (note, not “creationism” as that was called “unscientific”).
The ruling, handed down on this day in 1987, called this “Balanced Treatment” law unconstitutional and a breach of the establishment clause. The court ruled that whether it’s an -ism or called a “science” it is too religious.
The criticism of this ruling is that it exposed what some have suggested is judicial bigotry against religion. The criticism of this criticism is that the creation science laws are not in good faith but rather religious attempts to push back creeping secularism. The court did rule that creation science can be taught but not as a scientific theory.
Since this ruling did away with a “balanced treatment” approach favored by some it has led to the growth of the Intelligent Design movement which has attempted to question the certainty of some evolutionists scientific “certainty” with an appeal to organisms that seem too complex to follow the strict evolution model. ID or Intelligent Design seems to have promise as a suitable suggestive model for public schools but we will have to see what the Supreme Court says… they laid down their last ruling on this issue on the 19th of June in 1987 with the Edwards v. Aguillard decision regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools.
The last word for today comes from the very first book of the Hebrew Bible aka the Old Testament, you may do with it what you will
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie whose favorite Carly Rae Jepson song is Call Me Maybe.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who likes that first CRJ hit, but prefers “Cut to the Feeling.”
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.