Edwards v. Aguillard
In Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools unless accompanied by instruction on the theory of “creation science.” Parents and teachers challenged the law on the grounds that it violated the Establishment Clause. The Court held that the law violated the Establishment Clause because it had no valid secular purpose and impermissibly endorsed a religious belief. While the stated purpose of the law was to “protect [...] academic freedom” by ensuring that students were taught both the theory of evolution and creationism, the Court found that the statute discriminated against the teaching of evolution by providing resources and protection for teachers who taught creationism, but no such resources or protection for those who taught evolution. The Court concluded that the law was intended to discredit evolution by counter-balancing its teaching with creationism. Further, after examining the legislative history of the statute, the Court reasoned that its purpose was to endorse the particular religious belief that is the central tenet of creationism: that a supernatural being created humankind. Thus, by giving preference to the teaching of creationism, the statute promoted a particular religious belief and discriminated against a scientific theory inconsistent with that belief in violation of the Establishment Clause.