The first Rhea County billboard, from the Freedom from Religion Foundation
In the same county of Tennessee where the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial debating evolution was held, the controversial topic has been raised again: this time in a battle of competing billboards.
The first shot was fired by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which installed a billboard on U.S. Highway 27 entering Rhea County, Tenn., reading “Praise Darwin – Evolve beyond belief,” commemorating the father of evolutionary theory Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.
But Rhea County is the home of Dayton, Tenn., where the Scopes Trial was held, and Bryan College, named after William Jennings Bryan, who argued successfully in the famous court case that teaching evolution was a crime under Tennessee law in 1925.
Now one Dayton mother has taken offense at the FFRF billboard and successfully invited other Rhea County residents to fund a billboard of their own.
“We’re supposed to lie down and take it and say, ‘Jesus loves you,'” argued June Griffin, spearhead of the counter-Darwin billboard campaign. “Well this is payback time.”
The response billboard from June Griffin and other Rhea County residents
Griffin told WND she spoke with other upset Tennesseans who gladly gave $300 or $500 donations toward erecting a billboard – also on U.S. Highway 27 – which was unveiled this morning and reads, “Evolutionists come from monkeys.”
“Organizations like Freedom from Religion and the ACLU – they’ve taken over the courts and the schools; they run that philosophy out there night and day so they can promote their god, Darwin,” Griffin told WND. “We’re not going to be run over any more.”
Griffin further told WND that she considers herself “the meanest woman in Tennessee” and that her group plans on unveiling another, even more flagrant billboard tomorrow.
Her goal, she said, was for the controversy to awaken people to how Darwinists use taxpayer money to support legal and educational enforcement of their doctrine.
“I’m speaking not only as a Christian,” Griffin said, “but as a taxpayer.
“Chattanooga State [Technical Community College], for instance, is having a whole evolution month, and they have these little captive students that have to sit down there and listen to this,” Griffin told WND. “Well, who’s paying the bills? Let their own god fund them, and get out of the tax pot.”
Griffin’s daughter-in-law Stacy Griffin told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that June’s ability to so quickly raise the money for billboards is indicative of how Rhea County residents feel about the issue.
“They’re a God-fearing people and they want to defend God and the Bible,” said Stacy. “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.”
FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Free Press that the organization didn’t expect a battle of billboards, but the competition doesn’t worry them.
“It’s a free country,” Gaylor said, “and I would rather this battle be fought on billboards than in our schools.”
As WND reported, the FFRF’s billboards have sparked billboard battles in other communities as well.
Ray Comfort’s billboard project counters atheist campaign
Best-selling author and TV host Ray Comfort, author of a new title by WND Books, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think,” also reacted to the Darwin billboards with a billboard of his own above the Interstate 105 spur near Los Angeles International Airport, and he’s mobilizing believers to put one up in their own town.
Comfort has devised two billboard designs that feature Darwin, which he makes freely available through his website, Pull the Plug on Atheism.
The text of one design declares: “Atheist: “Someone who believes that nothing made everything. A scientific impossibility!” The other states: “Evolution has done to science what hypocrisy has done to religion.”
His new book takes readers into the heart of his ongoing dialogue with skeptics, with questions and answers from his blog, Atheist Central. At his website Pull the Plug on Atheism, readers can find articles that “expose atheism for the foolishness that it is,” Comfort says.
FFRF describes itself as a “state-church watchdog and the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics, with more than 13,000 members.”
Foundation co-president Gaylor said in a statement soliciting donations that her group would be “delighted to take our pro-Darwin message around the country, especially where the Darwin vs. dogma debate still rages.”
In Rhea County, Tenn., however, Gaylor can expect the debate to be heated.
“We’re not taking it anymore,” June Griffin told WND. “These billboards are from Christian people who say, ‘We’ve had enough.'”