The Great Rock The Fort Swindle

Side by side comparison of the inequalities in the culture clash at Fort Bragg

Today I saw too much disinformation about the situation on the ground here. The articles clearly needed to be written, because people are starting to swallow some major shall we say… ‘unfounded assumptions’.

The Great Rock the Fort Swindle is a living document chronicling the disparity between the support offered to Rock the Fort’s evangelical Christian membership drive [overwhelming] and Rock Beyond Belief. More than thirty posts in the series have already been drafted, and will be added to this page as they hit the front page over the next few weeks.

What happened here is important, and the public deserves to know. We are hoping that the promised equal level of support will be upheld in the end. Everyone can follow along in the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) documents dug up by FFRF. I’ve embedded and emphasized relevant snippets from those documents, for those who don’t want to flip back and forth.

Rock the Fort, how does our treatment differ? Let me count the ways.

The expert media analysis “10,000 people will show”

Claim: Fort Bragg has an expert media analysis that determined the turnout for Rock the Fort and Rock Beyond Belief accurately.

Rock the Fort: Pre-event expert media analysis put the projected attendance at 10,000!!!

May 2010:

Remember, this is for an event that has a Children’s band called ‘God Rocks!’

September 2010:

Rock Beyond Belief: The very idea that an event needs a target audience projection in order to get funding for their promise of equal treatment for all other groups goes against said promise. There is no level and open playing field at all if we are going by that standard. This would unfairly set up an overwhelming advantage for a single religion, counter to the promise for an equal level of support [a promise made to an atheist organization to explain why the then-upcoming evangelical Christian event wasn't going to be canceled]

Where is this language coming from? Well, it’s directly from JE 3-211, which is directly quoted in the FOIA documents. It can be found near the end in the section marked “Policies that apply to this event”

3-211. Logistical Support of Non-Federal Entity Events

a. The head of a DoD Component command or organization may provide DoD employees in their official capacities to express DoD policies as speakers, panel members or otherparticipants, or, on a limited basis, the use of DoD facilities and equipment (and the services of DoD employees necessary to make proper use of the equipment), as logistical support of an event sponsored by a non-Federal entity, except for fundraising and membership drive events, when the head of the DoD command or organization determines all of the following:

(5)The DoD Component command or organization is able and willing to provide the same support to comparable events that meet the criteria of this subsection and are sponsored by other similarnon-Federal entities;

Clearly, a ‘numbers game’ is not appropriate at all. I shouldn’t even write about a ‘numbers game.’

The Numbers Game.

For instance, Fort Bragg’s religious demographics are as follows [*as of Oct 2010]

Christian: 30-40,000 [including about 10,000 Catholic]

Buddhist: 208
Hindu: 70
Islam: 165
Jewish: 168
Wicca: 36
A Druid Fellowship: 1

The Lamb Lays Down With The Lions

Now take a look at those groups above, do you know what the very next biggest piece of the pie after Christianity is? In the military, we have a category called “No Religious Preference“, and on Bragg the Group stands at 9,472 or 18%. Yes, it’s true that some of those people are unhappy with any label, but it’s easy to see that the non-religious demographic we are going for is largely represented here. My own dog-tags used to say NO-REL-PREF until I got them fixed.

SGT Griffith - foxhole atheist - dogtags

After the “none’s”, the next biggest piece is Atheists at 212, barely nudging out Buddhism. So any way you look at it, we out rank all of the major world religions. Why can’t we get a fair shake?

And how are these groups supposed to get a fair shake when all of a sudden Fort Bragg places an arbitrary “5,000+ expected audience members” pre-requisite? [yes, you get a gold star for noticing that the evangelical Christian membership drive still didn't receive this even with their most optimistic counts.]

I think that a really heavily promoted Jewish event would still have a tough time getting nearly as many bodies as the Christians would. Now what about the poor ‘A Druid Fellowship’ guy, all buy his lonesome? He can’t even fellowship!

The Numbers Game. Again.

January 2011: Richard Dawkins on the lineup gives us the confidence to re-approach the Fort Bragg staff with an event that would draw thousands. The directorate for Morale Welfare and Recreation (the governing body responsible for putting on most special events at Fort Bragg.) agreed with our assessment, and signed off.

March 2011: I’m sitting in a face to face meeting pleading with COL Sicinski to reconsider his crippling restrictions. Specifically relevant is the dismissive gesture of changing the venue to a tiny theater the size of a grade school gymnasium. He tells me that his staff’s expert media analysis estimates the Richard Dawkins crowd to be a few hundred at best.

…what?

I did what any skeptic would do, I asked to see the data. They replied “Well, it doesn’t exist on paper.” So I suggested that their metrics might be flawed, and asked if I could see the digital copy. “It doesn’t exist on digits either.”

WHAT?!

 

About Justin Griffith
  • penn

    If we could get them to speak the truth:

    “The ‘data’ exists only in our minds because we came up with this terrible excuse about 5 minutes ago.”

