Why did many people in Tennessee support the Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution? (Read each source below, then answer the questions in the notebook. Ask your teacher for an inquiry organizer worksheet to help you think about the ways that the sources support and contradict each other.)


READ: Sparks Letter to the Editor

Head Note: Many citizens wrote letters to Tennesseeís newspapers in response to the Butler Act. Below is an excerpt from a letter written by a parent.

Editor of the Nashville Tennessean:

At the time the bill prohibiting the teaching of evolution in our public schools was passed by our legislature I could not see why the mothers in greater number were not conveying their appreciation to the members for this act of safeguarding their children from one of the destructive forces which . . . will destroy our civilization. I for one felt grateful for their standing for the right against all criticism. And grateful, too, that we have a Christian man for governor who will defend the Word of God against this so-called science. . . .

The Bible tells us that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the church. Therefore we know there will always be standard-bearers for the cross of Christ. But in these times of materialism I am constrained to thank God deep down in my heart for . . . every . . . one whose voice is raised for the uplift of humanity and the coming of Godís kingdom.

Mrs. Jesse Sparks

Pope, Tennessee
Source: Mrs. Jesse Sparks, letter to the editor, Nashville Tennessean, July 3, 1925.

USE THE NOTEBOOK (instructions):


These definitions should help with reading comprehension.

  • standard-bearers: people who set an example for others to follow
  • materialism: devotion to material wealth and possessions


Listen to Historian Mike O'Malley discuss the role of materialism in the culture of the 1920s.

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