Edwards v. Aguillard

From Academic Kids

Edwards v. Aguillard, Template:Ussc was a case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled that a law requiring that creation science be taught every time evolution was taught was unconstitutional, because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, however, it held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

Contents

Background

In the early 1980s, the Louisiana legislature passed a law titled the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act." The Act did not require teaching either creationism or evolution, but did require that when one theory was taught, the other theory had to be taught as well. Creationists had lobbied aggressively for the law.

Opponents argued that the Act violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which prohibits the Government from officially endorsing a religious belief. (See Separation of church and state.) The State argued that the Act was about academic freedom for teachers.

Lower courts ruled that the State's actual purpose was to promote the religious doctrine of "creation science". On June 19 1987 the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice William J. Brennan, ruled that the Act constituted an unconstitutional infringement on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, based on the three-pronged Lemon test.

Quotes from Court Ruling

"We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone that its decision forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. 449 U.S., at 42, 101 S.Ct., at 194. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction." Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, 593-594, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 2583 (U.S.La.,1987).

Quote from Scalia's Dissent

On the secular purpose prong of the Lemon test:

[D]iscerning the subjective motivation of those enacting the statute is, to be honest, almost always an impossible task. The number of possible motivations, to begin with, is not binary, or indeed even finite. In the present case, for example, a particular legislator need not have voted for the Act either because he wanted to foster religion or because he wanted to improve education. He may have thought the bill would provide jobs for his district, or may have wanted to make amends with a faction of his party he had alienated on another vote, or he may have been a close friend of the bill's sponsor, or he may have been repaying a favor he owed the Majority Leader, or he may have hoped the Governor would appreciate his vote and make a fundraising appearance for him, or he may have been pressured to vote for a bill he disliked by a wealthy contributor or by a flood of constituent mail, or he may have been seeking favorable publicity, or he may have been reluctant to hurt the feelings of a loyal staff member who worked on the bill, or he may have been settling an old score with a legislator who opposed the bill, or he may have been mad at his wife who opposed the bill, or he may have been intoxicated and utterly unmotivated when the vote was called, or he may have accidentally voted "yes" instead of "no," or, of course, he may have had (and very likely did have) a combination of some of the above and many other motivations. To look for the sole purpose of even a single legislator is probably to look for something that does not exist.


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