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In sermon, central Arkansas judge says he opposes events commemorating Central High integration

By Emma Pettit

This article was originally published September 18, 2017 at 5:11 p.m. Updated September 19, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Judge Wendell L. Griffen during a press conference at the Doubletree Hotel Little Rock Wednesday, April 26, 2017.


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Baptist minister and Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen urged churchgoers not to pay “lip service” to Little Rock School District-sponsored events that will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Central High School’s integration.

Griffen posted a sermon he delivered to the New Millennium Church on his personal blog early Monday. In the post titled "Justice is a verb!," Griffen cited biblical scripture about King Nebuchadnezzar, who constructed icons made of gold and told people to worship them. But three young Hebrews — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — refused and were fed to a fire, Griffen wrote.

By doing so, the judge said, the youths “show us what it means to be faithful to God for people challenged by others who believe in the supremacy of their notions of Empire.”

Griffen likened the Bible passage to the 1957 Little Rock Central High School crisis, when nine black students “bravely became pioneers for desegregation in public education” and defied Gov. Orval Faubus, who deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support segregationists.

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The judge added that the Little Rock School District has been on a path destined for resegregation for decades.

His posting was reported on first by the Arkansas Times.

To mark 60 years since the school's desegregation, a slew of events have been scheduled. Those events include a sculpture dedication, a concert and a panel in which the eight surviving members of the Little Rock Nine will be reunited.

In his sermon, Griffen said it's good that the surviving members will come together. But he opposed the festivities, saying: “We will not dress up and attend events designed to portray Little Rock and Arkansas as a progressive city and state.

“We will not lend our moral authority to ceremonies designed to pimp the commitment of L.C. and Daisy Bates, the Little Rock 9 and their families, and the other prophetic revolutionaries who defied segregation and white supremacy when schools that serve black and brown neighborhoods in Little Rock are being closed,” he added.

In closing, Griffen wrote, “we will not be fooled” or “bribed by trinkets, titles, jobs, photo opportunities and perks.”

The judge was sanctioned in April from hearing any cases involving the death penalty after he participated in a protest on the subject. Griffen has defended his actions and filed a complaint against the state Supreme Court.

Independent counsel was hired to assess the case.

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Comments on: In sermon, central Arkansas judge says he opposes events commemorating Central High integration

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Tigermule says... September 18, 2017 at 5:36 p.m.

Not getting enough attention lately, Griff?

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DoubleBlind says... September 18, 2017 at 6:48 p.m.

Griffen is neither jurist nor spiritual leader. He's an attention seeking, race baiting hate monger; the last thing LR or the African American community needs. He should be rejected by all in favor of cooler heads with ideas and ideals to bring people together rather than driving the wedge even deeper. Yes, there are deep racial issues in LR, across AR and beyond. Disprespecing the LR9, their struggles and strength is despicable.

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Delta2 says... September 18, 2017 at 7:41 p.m.

Is his church a nonprofit? Politics in the pulpit, anyone?

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Marks says... September 18, 2017 at 7:59 p.m.

I am so tired of this guy. He does not understand or refuses to abide by the doctrine of an "unbiased judge". If he wants to be a social activist, he needs to leave the bench. There should be a way to remove him from office for good.

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PopulistMom says... September 18, 2017 at 8:29 p.m.

One of the problems with black advancement in Little Rock is this idea that blacks need white kids sitting next to them in the classroom. They don't. They need the best teachers, stricter standards, and longer hours in the classroom. Many schools across the country have proven that blacks can achieve at high levels if they work hard enough. The LRSD and/or the charter schools need to give them the tools to achieve. If the schools are good enough, white people will flock back. I know I sound like a broken record, but whites and Asians will choose to go to high schools in minority neighborhoods in Montgomery County, Maryland if those schools have special programs. Blacks in Little Rock need to assist the black youth in obtaining higher educational attainment and stop blaming whites for everything. The black teen jeopardy Champion from Little Rock who is attending Brown University spent his days studying and not worrying about what the lazy, privileged rich white kids in western Little Rock were doing.

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dvc72120 says... September 18, 2017 at 8:31 p.m.

Very sad he feels that way.

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Tigermule says... September 18, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.

popmom,

You made some valid points, but the comment about kids in west LR are uncalled for and inappropriate. Reduces the worthiness of your contribution to the discussion.

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DoubleBlind says... September 18, 2017 at 9:53 p.m.

If any 1 of the remaining 8 declined to participate in the 60yr observances in protest I would feel very differently. I would consider their protest seriously; they earned their bona fides unlike Griffen. Because all have agreed to participate - especially in the panel discussion and NOT just celebration - Griffen's position is all the more reprehensible. He should take a page from their dignified participation.

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arkateacher54 says... September 18, 2017 at 10:03 p.m.

Griffen's a Baptist? Well, the devil probably is too.

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PopulistMom says... September 19, 2017 at 6:38 a.m.

Tigermule,

You are right. Not every kid who lives in western Little Rock is spoiled and privileged. The best thing that every happened to me was to leave that lifestyle of summers at the pool at Pleasant Valley and go live with my Dad. I needed to work hard at Burger King and learn the value of a dollar. I am afraid that my children do not understand the value of a dollar and it scares me. Children can be handicapped by having too much in their youth. I have not been strict enough. It is hard to be strict when their father spends so much money, and I don't feel that I can stop his spending when he works so hard for it.

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