On Sept. 11, 2001, David Ray Griffin believed that al Qaeda terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center.

Not anymore. Since then, the theologian and former college professor who will speak in Ashland on Thursday night has become the one of the foremost names in the 9-11 truth movement, the loose association of people who don’t believe the U.S. government’s account of what happened on 9/11.

"Prof. Griffin was initially very skeptical of claims of a major cover-up around 9/11," according to wanttoknow.info, a Web site that specializes in alternative theories to mainstream issues. "But in April of 2003, a trusted friend sent him an e-mail ... After exploring the [information] he became convinced of a major cover-up around 9/11."

Griffin will be in Southern Oregon University’s Britt Ballroom at 7 p.m. Thursday to present a lecture on what he, and others, believe really happened that fateful September morning. Tickets cost $10; $5 for students. The talk is entitled, "Debunking the 9/11 Debunking."

"Putting aside all of his work in theology, Prof. Griffin then devoted himself to writing ‘The New Pearl Harbor,’ a devastating book with detailed footnotes which systematically presents a powerful account questioning the official story of 9/11," according to wanttoknow.info.

Since that time, Griffin has authored five additional books on Sept. 11, from his theories on why planes could not have taken down the World Trade Center buildings, to how the religious community should react to the possibility of a government cover-up.

His supporters adamantly insist that he has debunked the U.S. government’s version of 9-11.

"Read Griffin’s books," said Ashland community activist John Fisher-Smith. "They are very conclusive."

Nancy Spencer, a retired musician living in Ashland, said, "I’m very impressed with his arguments."

Griffin believes there should be a full investigation into the events that transpired that day. In his books and lectures, he asserts that the U.S. government may be responsible for 9/11. He asserts that a number of facts and circumstantial evidence seem to point in that direction. Griffin believes the World Trade Center buildings were brought down by explosives planted in the towers prior to planes flying into them, ensuring their destruction.

"High-rise steel-frame buildings have never — before or after 9/11 — been caused to collapse by fire," he has said. "There were many features that suggest that the buildings were brought down deliberately through the method that’s known as controlled demolition."

The Washington Post dubbed Griffin, professor emeritus at Claremont University’s School of Theology, the leader of the "academic wing" of the 9-11 Truth Movement.

But he does have his detractors in the movement for more answers.

Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a left-leaning think tank, believes there should be a more thorough investigation of Sept. 11 that would likely lead to indictments of military and civilian officials. On the popular radio program Democracy Now!, he said Griffin tends to distort opinions and conjecture as facts and irrefutable truth.

"In the great cosmos of possibilities, many of the claims made by Professor Griffin are possible, but the way he presents them as facts is, I think, the problem," Berlet told host Amy Goodman. "There are a number of suppositions. There are a number of claims which have been made which he presents as facts which are easily refuted."

Griffin responded on the program, which aired on May 26, 2004, that he is not purporting to know what actually happened.

"I’m, rather, showing that [the mainstream] theory is full of problems," he said.Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or bplain@dailytidings.com.