In July of 1925, the Tennessee school system charged John T. Scopes with violating the Butler Act, a Tennessee statute that forbade teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in any state-funded school. The trial was intended to be a public debate on the controversial issue, with the defense of Scopes, who agreed to incriminate himself, financed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan argued the case for the prosecution, and the illustrious attorney Clarence Darrow provided the defense. The Bible-quoting presiding judge, John Raulston, whose actions tended to favor the prosecution, ruled out all of the arguments made by the defense.
One argument involved the use of expert witnesses to attest to a theistic version of evolution which was compatible with both science and religion. However, the defense teams's essential argument was that the Butler Act itself was unconstitutional, both on the grounds of violating Scopes's academic freedom of speech and in its conflict with the idea that education had a "legislative duty to cherish science."
During his celebrated cross-examination of Bryan as an expert witness on the Bible, Darrow used some of its more mythological and unscientific content to demonstrate why such a book was completely unsuitable as a source of scientific authority.
At the conclusion of the trial, Scopes was found guilty of having violated the Butler Law and was sentenced to pay a $100 fine, although the fine was reversed on appeal.
According to the narrow letter of the law, Scopes was correctly judged guilty. However, the Butler Law itself, which prevented a proven scientific theory from being taught, should never have existed.