Edwards v. Aguillard

LOCATION: Louisiana General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 85-1513
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 578 (1987)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1986
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1987

Jay Topkis - Argued the cause for the appellees
Wendell R. Bird - Argued the cause for the appellants

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.


Did the Louisiana law, which mandated the teaching of "creation science" along with the theory of evolution, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Edwards v. Aguillard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1986 in Edwards v. Aguillard

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments first this morning in No. 85-1513, Edwards against Aguillard.

Mr. Bird, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Wendell R. Bird:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is an appeal from an 8-7 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

It involves a facial Constitutional challenge to Louisiana's law for balanced treatment of creation science and evolution in public schools.

That law defines evolution as scientific evidences supporting evolution, and inferences from those scientific evidences.

In parallel, it defines creation science as scientific evidences supporting creation, and inferences from those scientific evidences.

The State today hopes to address two key questions: first, the procedural question of the material factual issues, and particularly, the uncontroverted affidavits, which must be addressed in order to apply the tripart test, and which preclude summary judgment; and then, second, the Constitutional question, particularly of the abundant evidence in the record of a secular purpose, although not an exclusively secular purpose, we concede.

I'll mention the relevant facts in connection with each of these two major issues.

The first major question is the procedural question which the State believes should be decisive.

The decision under review contradicts the unquestioned procedural rule for summary judgment regarding uncontradicted affidavits and material factual issues, as the seven dissenting judges acknowledged.

The uncontroverted factual issues of the State--

Byron R. White:

Well, this wasn't really an en banc decision, was it?

Wendell R. Bird:

--No, sir, it wasn't.

It was denial of rehearing en banc.

And in fact, the eight judge majority did not enter a written opinion.

It simply affirmed; in effect, denied rehearing of the three-judge opinion.

Seven judges disagreed very strongly.

The uncontroverted affidavits--

John Paul Stevens:

Of course, they just said the case should be reheard en banc.

Wendell R. Bird:


Yes, Your Honor, that's correct.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Disagreers always disagree very strongly.


Wendell R. Bird:

And in this case, they certainly upheld that tradition.

The uncontroverted affidavits of the State on factual issues erroneously were not taken as true or admitted for purposes of summary judgment and appeal.

The other factual issues raised by the State in its Brandeis memorandum of 630 pages, with nearly 2,000 citations, were not viewed in the most favorable light, like the affidavits, and in fact, were hardly given credence at all.

They certainly weren't accepted as true for purposes of summary judgment.

The facts in regard to this procedural issue are that the State filed affidavits by creationist and evolutionist scientists; by a creationist philosopher; an evolutionist theologian; and a creationist educator.

They were not only Protestants, but two Roman Catholics and one agnostic.