Demand equal treatment for the Army’s non-religious Soldiers

After last week’s hey-maker from Fort Bragg, we were devastated. It was shocking to learn that our festival had been crippled with last-minute restrictions that forced us to shut down.

Now it’s time to fight back.

Please help us stand up to the discrimination facing the non-religious military community. That was the whole point of our festival, and Fort Bragg just took a giant step backwards by reinforcing existing prejudices. They legitimized the proselytizing efforts of the Evangelical Christian membership drive known as Rock the Fort (which Fort Bragg officially co-sponsored). Their stated goal was to convert as many Soldiers, family members, and civilians to (their version of) Christianity. They even bragged about how successful they’ve been at this, converting 500 Soldiers at one event, and 200 at another.

Over $100,000 of government controlled funds (both appropriated, and non-appropriated) were spent on the Evangelical Christian event. Dozens of Soldiers worked on the event during the duty day, many for over 6 months. Many organizations called for the leadership at Fort Bragg to cancel Rock the Fort. They didn’t.

Instead, they released a statement explaining that they wouldn’t be cancelling the evangelical Christian festival because: “[Fort Bragg] would be willing and able to provide the same support to comparable events…” – Lieutenant General Frank G. Helmick

Sadly, this turned out to not be true.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has offered to litigate for our cause in federal court. But there are many things that you can do to help as well. We really appreciate the outpouring of support we are getting, so please take a look.

 

How you can help out:

Please contact the following people respectfully expressing your outrage at the discriminatory policies and command decisions at Fort Bragg.

U.S. Congressman Larry Kissell
8th District, North Carolina
Member, Armed Forces Committee
Attn: Caseworker
325 McGill Ave Suite 500
Concord, NC  28027
Phone: (704) 786-1612
Fax: (704) 782-1004
contact

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
North Carolina
Phone (919) 856-4630
Fax: (336) 333 – 5331
contact

Lieutenant General Frank Helmick
XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg
2175 Reilly Road, Stop A
Fort Bragg NC 28310
E-mail address unavailable

Col. Stephen J. Sicinski
Garrison Commander

XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg
2175 Reilly Road, Stop A
Fort Bragg NC 28310
E-mail address unavailable

Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army

1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1400
E-mail address unavailable

Ben Abel
Public Affairs Officer
Fort Bragg
benjamin.abel@us.army.mil
(please request that your email gets forwarded to the commanders at Fort Bragg as well)

Contact the Media: The FFRF has graciously put up an Action Alert with contacts at the local papers, but the sky is the limit for media outreach. Similar to FFRF’s suggestions, please feel free to BCC me on all emails to journalists / government officials. (jgriffith |AT| rockbeyondbelief |dot| com).

Join a M*A*S*H meetup group – If you live anywhere near a military base, please join / help start up a MASH meetup group. (see below)

Spread the word - Do you write a blog? Write about your take on the recent developments. Copy and paste something from here if you are feeling lazy! Do you Reddit / Stumbleupon / Digg  / FaceBook / Twitter?  Those buttons at the bottom are probably the quickest and most painless method of supporting us.

Donate to the Rock Beyond Belief Legal Fund -The only way to really make something stick is to take the issue to federal court. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) president and founder, Mikey Weinstein has been offering us pro bono support from the beginning. Now that litigation is almost a certainty, he is locking in co-counsel from the nation’s most prestigious law firms. Much of our case is going to cost money, and there is no way around that. Air travel, subject-matter experts, Mikey’s research department, paralegals, etc. Even a pro bono representation isn’t free, and the co-counsel hasn’t even promised that yet! If you have the money, please click the button below.


Petition [***New as of 13 March 2011***]
Our supporters have been extremely helpful, and one of them took the Action Alert from the Secular Coalition of America, and turned it into this excellent petition. All you have to do is type in your information, so this is extremely painless. And it doesn’t matter if you are ‘late to the game’ in helping us. There is no such thing here, we need all the help we can get!

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Soldiers

All of the above are painless ways to support us without risking your neck, or outing yourself as ‘non-religious’ in your unit. We do understand that some people are in actually in physical danger, so please use discretion when contemplating the following additional ways to help.

