Rock Beyond Belief and Taxpayer Funds

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.

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  • eric

    the government cannot refuse to provide that protection or charge one group for it but not another

    I’m sure the government could’ve chosen not to provide extra security staff for either event. It would’ve just been unwise. The second part of your statement is the crux of the matter: they can’t selectively charge for that security based on the position of the event-holders.

  • Justin Griffith

    For the evangelical Christian “Rock the Fort @ Fort Bragg 2010”:

    Billy Graham’s dollars:

    $$$ ??? amount unknown: only had to cover the stage, flights and honorariums for their own people. I’ve heard ’50 grand’ thrown around, but no figures have ever been produced.

    Taxpayer dollars:

    -$30,000 in security costs

    -Undisclosed insurance costs (ours was $2300… they might not have had any, an even scarier violation)

    -Undisclosed costs of jet fuel, insecticide for the massive parade field, various other logistical concerns

    – The salaries of dozens of high-ranking chaplains and similar DoD employees. Many of whom worked on it as an official duty for nearly a year.

    Not taxpayer money, but illegally raised on-post:

    – Everything else… (food, supplies, hotels, vans, advertising in newspapers and radio, etc…)

    – The regulation (JE 3-211) specifically bans them from fundraising on post, but they claim to have done exactly this in an overwhelming and institutionalized way at every chapel on base, every weekend, for several months prior to their event.

    – I first came across this regulation while looking at THEIR paperwork. It was in a section called “regulations that apply to this event.” So they knowingly violated it.

    – Same regulation bans them from proselytizing (no membership drives are permitted.)

    – Same regulation was applied to us in a very stiff manner. We couldn’t even collect canned food at the atheist event for homeless veterans (we did this off post at the after party to great effect)

  • John Hinkle

    I followed the link to Beck’s dreadful site, then followed another one to some “hilarious” interviews with silly atheists at the Reason Rally.

    Watch the hilarity in “This Is What an Atheist Looks Like!,” below:

    Linky (Scroll down a little for the video)

    So I watched and waited for the hilarious parts, then the video came to an end and I was like, WUT?

  • Sastra

    John Hinckle #3 wrote:

    So I watched and waited for the hilarious parts, then the video came to an end and I was like, WUT?

    I had pretty much the same reaction. Evidently, atheists who want to be accepted as “normal” should not wear costumes, have body art or jewelery, look and act like “liberals” … or say bad things about religion. I’m not sure.

    Nothing on the video was anywhere near as hilarious as this gem from the comments, though:

    Colt 1860: “There is not one shred of evidence in today’s world proving that evolution is in motion right now. Last time I checked, humans still can’t naturally fly, nor are they growing an extra set of ears.”


  • timberwoof

    1993 World (Catholic) Youth Day was held in Denver, Colorado. There was a hike down to Cherry Creek Reservoir in Douglas County for Mass. But before that could be permitted, the Sheriff required the organizers to pay a fee to the Sheriff’s Department to cover event security. The Catholics clutched at pearls and insisted they were good people and should be exempt from the fee. Nevertheless the Sheriff held his ground and threatened to cancel if they did not pay the fees that anyone sponsoring such a huge event had to pay. The Catholics, with much complaining, gave in and paid.

    The US Army brought in a bunch of medics to provide emergency medical services and wrote it off as a training exercise. (When you have half a million people all in one place, someone will get hurt. One elderly man died on the hike.) They ended up learning an awful lot about how to take care of civilians and the importance of reuniting them with their friends. If the lessons stick, that was worth the money spent.

  • Larry

    Beck got a story wrong?

    Oh, say it isn’t so!

  • Good post Ed–the only problem with your facts are that people like Glen Beck and the religious jackwagons don’t seem to let facts get in the way of their opinions. They just keep on talking and the dimwitted just keep on listening…I am sure I will hear something from some religious person stating that the government paid for this event…sigh…

  • That “limited public venue,” Billy Graham just happens to be using our base doesn’t work for me when Fort Bragg turns around and orders every member of the military stationed there to attend the concert.