Rock Beyond Belief

On September 25, 2010, thousands of Christians gathered in the military base at Fort Bragg to celebrate “Rock the Fort,” an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelical Assocation as part of the military’s Spiritual Fitness initiative. The event involved a full line-up of speakers and musicians and had to goal of converting as many people to Christianity as possible. Afterwards, there were reports of as many as five hundred conversions on stage.

More importantly, the event was funded by more than $54,000 of taxpayer money and directly sponsored by Fort Bragg’s Religious Support Office. Each piece of advertisement contained official Fort Bragg contact information, and press releases were on Fort Bragg letterhead. The event was also publicized through official Fort Bragg emails from the Public Affairs Office.

Okay. You might think you know where this is going. We atheists are very upset about this, so we kick and scream all the way, right?

Well, a very hard-working group of volunteers decided to put together a new event called “Rock Beyond Belief.” The event includes speakers like Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, our very own Hemant Mehta, musician Roy Zimmerman, and many many others. Yes, it was going to be a huge event at Fort Bragg, but with a leaner budget (only $42,000). To make this event possible, the organizers were counting on promises from Fort Bragg officials for “equal treatment” and “a similar level of support” as well as large donations from groups like the Stiefel Freethought Foundation.

Up until a few days ago, things were going great. Then Fort Bragg officials suddenly decided to rescind their pledge to support this event. Instead, the organizers of Rock Beyond Belief were instructed to put a disclaimer on their advertisements saying that the event was not associated with Fort Bragg. They were also approved for a whopping zero dollars.

Basically, Fort Bragg spent $54,000 of our tax money on a huge Christian rock party, as well as considerable resources sponsoring and advertising for it directly. But when a secular group comes along and asks for a similar deal, they are told to not even to associate themselves with Fort Bragg and to go find their own money.

Here’s what I want to see happen next:

1) Sue the hell out of them. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), along with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has already agreed to litigate. Full speed ahead.

2) Have the event. There are thousands of atheists in the military, tens of millions of nonbelievers in the U.S., and hundreds of millions around the world. And I have to admit, we are on average a pretty wealthy/successful group of people. You don’t think we can find $50,000 in a couple weeks?

For inspiration, I encourage you to look on the website of MRFF. They are a very important advocacy and support group, especially for atheists serving in the U.S. military.

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Posted on March 5, 2011, in Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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