File an official congressional complaint - Every member of the military has the right to communicate individually with anymember of Congress for any reason. Though servicemembers may be told otherwise,commands cannot limit this right or require prior notice or approval. Please click here to get started. This is a good resource to learn more about the process.

File an IG/EO Complaint – (Fort Bragg only) This is the most effective internal administrative remedy we have. Talk to XVIII Airborne Corp’s IG/EO representatives about the opportunity that was taken away from you by the last-minute restrictions. There are numerous regulations being broken by the discriminatory lack of equal support given to the ‘no religious preference’ and atheist/humanist/secular/nontheist etc. demographic. We account for 18% of Fort Bragg’s population, putting our numbers second only to Christianity. Without some sort of action, Fort Bragg will remain a climate of special favoritism for the evangelical Christian membership-drives, and reinforce existing prejudices against us. Consider this option if you are very comfortable and confident with your ‘out’ status.

Contact the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) – Talk to them about joining up with any pending litigation efforts. You don’t necessarily have to be co-plaintiff, even a well-written letter can do wonders. This is the most effective external administrative remedy we have. Hopefully we wont need it, but we aren’t holding our breath. Contact Mikey Weinstein here.

Join / Start a MASH Group (Civilians too!) - The military is so dismissive of us because we don’t stand up and organize. The Military Atheists & Secular Humanists movement is starting to spawn chapters at every post. The Fort Bragg M*A*S*H group is finalizing the steps necessary to get on the master list of ‘services’ that Fort Bragg sends out to all 50,000 troops. Our goal is raising tolerance and awareness for non-religious Soldiers, and the visibility we are going to get from that is vital. Once we succeed at Fort Bragg, we will empower all the other chapters with a step-by-step process. Fort Bragg is the trial balloon, and you already see what (*almost*) happened when local members networked and organized. In a few months we will be standing up proper groups with literature, financial support, and of course the backing of the long-running Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF).


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About Justin Griffith
  • http://villageatheist.org Drew

    For those apparently living in NC, you can contact Congressman Kissell at the following contact form as well.

    https://forms.house.gov/kissell/contact-form.shtml

  • rangerlump

    Justin,

    I sent a message to Chariotsofiron.com (podcast) about the situation. They are an atheist podcast and I believe both hosts are former military. You may want to contact them directly as I am just a nobody hehe.

    James

    • Justin Griffith

      Right on, keep them coming. That’s the beautiful thing about our movement, we’re all nobodies. Seriously, even Richard Dawkins was incredibly approachable and sweet. For all of the people I’ve worked with or spoken to in the last 6 months, everyone really ‘gets it’.

      • beerslayer

        Justin: this has all been boiling just under the surface for many of us for many, many years. I for one am sick of being discriminated against. I can only imagine how much more frustrated I’d be if I were in the military, dealing with what you have been. I can’t even express how much respect I have for you and those with you who are fighting to change what should never have been policy in the first place in this supposedly free country.

        I have no direct, quantifiable evidence for this, of course, but I strongly suspect that we non-religious types are both more natively intelligent and better educated than average.

        Maybe these are some reasons why we all seem to “get it”… :)

  • Frank

    Separation of church and state should be forbid them from sponsoring Rock the Fort in the first place.

  • Joshua Williams

    For those that are unable to find the e-mail addresses for Colonel Stephen J. Sicinski it is stephen.sicinski@us.army.mil and Lieutenant General Frank Helmick is frank.helmick@us.army.mil.

  • HFDean

    First: I agree, this event never should have happened.

    Second: I think he was saying “If it was a similar type of event, we would support it just as much” and not “We have received monetary support from people for this event”".

    • Justin Griffith

      No, what he was saying is he would support (I.E. Army GIVES THEM $$$ and facilities and manpower) at RtF, because he would be willing and able to provide similar support to any other group. That is exactly the word of the law in the regulations. Those regulations go extremely far to discourage religious or sectarian events, just because of the logistical nightmare of trying to cater to every group. The only loophole is if they offer equal support to all other groups.

  • http://Reddit.com Robert Head

    Hi, I just wanted to comment on the ‘email unavailable’ comments for many of the people you are asking us to contact. If they are a member of the military, I am fairly certain that they would be First.Last@us.branch.gov.

    Keep up the right fight.

  • irritated lady

    Did they try and get funding from the USO? That is where festival/concerts and other “non-religious” organizations generally get their funding to pay for such events on-post. This is not at all about finding appropriate funding (which would take you to non-religious avenues) but rather wanting to take money specifically from the religious budget of the military to prove a point. Your point is not holding a “non-religious” I’m sorry, but they are apples and oranges. The whole point of Atheism is NON-RELIGION.

    As a person who has been in the military community for over 8 years, I have to say that there are TONS of military funded religious groups, organizations, support groups. Just because the military accommodates religious organizations as a way of moral and spiritual support to its families does not mean it is without equal. The military offers counseling to non-religious people as they would offer a chaplain to the religious.

    I find this entire situation ridiculous because first Atheism is all about having “no” religion there for being completely and utterly NON-religious but then this group is angry they can’t get money from a fund for religious groups????

    I can understand those who feel that US government should not have religious funding but then I think it should then equally cut funding for all organizations that would provide any sort of “moral support” for the military or its family members. Personally, I think that the freedom of our country provides multiple avenues of support because these people have given up there personal freedom, left their own environments and are stuck 1/2 around the world from their support systems. I believe those people deserve to be offered religious services just as those who are non-religious should be offer non-religious counseling and support. From my experience the military offers BOTH. But in my book RELIGION and ATHEISM are not equals but are completely different.

    • Justin Griffith

      Did they try and get funding from the USO? That is where festival/concerts and other “non-religious” organizations generally get their funding to pay for such events on-post.

      False. Most events are funded by MWR. USO typically only does events in deployed or OCONUS situations. And we approached multiple ways to fund this.

      This is not at all about finding appropriate funding (which would take you to non-religious avenues) but rather wanting to take money specifically from the religious budget of the military to prove a point.

      There was $54,000 spent from a government controlled non-appropriated fund ($$ not from DC), that was indeed run by the chaplaincy. This far from the only NAF available. In fact, the more appropriate NAF is run by MWR, who raise funds by soliciting their regular donors, local businesses, and vendors interested in making a ton of money (as we are not charging them a percentage on their goods), etc… The only person who can make that happen is the Garrison Commander. Also, it’s not our fault that Fort Bragg chose to provide a special opportunity to one group (christians) and forcing them to promise this opportunity to others.

      DoD Directive 5410.18:
      4.2.9. Selective Benefit and Preferential Treatment. Community relations activities shall not support, or appear to support, any event that provides a selective benefit to any individual, group, or organization, including any religious or sectarian organization, ideological movement, political campaign or organization, or commercial enterprise, to include a shopping mall or motion picture promotion. When DoD support is provided to one non-Federal entity, the DoD Component commands or organizations providing such support must be able and willing to provide similar support to comparable events sponsored by similar non-Federal entities.

      (Pro-tip: the very next biggest religious preference demographic: No Religious Preference).

      Your point is not holding a “non-religious” I’m sorry, but they are apples and oranges. The whole point of Atheism is NON-RELIGION.

      We represent all shades of non-religion, not just atheism, but I digress… Soldiers who are not religious fall into a different group than the soldiers that were catered to (evangelical Christians). So it’s unfortunate that instead of canceling the evangelical Christian recruitment drive, they now have to allow separate groups to come in. We are only the first to test the waters. Surely you don’t think that the Muslims, or the Scientologists or whoever aren’t also going to start demanding this (rightfully so, unfortunately)?
      I think what you are trying to say is: “incredibly massive Religious membership drives should get special treatment and opportunities, as long as atheists are excluded from having a turn.”

      As a person who has been in the military community for over 8 years, I have to say that there are TONS of military funded religious groups, organizations, support groups. Just because the military accommodates religious organizations as a way of moral and spiritual support to its families does not mean it is without equal. The military offers counseling to non-religious people as they would offer a chaplain to the religious.

      I think you are making my point now… That’s why we asked for SIMILAR level of support. Meaning, we don’t care what buckets of money, or which units get tapped, but we want the same end result. The only real candidate for a similar NAF is the MWR, though I’m sure there are others. So the military could offer us a similar level of support ($54,000 from a NAF) without providing it from the same NAF.

