Edwards v. Aguillard Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held that Louisiana’s Creationism Act (the Act) that required evolution be taught if “creation science” was taught and vice versa violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Facts of the case

“A Louisiana law entitled the “”Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act”” prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution in the public schools unless that instruction was accompanied by the teaching of creation science, a Biblical belief that advanced forms of life appeared abruptly on Earth. Schools were not forced to teach creation science. However, if either topic was to be addressed, evolution or creation, teachers were obligated to discuss the other as well.”


Whether the Act violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution?


Yes. Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirmed. Lemon’s first prong focuses on the purpose of that animated adoption of the Act. In this case, the Appellants, Edwards and others (Appellants), have identified no clear secular purpose for the Act. The goal of providing a more comprehensive science curriculum is not furthered by either outlawing the teaching of evolution or by requiring the teaching of creationism. While the Supreme Court is normally deferential to the state’s articulation of a secular purpose, it is required that the statement of such purpose be sincere and not without a sham. It is clear that requiring schools to teach creation science with evolution does not advance academic freedom. The Act does not grant teachers the flexibility that they did not already possess to supplant the present science curriculum with a presentation of theories besides evolution, about the origin of life. Here, the purpose of the Act was to restructure the science curriculum to confor
m with a particular religious viewpoint. Therefore, the Act violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.


The Court found that the Act advanced a religious doctrine by requiring either banishment of the theory of evolution or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejected evolution in its entirety. The Act violated the Establishment Clause because it sought to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose.

  • Case Brief: 1987
  • Appellant: Edwards
  • Appellee: Aguillard
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 482 US 578 (1987)
Argued: Dec 10, 1986
Decided: Jun 19, 1987