Evolution Conflict

Background Information

Another issue brought an even nastier conflict between religion, education, and politics. During the year when the Scopes trial in Tennessee gripped national attention, anti-evolution forces sought legislation to prohibit the teaching of the Darwinian theory in the public schools of North Carolina. Governor Morrison had banned the use of two textbooks, and in 1925 Representative D. Scott Poole, a Hoke County editor, drew support from most Protestant groups when he introduced the bill.

During the debates, however, Harry Woodburn Chase and William Louis Poteat, presidents, respectively, of the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest College, argued that the issue was not creationism or evolution but rather the right of free inquiry. Schools, they argued, should create inquiring minds so that each student could draw his or her own conclusions based on the evidence available. When the bill came to a vote in the house, twenty of twenty-three former Wake Forest students voted in the negative, and the Poole bill was defeated 67 to 46. Ironically, the Baptists, considered the most conservative of the major sects, had made the difference.

From North Carolina Illustrated, by H. G. Jones (copyright
1983, by the North Caroliniana Society).