by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 10, 2016) — Every year for the last 16 years, a small group of Dayton, TN citizens has commemorated December 15, Bill of Rights Day, with a banquet open to the public as seating is available.

“We’ve had preachers, leaders, and this year we have a mystery speaker,” said June Griffin, an ordained minister who launched and hosts the event on December 15 every year.

On Thursday, The Post & Email asked Griffin what catalyzed her to begin the banquet, to which she responded:

In 1991, which was the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, my friend in Drexel Hill, PA began inaugural banquets.  She was instrumental in getting Congress to make a big noise about it.  They brought in a replica of the Bill of Rights and the public was allowed to sign it.  I had my name signed to it.  It was a big deal.

After she stirred everybody up about it – she has ten home-schooled children and is a very patriotic lady – she began a banquet up there and gives an annual award for anyone who goes beyond the call of duty to exercise his or her Bill of Rights.  I was awarded the first four awards, and after so long of a time, I decided, ‘Why shouldn’t we have a Bill of Rights banquet here instead of going to Pennsylvania?”

I have urged everyone everywhere to start this banquet.  In this area, we have two or three every year.  We had one in Knoxville for a couple of years, but they didn’t keep it up last year.  There is one in Blount County, and this one in Dayton is Tennessee’s primary banquet.

Our Bill of Rights has been eclipsed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  We have a copy of Patrick Henry’s speech about why we need a Bill of rights.  He said that the Constitution is very dangerous and laced with tyranny unless we have a Bill of Rights.

That’s why it’s so important. We have raised up these banquets out of gratitude and to make people realize that our right to defend ourselves in court, your right to preach – it does not say “freedom of expression” – it says “freedom of speech.”  There’s a world of difference in waving your arms around or burning something and actually being able to express yourself, which is why we have education:  to be able to talk, as opposed to the heathen who make gurgling sounds or have to draw pictures.

We are eloquent, and Tennessee was known for its eloquence and was famous for its orators.  The ability to get up and say why you disagree with the government instead of, of all things, burning a flag or lying down in the street — we had the platform to speak.  We have an avenue of speech.

The other part of it is that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments give area jurisdiction where the people of that area have the right to vote for certain ordinances which do not overthrow the Constitution.  Local jurisdiction – the ordinances and statutes that a state passes – are a perfect interpretation of the Constitution.

The ACLU will never recognize the Ninth and Tenth Amendments; they only want to steal the first one.  But you have to take all ten:  the right to bear arms, the right to defend yourself in court, the right to guard your papers.  It’s a whole different government when you move away from the Bill of Rights, and we end up with a judicial tyranny which has run us into the ground since 1964.

Can anyone who would like to attend your banquet attend?

Yes, we reduced the price from $25.00 to $20.00.  We have steak and chicken, the finest, but I wanted to get it down because money is tight here and there.

We expect about 50 people, but we have room for more.  They can call me and I’ll get them a ticket.  It’s too late to write.

We want people to know that we don’t make money on this; it is not a fundraiser.  The money is for the caterer and the room.  It doesn’t cover all of our expenses; we take care of that ourselves.

Is there a website for the event?

No, I’ve never gotten into that; it’s just too complicated.

What does the dinnertime conversation consist of?  Do you discuss the Bill of Rights exclusively or divert to family, Christmas, etc.?

We pretty-much stick to the jeopardy that our Bill of Rights is in, someone who has exercised his Bill of Rights, or someone you know who might need help. The emphasis is life, liberty and property.

I am an ordained Wesleyan minister.  We discovered the history of Patrick Henry’s sister.  She was a Methodist preacher, and she laid her hands on James Madison.  On one side was Patrick Henry; on the other was James Madison.

I have a special blessing as an American to be able to preach.  I’m a Wesleyan in doctrine; we call ourselves “American Bible Protestant.”  I opened and closed the Tennessee Bicentennial in Washington in 1996.  I prayed the Senate prayer in Nashville on February 13, 2013.  I’m a chaplain of a local department.

I am totally opposed to the Women’s Movement, because it’s a slavery movement.  Women have the greatest blessing in the Bill of Rights because you cannot stop a person from being able to express what’s in their soul, particularly through music. So we have much good music:  hymns, patriotic music, military music.

The Bill of Rights is a strong arm of liberty.  We have three keys to Americanism:  the Ten Commandments, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.

Thou shall not covet…” covers all your property rights.  Those Ten Commandments not only apply to individuals; they apply to government.  It’s just a great thing that we have that the enemies of liberty have tried to steal.

It’s an American document — as my husband calls it, it’s “downright American.”

Griffin suggested during the interview that more Americans organize their own Bill of Rights banquets, which can take place in a restaurant, alternative venue or in a private home.  “Bring a dish,” she suggested for a pot luck dinner.  “Make sure you make copies of the Bill of Rights for everyone.  We read them aloud.  We always have a person read an amendment, and then all of us say, ‘And all the people said “Amen.””

Anyone wishing to attend the Dayton Bill of Rights Banquet can call June Griffin at 423-428-9111 or 423-775-0774 for a ticket and directions.  Seating will be at 5:30 p.m.

The Post & Email will be speaking with Griffin after the banquet to obtain her impressions of this year’s event.


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