‘Monkey trial’ controversy revisited over statute at Rhea County courthouse

June Griffin, veteran Christian conservative activist perhaps best known for leading a generally successful crusade to post the Ten Commandments on Tennessee courthouses, is now leading opposition to plans to erect a statute of Clarence Darrow at the Rhea County courthouse, reports the Times-Free Press.

Memory refresher: In the famous 1925 “Monkey Trial” at the courthouse in Dayton, Darrow was the defense lawyer for John Thomas Scopes, a teacher who was convicted of violating state law that, at the time, prohibited the teaching of evolution (a conviction overturned on appeal). There’s already a statute at the courthouse of William Jennings Bryan, who served as lead prosecutor.

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… erected in 2005.

…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.

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