      I find this entire situation ridiculous because first Atheism is all about having “no” religion there for being completely and utterly NON-religious but then this group is angry they can’t get money from a fund for religious groups????

      Not sure what you are getting at there, but I think you are basing your entire rant on the false assumption that we are trying to get money from the chaplains. I don’t care who pays the bill, we just want similar levels of support, as they promised, and as is mandated by regulations (read: laws).

      I can understand those who feel that US government should not have religious funding but then I think it should then equally cut funding for all organizations that would provide any sort of “moral support” for the military or its family members.

      First of all, the Chaplaincy is established and is protected by SCOTUS rulings because it provides religious support where it is otherwise unavailable (battlefields, etc.) That’s not what I’m arguing against. I’m arguing against this particular issue, not the entire chaplaincy. I am proud to say that I would call my unit’s chaplains ‘friends’. But, anyway, special favors were made to accommodate the evangelical Christians, and that was only considered legal because the leadership at Bragg had promised similar levels of support to all groups.

      Personally, I think that the freedom of our country provides multiple avenues of support because these people have given up there personal freedom, left their own environments and are stuck 1/2 around the world from their support systems.

      Agreed, I guess. By the way I am one of ‘these people’… I don’t know why so many drive-by commenters assume that Rock Beyond Belief wasn’t born out of military members

      I believe those people deserve to be offered religious services just as those who are non-religious should be offer non-religious counseling and support. From my experience the military offers BOTH.

      Which is why the military should offer an evangelical Christian event AND a Rock Beyond Belief????

      But in my book RELIGION and ATHEISM are not equals but are completely different.

      I give you 5 cool points for that. Though, most people around here are probably screaming “DUH!!!!” haha.

    • H.H.

      But in my book RELIGION and ATHEISM are not equals but are completely different.

      Sorry to say this bluntly, but it doesn’t really matter what you think. U.S. courts have rule that for purposes of legal discrimination, atheism is to be treated as the equivalent of a religious belief. Meaning any protections or restrictions which apply to the practice of a religion also apply to atheism. This is because both positions are considered to be matters concerning liberty of personal conscience. No person has a constitutional right to force another to worship a particular god(s) or to even worship at all.

      In instances where religious traditions have been recognized by the government, the courts have maintained that the only legal policy is “all or none.” That is, the government must equally support all religious activities or none of them. Either is considered constitutional. But what is patently unconstitutional is favoritism, which is precisely the situation we find here.

  • Jon

    I would think that in these times of financial crisis that they would not want to harm our country by fighting what is certain to be a losing legal battle. If they didn’t like the concert imagine how angry people will be when taxpayer money goes to pay a settlement to a bunch of atheists. That’s going to throw one hell of a party!

  • Matt

    this was on one of the links in your post:

    “An Article 138 (UCMJ) complaint, for instances of specific abuse, discriminatory practices of a superior officer, or where the command is not following regulations.”

    …i haven’t heard you mention it at all, though. whoever submitted the actual request (Justin?) should be the one pursing this particular course of action, no?

    • Justin Griffith

      Quite a find. I’m glad you are on our side. You are on our side right? (:

      I can’t believe this didn’t jump out at us before. I’m going to have to see how this plays with the lawyers, and JAG first, but wow. And you can bet that I am following this all the way to the fullest, and yes I am the one who submitted the packet. But to answer your question, I actually think that many people are suffering due to the discrimination and the command not following regulations here. And everyone who is assigned at fort Bragg can consider the Garrison Commander a superior officer…

      Alas, I refuse to speculate further, because I don’t want to be a ‘barracks lawyer’. I highly recommend that Soldiers contact the MRFF legal team to ask them about all of this. Not sure how that Article 138 would pan out, but it sounds pretty juicy.

  • Matt

    Also, for continuity’s sake among those who pursue this:

    what specific redress are we going for here?

    1. reestablishment of the parade field venue
    2. un-requiring the disclaimer on advertisements
    3. granting of all requested funds

    …yes?

