There has been a lot of confusion over the question of taxpayer funding for Rock Beyond Belief, so let me clear it up. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze website says the government agreed to give a lot of money to help put on the festival at Ft. Bragg:
The purpose was not to make the Army look bad, organizers said, but to show that atheists and other secular believers have a place in institutions like the military. As The Blaze reported last year, the Army agreed to give $50,000 toward the event following atheists’ protests over military sponsorship of a Christian concert put on by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association…
A concert that was planned last year fell apart after a dispute between organizers and the base leadership over questions such as location. Saturday’s gathering was made possible in part by $70,000 in donations from the Raleigh-based Stiefel Freethought Foundation, whose founder, Todd Stiefel, said he hopes the Army ultimately decides that its role doesn’t include events like Rock Beyond Belief and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-sponsored concert that prompted it.
“I would like this to be the last one of these events,” Stiefel said, arguing that the government shouldn’t have any role in hosting events geared towards religious belief or lack of it.
So let’s be clear. The government didn’t actually give any money to the event; the $50,000 is an estimate (and I’m told that’s too high) of the cost of the extra security that is put in place any time a bunch of non-soldiers are allowed on the highly secure base for an event. All of the money for transportation and accommodations for the speakers and the other related costs of putting on the event were paid out of private funds.
And remember, it was Ft. Bragg who invited us to hold the event by saying that they only allowed the Christian event a couple years because they have a limited public forum policy. This works exactly the same way any other public property works. If the local city hall is available to community groups to host rallies and such, they have to allow all events regardless of the viewpoint being expressed. And even though it may cost taxpayer money to provide police protection to a large gathering of people, that is the cost of the First Amendment and the government cannot refuse to provide that protection or charge one group for it but not another.
Like Dispatches on Facebook: