On the courthouse lawn, two workmen discuss what to do about the “Read Your Bible!” banner. One of them says they should leave it up. Brady walks up, followed by a crowd of reporters, all of them except Hornbeck taking notes. A British reporter asks Brady his opinion of Drummond. Brady admits that the two of them were once friends and that Drummond supported his 1908 presidential campaign. He counters that even if is own brother, much less Drummond, were challenging popular belief in the Bible, that would not stop him from standing up for his beliefs.
Brady dismisses the reporters and then strikes up conversation with Hornbeck. Brady calls Hornbeck’s reporting biased, and Hornbeck responds that he writes as a critic, not an objective reporter. Brady invites Hornbeck to Reverend Brown’s prayer meeting, and Hornbeck says he won’t miss it. Hornbeck walks off, and Reverend Brown, escorting Mrs. Brady, approaches Brady. After some chit-chat, Reverend Brown strikes up the prayer meeting sternly from the podium. Drummond enters and receives glares from the preacher. To quick response from the crowd, Reverend Brown runs through the story of God’s creation of the world as told in the Book of Genesis. Rachel enters in the midst of the crescendo of call and response.
As Reverend Brown’s back-and-forth oration with the crowd reaches a frenzied pitch, the preacher asks the crowd if they curse and cast out the man who denies the story of Genesis, referring to Cates by pointing at the jail. The crowd responds furiously, which causes Rachel to shake. Reverend Brown asks the crowd if they should pray for God to bring his hellfire down on Cates. He goes further, comparing Cates to the Pharaohs and asking for “his soul [to] writhe in anguish and damnation.” Rachel interrupts and asks her father to stop condemning Cates. Reverend Brown calls out for the Lord to punish those who want to forgive Cates.
Brady, who has been growing uncomfortable with Reverend Brown’s sermon, interrupts. He cautions Reverend Brown and suggests that the preacher should not try to “destroy that which you hope to save.” Brady quotes the book of Proverbs and reminds the crowd of the Christian message of forgiveness before dismissing them. The crowd leaves, singing “Go, Tell It On the Mountain.”
After the crowd is gone, Brady approaches Drummond. Reminding Drummond of their former friendship, Brady asks why Drummond has abandoned him. Drummond replies, “All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away—by standing still.” These words surprise Brady, and after a moment of startled silence, he walks backward offstage, leaving Drummond alone.
The fundamentalist and evolutionist factions in the play come into starker conflict in this scene. Whereas Drummond’s compassion for Rachel at the end of Act I delineates kindness as the mark of an open mind, the events of the prayer meeting thrust us back to the fundamentalist perspective. By constantly shifting between these perspectives, Inherit the Wind works as dramatic theater, presenting one confrontation after another.