Rhea residents plan roadside response to 'Darwin' board

Rhea residents plan roadside response to 'Darwin' board

February 11th, 2009 by Andy Johns in Local Regional News

June Griffin quotes the gospel song "Getting Even with the Devil" when she explains why she and other Rhea County residents are putting up two billboards.

She and others have raised funds to lease space on two billboards to display their response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's "Praise Darwin" billboard installed in Rhea County about two weeks ago.

"The people of Rhea County are indignant," said Mrs. Griffin, a Dayton resident. "It's payback time."

Mrs. Griffin wouldn't reveal what the boards will say or where they will be installed, but she said the first one should be unveiled Friday.

"It will be large and nice," she said.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation leased a billboard on U.S. Highway 27 near the Hamilton-Rhea County line. Group leaders said they posted the sign in Rhea County, home of the Scopes Monkey Trial, to commemorate Charles Darwin's 200th birthday Thursday.

Ms. Griffin said raising money was easy because many people were upset by the pro-Darwin board. She wouldn't name any donors but said some funding came from political action groups including the Defenders of the Faith, Tennessee Minutewomen and Citizen Soldiers for the Atomic Bomb.

Ms. Griffin's daughter-in-law Stacy Griffin, who founded the counterprotest Citizen Soldiers group, said the speed of the donations says a lot about Rhea County residents.

"They're a God-fearing people and they want to defend God and the Bible," said the Evensville resident.

"You're not going to come in and praise other gods while you put us on the back burner and make us take our Bibles and our Ten Commandments from our schools," she said.

Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said her group did not expect response boards but didn't have a problem with the Griffins' efforts.

"It's a free country, and I would rather this battle be fought on billboards than in our schools," she said.

The foundation's other boards in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado have not met such vocal objections, she said.

"I would anticipate it might not be a very tactful response," she added.