The Evolution Controversy in North Carolina in the 1920s

[Source description: "Anti-Evolution Bill Fails of Committee O.K." Charlotte Observer, February 11, 1925 pp. 1, 13. Republished with permission of The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer. About this source.]

Charlotte Observer, February 11, 1925

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Excerpts from the article:

ANTI-EVOLUTION BILL FAILS OF COMMITTEE O.K.

Proponents Will Take Measure to House On Minority Report.

HEARING VERY SPIRITED

President Chase and State College Professors Lead in Argument Against Poole Bill.

RALEIGH, Feb. 10. -- (By the Associated Press). -- With the house committee on education, to which the measure was referred early in the session, tied, Chairman Connor early tonight cast the deciding vote which will return the Poole "evolution" bill with an unfavorable report. Members of the committee stated following the committee meeting that, notwithstanding this, they would bring the bill up on a minority report and make their fight for its passage on the floor of the house.

The hearing was in the hall of the house of representatives. The galleries were packed and all available space was taken by interested spectators. . . .

Chase and Others Heard

Dr. H. W. Chase, president of the University of North Carolina, Professor Metcalf, head of the department of sociology at the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and engineering, and Prof. B. W. Wells of the department of botany at the same institution, were among the principal speakers against the passage of the bill.

At times the debate was sharp.

The chief spokesman for the proponents of the bill, outside of committee members, was Rev. J. R. Pentuff, pastor of McGill Street Baptist church, of Concord. He discussed Darwinism and declared that it is inconsistent with orthodox Christianity.

"Christianity a Myth."

Representative Poole, patron of the bill, declared that he could produce affidavits supporting the statement of a young man who entered the North Carolina A. & E. college last year and did not return because "a professor told the young men that the Bible was a myth and the Christian religion a superstition." The representative stated that the young man informed him that this professor said that the Christian religion was accepted "just like Santa Claus."

Representative Madison declared that evolution is being taught in some of the public schools of the state and that he was prepared to prove it.

Dr. Chase began by stating that he was not a student of biology, but that he did think something ought to be said on "the other side." He asked: "Why should it be unlawful to teach in the week what is not unlawful to preach from the pulpits on the Sabbath day?" He declared that even Christianity has suffered because of some of its over zealous advocates; that all great causes have so suffered. Men like Gallileo were persecuted, he said, and declared that the Catholic church in Gallileo's time thought his doctrine to be worse than a denial of the incarnation of doubting the Holy Trinity.

He declared that under the constitution men and women are guaranteed the right of free speech; that the freedom of the press should remain unabridged, and asked if the constitution meant to say that everybody should have the right of free speech except school teachers.

Dr. Chase was asked if he thought teachers had the right to teach atheism and to this he replied that this was a matter of conscience . . . .


About this Source:

Although the resolution proposed by Poole would condemn the teaching of evolution in all North Carolina's state-supported schools, much of the debate focused on teaching in the state universities. Some faculty members were singled out for the purportedly anti-religious teaching, and, in response, university faculty were the most outspoken opponents of the resolution. After Harry Woodburn Chase, President of the University of North Carolina, testified at the hearing described in this article, he became a frequent target of the anti-evolutionists, and was the subject of many critical articles and letters to the editor in the months that followed.

While the debate described in this article resulted in an unfavorable report on the Poole resolution, it was evidence of the divide within the legislature and the strong feelings that North Carolinians on both sides of this issue held.

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