    • Justin Griffith

      Basically yes. Demanding equal treatment should be the theme for continuity’s sake. I’d point out that the Evangelical Christian team got the use of dozens and dozens of high-ranking Officers and many NCO’s to plan their event during the duty day many of whom for over six months, while I was specifically banned from doing this. Additionally ‘borrowed military manpower’ for the week leading up to the day of event took even more soldiers away from their work during the duty day.

      A more complete picture can be had by looking at the following two documents, gleaned from a Freedom Of Information Act request:
      http://www.ffrf.org/uploads/legal/Rock%20the%20Fort%20Department%20Responsibilities.pdf <— tasks and logistical support given
      http://www.ffrf.org/uploads/legal/Rock%20the%20Fort%20Expenditures.pdf <— financial support from a government controlled Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF). There are plenty of these types of funds that would have been similar and feasible to request for our uses.

      Either way, they promised that they would be both willing and able to provide equal support.

      (pulling those from this excellent late January article on the FFRF website -> http://www.ffrf.org/news/releases/ffrf-foia-documents-armys-rock-the-fort-subsidy/ )

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Hey, I chipped in $10 as a donation. I’ve been following your case closely. If I was a rich man, I’d help out in more ways. Alas.

    Best of luck, Justin.

  • http://www.armandaudrey.com Armand Audrey

    I’ll tweet this and send it to my friends. Keep up the fight!

  • http://www.ungodlythings.com Pentupentropy

    I wrote this to him.
    http://ungodlythings.com/component/content/article/39-people/66-an-open-letter-to-lieutenant-general-frank-helmick.html

    Now I just have to mail it as well. I figure even if I don’t, someday he’ll google himself.

    • Justin Griffith

      That’s pretty harsh man! I’m glad you didn’t leave that in the comments section here. I’d recommend not mailing that one to him. You might end up on some ‘list’ or something. My wife thought it was funny, though. She’s not military, and she said “that’s hilarious!”
      I’d be risking insubordination by talking like that. If it could happen to General McChrystal (rolling stone: “The runaway general”)…

      Also, I’d like to point out: LTG Helmick’s role in putting this on was not nearly as prominent as others. A careful inspection of the FOIA documents regarding the Evangelical Christian ‘Rock the Fort’ event planning/preparation barely mentions him, and ‘implicates’ (for lack of a better term… I definitely respect all officers in my chain of command, no matter how far removed.) others much more. He did promise equal support, and that he was willing and able to provide it, but I’m hoping this story isn’t over yet. Maybe we’ll have it turned around and have some positive out come after all.

      We’ll see! Thanks for the support, even if we differ on our tactics / language.

  • Terry Sandbek

    One of the hallmarks in a military officer is honesty and integrity. As a former Vietnam era officer, I abhor the duplicity in these blatant religious events. Saying the top command will allow other beliefs/nonbeliefs to hold similar events and then sabotage the attempt is a severe violation of all officers hold dear. Not keeping promises is an absolute method for undermining troop morale and discipline. These officers (regardless of their high rank) responsible for this egregious disruption of their duty should be punished for promoting a personal agenda that has nothing to do with the military mission.

  • Mijan

    I’m a veteran, a Unitarian Universalist (humanistic, not theistic), and a strict secularist. I dealt with so much religious proselytizing from evangelicals when I was on Active Duty, all the way up the whole chain of command. It was revolting. It’s disturbing that they’re becoming even more brazen in their bigotry and religion-mongering.

    Here’s hoping freedom and rationality win out here.

  • Ebon Krieg

    Guns and god are not a healthy mixture. The RA has changed a lot since my days.

  • Robert B. Estrada

    Justin,
    You have all my support.
    Robert Estrada

  • Christoph

    This is disturbing. The army should respect its non-christian non-evangelical soldiers just as much as its christian evangelical soldiers.

  • Ernest

    Here is a Commander of the most lethal military force on the face of the planet who worships the most powerful, all knowing, all seeing god that man has ever created and he reveals himself to be a total coward and a liar! What horrible people these religious types reveal themselves to be. It’s sickening!

  • Kathleen Kakacek

    I hope your family is very, very proud of you Justin. What you are doing is courageous and patriotic.

