Judgement in Edwards, Governor Of Louisiana, Et Al. V. Aguillard Et Al.*

No. 85-1513


82 U.S. 578; 107 S. Ct. 2573; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 2729; 96 L. Ed. 2d 510; 55 U.S.L.W. 4860

December 10, 1986, Argued June 19, 1987,

Held Opinion
Majority Opinion by Brennan I, II, III (A) (B), IV, V
Concurring Opinion by Powell I (A), (B), II, III
Concurring Opinion by White
Dissenting Opinion by Scalia I, II, (A) (B), III

Appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Disposition: 765 F.2d 1251, affirmed.

Syllabus: Louisiana's "Creationism Act" forbids the teaching of the theory of evolution in public elementary and secondary schools unless accompanied by instruction in the theory of "creation science." The Act does not require the teaching of either theory unless the other is taught. It defines the theories as "the scientific evidences for [creation or evolution] and inferences from those scientific evidences." Appellees, who include Louisiana parents, teachers, and religious leaders, challenged the Act's constitutionality in Federal District Court, seeking an injunction and declaratory relief. The District Court granted summary judgment to appellees, holding that the Act violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The Act is facially invalid as violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacks a clear secular purpose. Pp. 585-594.

(a) The Act does not further its stated secular purpose of "protecting academic freedom." It does not enhance the freedom of teachers to teach what they choose and fails to further the goal of "teaching all of the evidence." Forbidding the teaching of evolution when creation science is not also taught undermines the provision of a comprehensive scientific education. Moreover, requiring the teaching of creation science with evolution does not give schoolteachers a flexibility that they did not already possess to supplant the present science curriculum with the presentation of theories, besides evolution, about the origin of life. Furthermore, the contention that the Act furthers a "basic concept of fairness" by requiring the teaching of all of the evidence on the subject is without merit. Indeed, the Act evinces a discriminatory preference for the teaching of creation science and against the teaching of evolution by requiring that curriculum guides be developed and resource services supplied for teaching creationism but not for teaching evolution, by limiting membership on the resource services panel to "creation scientists," and by forbidding school boards to discriminate against anyone who "chooses to be a creation-scientist" or to teach creation science, while failing to protect those who choose to teach other theories or who refuse to teach creation science. A law intended to maximize the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of science instruction would encourage the teaching of all scientific theories about human origins. Instead, this Act has the distinctly different purpose of discrediting evolution by counterbalancing its teaching at every turn with the teaching of creationism. Pp. 586-589.

(b) The Act impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind. The legislative history demonstrates that the term "creation science," as contemplated by the state legislature, embraces this religious teaching. The Act's primary purpose was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety. Thus, the Act is designed either to promote the theory of creation science that embodies a particular religious tenet or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain religious sects. In either case, the Act violates the First Amendment. Pp. 589-594. 2. The District Court did not err in granting summary judgment upon a finding that appellants had failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact. Appellants relied on the "uncontroverted" affidavits of scientists, theologians, and an education administrator defining creation science as "origin through abrupt appearance in complex form" and alleging that such a viewpoint constitutes a true scientific theory. The District Court, in its discretion, properly concluded that the postenactment testimony of these experts concerning the possible technical meanings of the Act's terms would not illuminate the contemporaneous purpose of the state legislature when it passed the Act. None of the persons making the affidavits produced by appellants participated in or contributed to the enactment of the law. Pp. 594-596.
COUNSEL: Wendell R. Bird, Special Assistant Attorney General of Georgia, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were A. Morgan Brian, Jr., and Thomas T. Anderson, Special Assistant Attorneys General, Kendall L. Vick, and Patricia Nalley Bowers, Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana.

Jay Topkis argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief was John DiGiulio, Samuel I. Rosenberg, Allen Blumstein, Gerard E. Harper, Jack D. Novik, Burt Neuborne, Norman Dorsen, John Sexton, and Ron Wilson. *

* Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights by Steven Frederick McDowell; for the Christian Legal Society et al. by Michael J. Woodruff, Kimberlee W. Colby, Samuel E. Ericsson, and Forest D. Montgomery; and for Concerned Women for America by Michael P. Farris and Jordan W. Lorence.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of New York et al. by Robert Abrams, Attorney General of New York, O. Peter Sherwood, Solicitor General, Paul M. Glickman, Jane Levine, Suzanne Lynn, and Marla Tepper, Assistant Attorneys General, and Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois; for the American Association of University Professors et al. by Ann H. Franke, Jacqueline W. Mintz, and Sheldon E. Steinbach; for the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, by Bruce A. Miller and Stuart M. Israel; for the American Jewish Congress et al. by Marvin E. Frankel, Marc D. Stern, and Ronald A. Krauss; for Americans United for Separation of Church and State et al. by Lee Boothby, Samuel Rabinove, Richard T. Foltin, and James M. Parker; for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith et al. by Ruti G. Teitel, Justin J. Finger, Jeffrey P. Sinensky, and Steven M. Freeman; for the National Academy of Sciences by Barry H. Garfinkel and Mark Herlihy; for the New York Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty by Leo Pfeffer; for People for the American Way et al. by Timothy B. Dyk, A. Douglas Melamed, and Kerry W. Kircher; for the Spartacist League et al. by Rachel H. Wolkenstein; and for 72 Nobel Laureates et al. by Walter B. Slocombe.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Rabbinical Alliance of America et al. by John W. Whitehead and Larry L. Crain; and for Reverend Bill McLean et al. by Philip E. Kaplan.

JUDGES: Brennan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens, JJ., joined, and in all but Part II of which O'Connor, J., joined. Powell, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O'Connor, J., joined, post, p. 597. White, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 608. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., joined, post, p. 610.