  • DaveV

    “The numbers game” is offensive because that further shows what chance other beliefs have in being represented at Fort Bragg. This is a classic example of what happens when government gets involved with religion and then denies other beliefs as if they aren’t important. Had they not favored and sponsored a religion there would be no controversy but this really needed to happen to call attention to what is going on in our military. Would the Wicca and the lone Druid be offered the broom closet because attendance by the “media experts” is said to be 3? I’d like to see someone propose an Islamic event to see how that flies. Probably dead on arrival. One can argue over the attendance and argue over what venues need to be offered and reserved but the issue of no funding is the real biggy to me. Private groups need to fund their own event so that means “Evangelicals” aren’t a private group and they are somehow connected to the government or military. How does Fort Bragg define “private group?” It’s obvious that the Christian event drew people that went for the religious aspect but I think it’s safe to say there had to be a percentage of attendance that went just to have something to do and if there was free food and drink some people will listen to anything for a free day out with the kids. Because parents with a religious belief are more likely than not going to indoctrinate their children into their belief system they look for ways to do that that makes it fun so God/Jesus means entertainment to a young mind so Rock Beyond Belief needs to somehow compensate for that and be children friendly WITHOUT religion or non belief being thrown at them because we aren’t out to Evangelize the world with non belief and are basically on a higher moral ground when it comes to childrens minds. Let the “media experts” figure out how many came for a day out and how many came for the reason for the event. But there are no breakdowns like that for the Christian event so they all showed up for the religion right? LOL

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/wonderism/ Wonderist

    Thanks for laying it out like that Justin, the more clearly you can express the disparity, the more likely it will actually get picked up by responsibel media types (not that there are many, but for those that are…). I’ve noticed that they tended to just repeat the short, simple, dismissive claims of the discriminators, while failing to represent the more accurate truths you’ve uncovered, probably because it would have taken some actual work for them to shorten them down into little snippets for the public. It ends up sounding like a ‘he said, she said’ pissing match, when really there are some alarming facts buried in the paperwork. Unfortunately, it seems you’re left with the job of making the truth digestible. Which sucks, but we highly appreciate it!
    If you have the patience, keep at it. Keep finding different ways of expressing the facts as they stand. If you can experiment and grind them down to some shocking sound-bite style comparisons, you’ll get a lot more exposure, IMHO. E.g. The $50,000 vs. $0 thing was a good one.

  • http://caveman73.blogspot.com/ Caveman73

    I would say I am shocked that this happened but I am not. It is typical in the military to heavily favor the christians. I am active duty Navy, currently out to sea. Every night they have the chaplain or some other sailor come on over the 1MC (PA system onboard a ship) and say an evening prayer. It is over a system you are not allowed to silence (damage control and security reasons). It is always a 99% of the time a passage straight out of the bible. I disliked it when I was a christian and I frickin hate it now.

    Keep up the good fight Justin, you’re not alone and you got the numbers to prove it.

  • Cosmo

    I’m active duty, stationed at Fort Bragg. When I enlisted I told them my religious preference is Pantheist. They put OTHER-REL on my I.D. tags and I corrected them properly once I got finished Basic. I deployed twice with my tags saying PANTHEIST. I’m pretty certain that they group me into that “No Religious Preference” when that is far from the truth, I actually HAVE a preference. The problem is if you are not a mainstream religion they do not really care about the accuracy of recording your belief. I’ve been to S-1 to fix my ERB and they told me that it was technically correct “OTHER-REL” and that nothing needed to be changed.

    • Justin Griffith

      There are many forms you can fill out to have them change that list of approved ‘religious preferences’. I really wanted ‘Pastafarian’ or ‘Flying Spaghetti Monsterism’ at one point, but decided on Atheist, which is my actual preference anyway. The way to get another religious preference listed is quite complicated and it really deters most people from seeking out a change to that list. For instance, I’m not sure if it is Army-wide, but at Fort Bragg there isn’t a single person listed as ‘Humanist’ in the base-wide religious demographics. Those are pulled from the ERB’s of everyone stationed here.

      Additionally, I think the army should drop the Religious Preference from the ERB altogether. You know that getting promoted from E-6 to E-7 (and higher), they mainly look at your ERB for promotions. The privately held bias against minority religions is all too easy to conceal in this situation. Some even say that this practice violates the ‘No Religious Test’ clause of the main body of the US Constitution (Article VI, para 3)

      • http://www.rationalskepticism.org Paul Weaver

        Justin,
        I think the corner of the ERB which includes the Religious Preference section is omitted from the copy shown to centralized promotion boards.

        I do know I made SFC with Atheist on my ERB …

        But I agree, most of what’s on the ERB shouldn’t be part of a promotion evaluation – nor should the required board photo.

  • Kevin

    Please keep the fight going, Justin. I’m in the AF and I did a test one time to see if my promotion scores went up because I changed my religious preference form Athiest to Some other Christian based interenational religion. In the AF, you can do it yourself with no forms and it happens immediately. My promotion score didn’t change, but in the AF, they are not supposed to see the preference anyway. I wasn’t sure, but I found it it to be true anyway. As soon as I retire and get in the states, I’m coming to an event. Can’t wait to see/hear Richard Dawkins!

  • http://www.atheists.org Larry Carter Center, USN’71-’73

    843-926-1750 DIAL AN ATHEIST
    Article 6 is violated by oaths under an alleged deity ( god ) and any preference in promotion or working conditions hostile to Atheists prefering xians or Allah/Jehovah/Jeebus/Ghost Hole believers …


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