  • http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com The Tim Channel

    I actually served in Colorado Springs at Peterson AFB back in the late 1970′s. Whatever went wrong with Colorado happened sometime after I left the state because there was none of this going on when I was there.

    The problem, as I understand it, is heavily focused in that area (and the Air Force Academy). I think it’s because so many rightwing religious organizations landed there. Ted Haggard immediately comes to mind, but if memory serves me there are other equally obnoxious religious players using the area as their base of operations.

    Whatever the case, these religious military activities are clearly illegal, but not so illegal as say, torture of innocent Iraqi citizens (to obtain information on fantasy WMD’s). Since those crimes have yet to be addressed, I see little chance of progress in righting lesser, but still odious, injustices.

    It’s gotten so bad that even Obama is allowing the defacto torture (solitary confinement and shameful humiliation tactics) on a US soldier in US custody by US personnel. Obama is now on my short list of people who have won both the Nobel peace prize, AND possibly the chance at conviction (along with BUSHCO) for crimes against humanity. Free Bradley Manning and award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Enjoy.

    • Dave

      Solitary confinement is not torture, or it would have already been protested at the local, state, and federal level in prison. As for Manning, really? A medal? And you supposedly served? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and we both fought for the right to express it, but the espionage laws are, oh, fairly clear on this.

  • mariskep

    Jarhead checking in. Can’t believe I’m just now finding out about this. This a joint operations effort?

    • Justin Griffith

      (: It should be.

  • Kenneth Cook

    I always was under the impression that religion was supposed to bring out the good in people and to spread love. However those narrow minded, bigoted, self righteous, pompous asses do not feel that way. Not to worry however. I still believe that there is good in all people. You just have to dig deeper to see that good in some than others.

  • Alf Erickson

    I support you.

  • Weybourne

    Is there anything I can do as an outraged, yet non-military Canadian citizen? Thank you for taking a stand, Justin! You are an inspiration to all non-believers world-wide!

  • Eric C, Grimm

    I think it is helpful to consider Mark 6:31 – 6:44, but from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. That is, of course, the story about feeding 5,000 (or perhaps more, depending on the telling, and whether the teller says women and children are included in the head-count, or not) — starting with five loaves and two fishes. Some versions of the story, that impressed me when I was very young, involved the example of a small boy who acted as a “seed donor,” setting an example of altruism for others.

    For, you see, I’ve always been convinced that the story doesn’t tell us anything at all about whether Jesus had any supernatural powers — but instead it speaks volumes about the multitude, human beings not too different from each of us. Further, Jesus’s keen insight into the thinking and behavior of others, also doesn’t demand supernatural explanation, but appears instead to involve an already-recognized natural phenomenon that biologists and primatologists have studied for quite some time, in more than one species (though among human beings it appears to have become something much like a peacock’s tail — and greatly exaggerated through an evolutionary feedback process).

    And it turns out that science not only recognizes the fact that human beings are not exclusively selfish competitors, but also often act as altruistic cooperators — even among groups of strangers who are not kin. The work of the Free Software Foundation comes to mind, and Creative Commons (a license you might consider using for your site).

    No, science also has helped provide insight into *why* this cooperating and group-directed impulse is hard-wired into humans (and, indeed, several other species), while biologists and psychologists continue working on refining our explanation. Indeed, many behave altruistically (and receive chemical rewards from their own neurological systems for doing so), even when a reciprocal benefit is not expected.

    The advent of modern communication technology, of course, means that the phenomenon can be scaled-up and pumped-up, as if on steroids.

    Like any natural phenomenon, scientifically explained, the “miracle” of loaves and fishes is repeatable. And my hypothesis is that you base leadership’s “defect” behavior can provide just as effective a spark to ignite this natural phenomenon, and a small boy’s example of cooperation.

    It is really too bad, when Jesus’s teaching really was all about transcending kin and tribal boundaries, to cooperate with and support one another, that so many self-identified followers miss the point altogether and instead amplify and advocate the exact behavior that the Gospels were written to help us transcend.

    They apparently fear non-believers pulling off the same “miracle” in public; lets show them that their “defect” behavior makes the repetition of the loaves and fishes experiment, inevitable.

  • Steve Hill

    I’m British so maybe don’t get a vote here, although I would just like to register my disgust.

