On July 21 1925, then 24-year-old Rhea County High School teacher John T Scopes of Dayton Tennessee was tried and convicted of charges that he violated the law forbidding the teaching of "any theory that denies the story of divine creation of man as taught by the Bible." John T Scopes was caught teaching children about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in the classroom instead of God created life. Children were taught humans descended from apes rather than Adam and Eve as stated in the Holy Book. 

The landmark trial was described as an "epic contest between Christianity and science" pitting the 3-time Democratic presidential nominee and Bible fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan who led the prosecution against the famous liberal lawyer and an agnostic, Clarence Darrow. John T Scopes was eventually fined $100. It was mentioned, "For Bryan and Darrow, the subject was wider than evolution versus creation – it was a fight for truth, no matter what its form." 

The talked-about trial was turned into a Broadway play in 1955 then made into a motion picture in 1960 starring Spencer Tracy. In March 1988, Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards starred in the re-make of 'Inherit The Wind'. Joel Thurn of NBC explained, "I also think at the time the question came to us, the court case was still pending before the Supreme Court about the parents in Tennessee who had won a lower court decision banning certain books from the school system. I thought, 'This thing is still going on. It still has great relevance. Perhaps this is something we should do every several years, not to let people forget.'" 

Kirk Douglas recounted, "This is a play about the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, but the issue is as relevant today (1988) as it was then. The best example of that came when we planned to shoot a scene in a schoolhouse in a small town in Oregon. We had made arrangements with the school’s board to film scenes of the young teacher teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. But when they found out what we were going to film they threw us out. They said they only teach Biblical creationism.

"It’s interesting for an actor to play a role with a point of view you don’t believe in. I think he was very sincere. He wasn't a charlatan, he wasn't a buffoon. He believed every word in the Bible should be accepted as it was written. That’s what creates the dramatic friction between my character and Jason Robards'. They were both sincere in their beliefs. The pathetic quality which we develop is that these 2 men had been friends. Clarence Darrow had backed Bryan in his first run for the presidency. It’s touching because these 2 men are now bitter enemies."

In the 1988 movie, Joel Thurn observed, "Kirk plays him as a real person and he seems to be a more moderate character – even though his words and what he represents are exactly the same." Kirk Douglas maintained, "I never thought he should be played as a fool. I played him as a mixture of Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and Jimmy Swaggart. (Bryant) wasn't gluttonous and eating all the time, the way he was in the movie.

"That's the exciting thing about doing movies for television. You can deal with subjects you can’t do for theatrical films. Theatrical films seem to fall into certain formulas – wild comedies, violence or young kids finding out about sex. On television you can do something with substance. This is the first program, in the new 'AT&T Presents' series. What I like about that is that we have fewer commercial breaks."

Harry Shelton was 77 in 1985. When he testified in the case in 1925, Harry was a high school sophomore. He told the press 60 years later, "Of course that law has been repealed. That might have some bearing on the case. It was repealed in 1967. And now (in 1985) they permit the study of evolution in most schools – as long as you teach it as a theory and not as fact."

In 1973, Nell Segraves led the Creation-Science Research Center that campaigned to give God equal time with Darwin in school textbooks. In an 8-10 vote at the time, 'Copley News Service' reported the California Board of Education decided that Darwin's theory should remain just that - a theory. At the same time the school board decided it would allow the mention of Christian god in school social science textbooks.

One board member told 'Copley News Service', "Both theories that man evolved from lower animals and that God created man pretty much the way he is today – should be presented to children." Dr John Ford of the California Board of Education added, "A number of legislators are already following California's lead. Legislation in these states would allow the theory that God created life to be presented in schools. There's been a strong move to keep religion out of (school) books. Teachers are even afraid to tell the story of religion for fear they'll be accused of trying to indoctrinate the children."

Back in 1986, parent Vicki Frost told Steve Baker of the Associated Press, "I didn’t think I was sending my children to (Hawkins County) school (in Greeneville Tennessee) to be taught moral judgment. I thought they’d learn to have good English and grammar and do their other work." Vicki also made the point, "Evolution teaches there is not a God-Creator and that violates my religious beliefs. God created humans separate from animals – they don't have common ancestors. The textbooks are asking my children to use their imagination beyond the authority of Scripture. Our children’s imagination has to be bounded."

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