Legal Case

Creationism and the Law

Legal challenges to anti-evolutionist policies began with the Scopes Trial of 1925, a case the evolutionists actually lost.

Since 1968, however, U.S. courts have consistently held that "creationism" is a particular religious viewpoint and that teaching it in public schools would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.

For a one page summary of important court cases, see Ten Major Court Cases about Creationism and Evolution.

Smith v. Jefferson County School Board

In a complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on May 12, 2015, Kenneth Smith contended that teaching evolution in West Virginia's public school constitutes "the propagation of religious faith" and that it hinders his daughter's ability to enter college and to become a veterinarian.

COPE v. Kansas State BOE

Citizens for Objective Public Education, COPE, and three dozen individuals, many of whom are students, filed a complaint against the Kansas State Board of Education in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in September 2013. The complaint contended that the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS, and the Framework for K-12 Science Education (on which the NGSS are based) "will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview ...

The Scopes Trial of 1925


In 1925, the state of Tennessee passed the Butler Act, which outlawed the teaching of "any theory that denies the divine creation of man and teaches instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." The ACLU offered to defend any teacher accused of violating the Act, and John Scopes agreed to incriminate himself by teaching evolution.

Lane v. Sabine Parish School Board

A sixth-grade teacher's advocacy of creationism is at the center of the complaint in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on January 22, 2014. {C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}{C}

Institute for Creation Research Graduate School v. Paredes et al.

This page collects the legal documents from the case Institute for Creation Research Graduate School v. Raymund A. Paredes et al.


Hurst v. Newman

On January 10, 2006, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit on behalf of eleven parents against the school board, superintendent, and a teacher in the El Tejon School District in Lebec, California.

Hensley v. Johnston County Board of Education

In 2004, Pamela Hensley was teaching evolution in her 8th grade science class in a small community several miles outside of Selma, North Carolina, when a "lively" discussion ensued with her students. Parents of one of the students wrote a letter to the Principal charging that Ms. Hensley was rude to their daughter and gave her a poor grade in retaliation for her religious views. The parents wrote that it was their intention "to rid our school system of" Ms.

Hendren v. Campbell

On March 23, 1977, the Indiana Textbook Commission was sued by ninth-grade student Jon Hendren, his father Robert Hendren, and E. Thomas Marsh, another student's parent. The lawsuit followed the Commission's approval of Biology: A Search For Order In Complexity, a "creation science" textbook, for use in public school biology courses. After the plaintiffs' school district, West Clark Community School Corporation, had adopted that book as its sole biology text, the plaintiffs had requested that the book's approval be withdrawn.

C. Martin Gaskell v. University of Kentucky

On July 10, 2009, C. Martin Gaskell filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Kentucky against the University of Kentucky, alleging that he was turned down for the position of Director of the MacAdam Student Observatory on the basis of his religious beliefs and his expression of those beliefs.

On November 23, 2010, the court denied the defendant's and the plaintiff's requests for summary judgment, which sets the stage for a jury trial.