The Tennessee Butler Act of 1925 was adopted in order to prohibit teachers of public educational organizations from teaching the evolutionary theory. The Act was intended to protect the idea that human species were originated from God and not a result of evolution.


In March 1925, Tennessee passed the law forbidding teachers from teaching Darwin’s theory of human origin in public schools and universities, which partially or fully funded the state. It was called the Butler Act, after the name of its author John Washington Butler. He was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives and a Christian fundamentalist.

The law was intended to protect religion and theological view of the origin of man from supporters of the theory of evolution, who wanted to prove that humans originated from monkeys.

The Butler Act was supported by creationists who were convinced that God created humanity, other living organisms, and the world as a whole. The Act only not applied to the part of the theory of evolution that was devoted to the genesis of man. The one who broke the law had to pay a $100 to $500 fine.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a non-governmental organization, decided to initiate a trial to repeal the Tennessee new law. The trial was based on trying to challenge any thought that would speak out for the divine origin in the genesis of the creation of human species.

A high school science teacher, John Scopes, agreed to get involved in the trial to pose challenges to the Butler Act. In May 1925, Scopes was charged with violating the law. Later the Scopes trial was named the Scopes Monkey Trial and became a well-known event in the history of the US.

The defense of Scopes advocated for the protection of the idea that the Butler Act was unconstitutional and that the law violated the rights of teachers. The prosecution accused Scopes for his attempt to teach students that a human was no different from other mammals. The two sides debated the theory of evolution and the divine origin of humankind.

As a result, the jury decided that the teacher was guilty of violating the law, and he was fined $100. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Tennessee State stated that the Butler Act of 1925 was constitutional; however, decided to acquit Scopes based on legal formality: according to the state constitution, jurors had the right to sentence fines over $ 50, but not a judge.

The Scopes trial emphasized the growth of fundamentalism in the US. It became a starting point of confrontation between proponents of creationism and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some years later after the judicial process, there was a rise in the activity of the creationist movement.

Mississippi and Arkansas passed bills restricting the teaching of evolutionary theory. A few states also adopted resolutions that on the prohibition of teaching the evolutionary theory. Textbooks based on the theory of creationism, which rejected the teachings of Darwin, were used in the United States until the late 1950s.

The Butler Act of 1925 was finally canceled only in 1967. In 1968, the US Supreme Court announced that all anti-evolutionary laws violate the Constitution. Moreover, in 1987, the court ruled that teaching creationism violated the Constitution by placing a particular religion in a privileged position.