    This weekend, yet again, British and American troops are putting themselves in harm’s way in Libya. No British soldier worthy of the name would want to serve under the “leadership” of the self-serving bigoted twat of a colonel who “runs” (or possibly counts paperclips at) Fort Bragg.

    He’s an embarrassment to America and all its troops.

  • Bill Whitman

    Commanders are always told by their JAG that when providing support to any private organization that they must be willing to provide equal support across the board. That is a basic tenet of the obligation to exercise command authority in a fair and even manner. Either the Garrison Commander or Senior Commander failed that obligation utterly here and obviously did not heed the advice of their Staff Judge Advocates.

    I wonder with the repeal of DADT and legal protection of people on the basis of sexual preference how the commander would react to anti-homosexual Christians if told that allowing them on post violates Army Regulation 600-20, paragraph 6-8 which provides that “Installation commanders are responsible for ensuring that an organization taking advantage of or using on-post facilities (whether on a reimbursable basis or otherwise) does not engage in unlawful discriminatory practices.” If the military will allow homosexuals to serve, then Christians coming on post who are anti-homosexual would be promoting a discriminatory message and should be barred from the post. Just a thought.

    • DaveV

      Interesting angle Bill but I bet it would get all tangled up with arguements over the bill of rights protecting everyones rights and the “rights” these Evangelicals think they have with free speech, so called “freedom of religion,” and the ever present order from their gospel to spread the “good news” across the world even though that tramples on others people rights and freedoms.
      It should work because if we have a secular constitution which we do,then how can a religious belief or dogma dictate things like sexual orientation?

