Saturday, July 14, 2007


Raising Doubts

Tuesday, July 14, 1925

A powerful storm, which some visiting reporters jokingly attributed to divine displeasure with Darrow's speech, had disrupted the town's power and water on Monday night. As a result, Raulston had not finished preparing his ruling on the motion to quash the indictment. He needed a few more hours. In the meantime, the only official business before the court consisted of the opening prayer. To highlight its contention that the case raised a religious question, and thereby to underscore its establishment clause argument, the defense now formally objected to public prayer in the courtroom. "When it is claimed by the state that there is a conflict between science and religion," Darrow stated, "there should be no . . . attempt by means of prayer . . . to influence the deliberations." Ben McKenzie defended the practice by citing a state supreme court decision that permitted voluntary prayer by jurors. Darrow responded by drawing a modern-day distinction between public and private religion: "I do not object to the jury or anyone else paying in secret or private, but I do object to the turning of this courtroom into a meeting house."

- Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods

Stewart would not tolerate this. He harshly denied that the case involved any conflict between science and religion. It was entirely proper to open court with prayer, and the devout people of Tennessee would have no sympathy with the objections made by "the agnostic counsel for the defense." He said the word "agnostic" in a tone razored with insult. Darrow shrugged and shook his head as he smiled at Stewart ...

- Ray Ginger, Six Days or Forever?


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