Chattanooga Times Free Press

Day­ton ac­tivist plans ‘war’ against statue

- BY BEN BEN­TON STAFF WRITER Society · Dayton, Tennessee · Tennessee · Pennsylvania · Rhea County · Oklahoma · Texas · American Humanist Association · William Jennings Bryan · South Carolina · John T. Scopes

DAY­TON, Tenn. — Clarence Dar­row prob­a­bly could not have drawn a more pas­sion­ate op­po­nent in post-Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan­era Day­ton than June Grif­fin, a long­time ac­tivist who fought to post the Ten Com­mand­ments in 88 of Ten­nessee’s 95 county court­houses.

Grif­fin, 78, is no stranger to con­tro­versy or the spot­light, and she sees this as a bat­tle be­tween good and evil.

On July 14, a statue of Dar­row by Penn­syl­va­nia sculp­tor Zenos Fru­dakis will be ded­i­cated on the Rhea County Court­house lawn. It will stand op­po­site a statue of Bryan, his 1925 Scopes “Mon­key” Trial neme­sis, erected in 2005.

Day­ton is the site of the fa­mous trial in which a teacher was pros­e­cuted for teach­ing evo­lu­tion in Ten­nessee schools. Bryan pros­e­cuted John T. Scopes, and Dar­row de­fended the teacher. The town holds an an­nual fes­ti­val ded­i­cated to the event that be­came a spec­ta­cle fol­lowed around the world.

The Dar­row statue project was paid for in part from money raised by the Amer­i­can Hu­man­ist As­so­ci­a­tion,

a non­the­is­tic or­ga­ni­za­tion that strives “to bring about a pro­gres­sive so­ci­ety where be­ing good with­out a god is an ac­cepted and re­spected way to live life,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site. Of­fi­cials said the as­so­ci­a­tion it­self did not pro­vide fund­ing, but col­lected it un­der its tax-ex­empt sta­tus as a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Grif­fin, a pas­tor of the Amer­i­can Bible Protes­tant Church, ve­he­mently ob­jects to Dar­row’s pres­ence at the court­house in any form.

“I op­pose it be­cause it doesn’t be­long there. That is sa­cred ter­ri­tory, where peo­ple from all over the world came to see these id­iots that didn’t be­lieve that God cre­ated the world and man,” Grif­fin said last week at her store in North Day­ton. “They came from Ok­la­homa, Texas, in wag­ons. They trav­eled to see such a strange crea­ture that would not be­lieve the Bible.”

In a state­ment, Hu­man­ist As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Roy Speck­hardt said Dar­row’s “con­tri­bu­tions to science ed­u­ca­tion [have] left a last­ing legacy to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

“By hon­or­ing him with a statue out­side the Rhea County Court­house next to the statue of Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan, we hope to show a more com­plete and bal­anced per­spec­tive on the trial that also re­spects Dar­row’s mem­ory,” Speck­hardt said.

Grif­fin said if Rhea Coun­tians had a chance to vote on the statue and voted yes, she’d ac­cede to the will of the peo­ple.

Un­til then she wants to de­bate Dar­row sup­port­ers pub­licly, face to face, she said.

“No lawyers,” she said, “only per­sonal con­fronta­tion. En­gage them in the de­bate right there.”

If not that, she said, the hu­man­ists should have to de­fend them­selves in court, with­out lawyers, who she says feed on tax­payer money and have no con­cern for peo­ple’s rights.

And bar­ring that, Grif­fin sug­gests the as­so­ci­a­tion form its own mili­tia.

“If worst comes to worst, I will chal­lenge them to meet us in their uni­forms at King’s Moun­tain, just like John Se­vier did, and we’ll set­tle it over there,” Grif­fin said. Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, Se­vier led pa­tri­ots to bat­tle against loy­al­ist mili­tias in South Carolina.

Hu­man­ist as­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cials said via email they would re­view the claims of any law­suit Grif­fin brought. Re­gard­ing Grif­fin’s sug­gested mili­tia face-off at King’s Moun­tain, spokes­woman Mag­gie Ardiente said, “We find it deeply dis­turb­ing that Ms. Grif­fin would re­sort to vi­o­lence to re­solve this mat­ter.”

“We doubt that Ms. Grif­fin’s suit would have much, if any, valid le­gal ground­ing. Un­til she files for­mally in court, we ex­pect plans to erect the statue to move for­ward,” Ardiente said.

Clarence Dar­row was a cen­tral fig­ure in the Scopes trial, she said.

“There would be no trial with­out both Dar­row and Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan. In­clud­ing a statue of him is his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate and the right thing to do,” Ardiente said.

The sit­u­a­tion is un­usual for the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“We’ve never seen plans to erect a valid his­tor­i­cal statue at­tacked,” Ardiente said.

She said the Dar­row statue is in­tended to por­tray an “ac­cu­rate his­tor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion” for Rhea County res­i­dents and un­der­line “the im­por­tance of science ed­u­ca­tion in our public schools.”

The statue plan was ap­proved and sup­ported lo­cally, ac­cord­ing to Ros­alie Fru­dakis, busi­ness part­ner of the Dar­row statue sculp­tor.

“Ap­provals were granted by county of­fi­cials, lo­cal of­fi­cials and the [Rhea County] His­tor­i­cal [and Ge­nealog­i­cal] So­ci­ety,” she said, adding that she also ap­pre­ci­ated the sup­port of the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“We’ve never seen plans to erect a valid his­tor­i­cal statue at­tacked.” – MAG­GIE ARDIENTE

 ?? STAFF PHOTO BY BEN BEN­TON ?? June Grif­fin talks Wed­nes­day about her strong op­po­si­tion to the in­stal­la­tion of a statue of 1925 Scopes Trial lawyer Clarence Dar­row at the Rhea County Court­house this sum­mer. Grif­fin, a con­ser­va­tive politi­cal ac­tivist and min­is­ter, says the Dar­row...
STAFF PHOTO BY BEN BEN­TON June Grif­fin talks Wed­nes­day about her strong op­po­si­tion to the in­stal­la­tion of a statue of 1925 Scopes Trial lawyer Clarence Dar­row at the Rhea County Court­house this sum­mer. Grif­fin, a con­ser­va­tive politi­cal ac­tivist and min­is­ter, says the Dar­row...

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