  • Charles

    I messaged Mr. Abel with the following:
    “My name is Charles Domingos De Farias Jr. I’m a senior at Dedham High School in Dedham, Massachusetts. I say this only so you know that I’m not really anybody of importance but am just a high school student that’s soon to be a college student. I usually don’t involve myself in such matters as this, I’m usually more quiet and isolated from controversial events and protests and petitions, but this latest event just really struck home for me.
    I realize you probably have a lot on your plate and you’ve probably received a few of these annoying E-mails, but I feel like I speak on behalf of a large portion of, not just non-theists, but Americans as a whole when I say that this just isn’t right. I’m referring to the Army’s lack of funding towards the “Rock Beyond Belief Festival”. If this were done to avoid supporting non-theists and making theist soldiers feel uncomfortable, it’d be understandable had the army not provided considerable funds for the heavily Christian “Rock the Fort” event, for which the “Rock Beyond Belief Festival” was created as a response to. The fact that the “Rock the Fort” event was allowed and supported in the first place is already a political error which brushes up against the separation of church and state, but the equal treatment of a non-theist concert, such as the “Rock Beyond Belief Festival” would certainly balance this. It seems incredibly discriminatory and against the very constitution.
    So if you are to read just one thing from this E-mail, I guess it would be this: It bothers me when the army of the nation I belong to violates one of the most dearly held principals of the nation they have sworn to protect. How am I to trust or even support an army that can’t even stick to the laws set down by their own nation? I can’t, and I’m sure others feel the same. So for the sake of not only justice and equality, but also for morale and continuing support our valiant men and women, I hope to see the “Rock Beyond Belief Festival” given the support it’s entitled to.
    Sorry for taking your time,
    Sincerely,
    A concerned Citizen.”
    he responded with:
    > From: benjamin.abel@us.army.mil
    > To: charles37@live.com
    > Date: Sun, 20 Mar 2011 21:53:56 -0400
    > Subject: Re: Sorry to bother you, Mr. Abel. (UNCLASSIFIED)
    >
    > Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
    > Sir,
    > Thank you for your note. You are certainly someone of import and I hope I can address some of your concerns.
    > First, I think one of the most important parts of this controversy, that is largely being overlooked by those criticizing Fort Bragg’s actions, is that the Garrison commander is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the Fort Bragg military community. He is not responsible for the entertainment of those groups not directly supported by the installation – our Soldiers, Families, retirees and civilian employees. If, in the course of events on post, we have the opportunity to include members of the general public, that is great. But the garrison commander must evaluate how he can best support the military community, with limited resources.
    > Col. Sicinski, the garrison commander, did approve the event on post. Our analysis of attendance by our supported communities suggested that the main post parade field would not be suitable, so one of the theaters on post was offered. The Rock Beyond Belief organizers then cancelled the event.
    > As for the funding of Rock the Fort, that has been the subject of a good deal of misinformation. The funds that came from the Fort Bragg community were not appropriated monies (government funds) but rather weekly tithes and offerings that came from the various Christian congregations on post. A bit more explanation may be warranted. The Army recognizes a number of Distinctive Faith Groups – the variety of Christian denominations, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Wiccans. Each of these groups has a separate and independent Chaplain Tithes and Offerings fund which the congregation uses as it sees fit. In the case of Rock the Fort, the Christian congregations elected the use their donated funds to help produce the Rock the Fort concert. The other non-Christian groups did not participate. I believe that the Rock Beyond Belief organizers have petitioned for Distinctive Faith Group status, but they are very early in the process and so have no discrete funding like the recognized congregations on post.
    > A good analogy would be to transplant this situation into any city or town across the country. A group wants to produce an event on city property, lets say the town square, and requests that the city pay for the production of the event. Unless the event is of every great benefit to the entire community, it wouldn’t be a wise investment to spend town or city funds for an event that shows little potential for return on investment. I would argue that it would be unwise for that community’s leaders to not use the monies in the best manner possible. Now if the event’s organizer were to fund the event on their own, that would be a different story and a much easier decision to make.
    > The situation surrounding the Rock Beyond Belief concert is fraught with emotion, so it would be difficult to envision assuaging all the concerns that our fellow citizens have. We understand that Rock Beyond Belief is being reconsidered for later this year, and we hope that the event can happen at some point.
    > Again, thank you for your note. I hope that my explanation is of some value to you.
    >
    > All the best,
    >
    > Ben”
    and my last response waas:
    “Thank you for replying. Seeing as how all my information has been one sided and now I’m hearing another side to the story, I feel it’s best I sit this one out. I’d rather not put myself in a debate where I don’t actually know all of the facts. Not to question your honestly or your access to information, but I know all too well that when it comes to situations like these where one side says one thing and the other says something else, it’s best staying out of it. Plus, if what you tell me is true, it seems I have no chance here. Although it certainly bothers me a great deal that it’s so much more difficult for a non-secular concert to occur than a religious one. With no offense to any military official, I can’t help but feel like there’s some prejudicial force behind it, forgive me for my ignorance if I’m wrong. But then again, it seems like this is more of a society issue than a military one.
    I’ll make sure to send your response to those that feel the same way I do and to post it where I got my information. I’m sure many will continue to argue that there is injustice in this, and I don’t blame them.
    I wish you and our forces the best and equality to both our theist and non-theist soldiers, hopefully this resolves without too much of a mess.”

  • Charles

    Wow. I just realized I said “non-secular” instead of “secular”. Fail. But yes, although I never lost my support for RBF(Rock Beyond Belief), the information in those two links certainly rekindles it to the strength prior Mr. Abel’s E-mail, if not stronger.

    Now I’m more interested in knowing if there’s anyway I can help. I’m sure this applies to many of your supporters, but I’m not exactly important. I don’t have any political sway or power and I’m not even close enough to Fort Bragg to assist with anything really. So my question is, what can I and people in the same situation do to help?

    This is a wonderful thing you have going here. I’ve always wholeheartedly supported anything that enforced the separation of church and state, and the military has always been a big violator. The last thing our troops should have to be afraid of is being mistreated for their beliefs(Or lack thereof), when they’re all fighting for the same thing.

    But yea, if there’s anything at all that I can help with, please let me know.

    • Justin Griffith

      You’re doing a great job. You alerted me with some disinformation. You are setting an excellent example to your peers. I’ll be posting an in-depth response ASAP. I’ve had it fully written for 4 days, but I need to get some clarification about something first. You are wise beyond your years. If I were you, I’d start a local chapter of the Secular Student Alliance. You can check in with Jesse Galef over there, or even Hemant Mehta from FriendlyAtheist.com

      The SSA’s high school outreach campaign has been rapidly growing – get on board!

      I’ll keep you informed, man.


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