What Was the Outcome of the Scopes Trial?

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The Scopes trial found the defendant John Scopes guilty of violating the Butler Act by teaching evolution in school. Scopes was fined $100, but this was overturned on a technicality. It also achieved the true goal of the staged trial, which was to draw attention and publicity to Dayton, Tenn., and to place the conflict between science and religion firmly before the public eye.

In response to Tennessee's passing of the Butler Act, the American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone charged with teaching evolution in school. On April 5, 1925, a coal company manager named George Rappleyea, the country school superintendent Walter White and attorney Sue K. Hicks met to discuss the possibility of staging such a case to draw attention to their small town, since the textbooks their state required teachers to use contained references to the banned scientific theory. They chose a local teacher who couldn't recall whether or not he'd actually taught evolution but was willing to incriminate himself for the purposes of the trial. His students were elaborately coached to ensure the case would not be dismissed.

The attorney for the defense, Clarence Darrow, intended on taking appeals all the way to the Supreme Court to force a decision, but the Tennessee State Supreme Court nullified the indictment and threw the case out of the courts. It took 42 years for Tennessee to repeal the Butler Act.