The Stiefel Freethought Foundation has just increased their pledge to Rock Beyond Belief to $50,000. This is enough money to allow the nonreligious military community to fully fund the event on the parade field at Fort Bragg this Fall. All we need now is co-sponsorship from Fort Bragg (which they promised and even sort of delivered before).
This removes one of the last possible pseudo-arguments held over our heads. They denied us any funding at all on our first attempt, saying that we weren’t getting funding because we did not contribute to the Chaplains Tithe and Offerings Fund. Well, we are currently not allowed to contribute funds there. I had already submitted paperwork to become recognized and gain this ability. I came to the table with several ways to fund this, but they didn’t go for it.
Even during the last-ditch rebuttal meeting with the Garrison Commander, I asked the following hypothetical.
“If we brought 100% of the funding, would we be able to have Rock Beyond Belief at the outdoor parade field venue?”
Basically, the answer was “get out of here kid, you’re bothering me.” But it sounded more like this: “No. You would need to find a Colonel or above for that.”
Then, the media started paying attention. I think they realize that they under-estimated the size of the non-religious community of the military, or the ability for religious people to support us (we have gotten plenty). Or, frankly, my level of determination. So during the fallout, they started saying some promising things, seeming much more interested in actually delivering on their promise to provide equal level of support to our event!
I’ve been working closely with Fort Bragg officials, and there is definitely an air of excitement and optimism – especially with this game-changer of a bona fide way to fund this!
We learned our lesson though, and we wont be announcing the date (though we have settled on one) for the second approach until we get final approval.
What the fund?
Last year’s controversial evangelical Christian membership drive / festival known as Rock the Fort cost a lot of money. The event was co-sponsored by Fort Bragg and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, but by far most of the money and work was provided by the Army. Rock the Fort was paid for like this:
- 1) BGEA
- Provided stage costs – they did pick one of the most expensive rigs possible, but hey they have an annual operating budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Air travel, and performer fees were also provided. Value: at least $50,000, possibly much more.
- 2)US Army Non-Appropriated Funds – (Government money raised independent of Tax dollars)
- Government Purchase Cards accounted for roughly $54,500 in spending from the Chaplains Tithes and Offerings Fund. Total: $54,000
- 3)US Army appropriated funds – (Tax Dollars)
- Things like security costs ($30,000 right there), significant manpower, insurance, Golden Knights paratrooper team’s jump etc. Total: easily $50,000, but figuring in the dozens of on-duty officers who worked on this during the duty day for 6 months (a luxury I’m jealous of) and the other personnel costs… the total begins to skyrocket.
So at least $100,000 in a complicated mix of appropriated and non-appropriated government funds was spent, in addition to the $50,000 Billy Graham Evangelical Association spent.
The Stiefel Freethought Foundation’s $50,000 pledge will allow us to pull off Rock Beyond Belief in its entirety. We are much more frugal. We did this all off-duty. We are also expecting double the attendance of Rock the Fort, by the lowest reasonable estimate. I’m very proud of our team, and what we’ve managed to accomplish. Even if we don’t take another step forward, we did something great here. And I promise you, we are taking many more steps forward. It’s too important not to fix, and I think Fort Bragg really wants to make this work now.
Probably not a surprise to many in our community, but Rock the Fort was billed as a Spiritual Fitness event. Keep in mind, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness guys who run the mandatory Spiritual Fitness testing and training for all soldiers want you to know that Spiritual Fitness has nothing to do with religion.
Or check their amazing VIRTUAL Spiritual Fitness Center … No, this is not a joke.
So, despite the amazing support from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, we are definitely still needing to fund the litigation efforts that you will be hearing more about in the future. The donate button on our website contributes to that fund, and we have an awesome event lined up TBA to help kickstart that fund into gear as well.