The parachute team is *not* atheist and they are forced to perform

Justice has prevailed with one of the last big-ticket “equal levels of support” to secure.

The prestigious Golden Knights are working on a way to do a demonstration jump at our event, just as they had at the Christian event – including at least one atheist. There obviously was a lot of back and forth over the past year to secure this. 2 other teams turned us down, for frivolous and or very ‘convenient’ reasons.

We appreciate the GK commanders who came through for us, and we understand that it’s a difficult position to defend. Once again, I’d like to personally thank Fort Bragg leadership too. They really did take the ‘hard right’ rather than the easy wrong. I’m proud of the Golden Knights for coming on board for equality. The public will never really know the truth, but it was very heart-wrenching and yet there are no ‘bad guys’ in this story.

Not everyone on the parachute team is quite so supportive. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble, so I’m withholding the name.

From: <Name Withheld>

Subject: Parachute jump to Ft. Bragg Event

Message Body:

I noticed the announcement about the parachute jump into the Ft. Bragg event on the 31 March. I feel that it should be clarified that we are being forced to jump this event as a formal military tasking and are not given the option not to perform. To advertise jumpers as ”atheist” is inaccurate and does not portray the true nature of the jump. Thank you.

There are some very valid concerns here. I appreciated this person contacting me, and I hope he takes my reply to heart. I hope he reads it all the way through, and lets it sink in before replying or reacting.

<Name withheld>,

This is exactly the issue we raised when you were ‘forced’ to jump at the evangelical Christian proselytizing festival on September 25, 2010. The stated goal of that ‘rock the fort’ event was to convert as many non-Christian soldiers and civilians to Christianity as possible. We demanded that it be cancelled, ahead of time. Unfortunately, it was not cancelled. Instead, the Fort Bragg commanders “promised the same level of support for any other group.” This is what made it legal to have a massive pro-Christian, anti-atheist, anti-muslim, anti-jewish, anti-buddhist etc. event. It established a ‘limited public forum’, where ALL points of view are given EQUAL support.

You realize that one of the Golden Knights who was tasked to jump for that Christian event was an atheist, right?

It’s unfortunate that event was given so much garrison support (Fort Bragg’s Religious Support Office was the sponsor!) Every bit of our festival is ‘forced’ by that event. In fact, you must also jump at a Wiccan event, or Muslim event, or a Jewish event too. Potentially thousands of events, one for each religion. That’s the mess you’re in, I’m afraid you’re in a much worse position than you realized. Wish we all had time machines, my friend. But I promise you, we are taking the high road – we are voluntarily not ‘de-converting’ or ‘de-baptizing’ anyone. I’m 100% legally allowed to get up there on stage with a gas powered leaf blower and de-baptize 5,000 people. But I’m not doing that. Instead we’re using the opportunity to come out of the atheist closet and show you how harmless we are. We are sick of being oppressed and denigrated. We are sick of being banned from meeting regularly on base (still true at every base). If the military needs to have this conversation, fine. Then we can all go back to being soldiers.

We’ve opposed this situation from the beginning, and we invite you to join our complaints of this type of situation. Every time you see the evangelical Christians doing something with government time / money / buildings / resources… write your letter to them. Because I’m coming next – and they’re inviting me. I’ll take them up every time. Why?

The problem is the solution.

  • 2009 – 1 Rock the Fort [giant Christian membership-drive on a military base (not Fort Bragg)]
  • 2010 – 3 Rock the Forts on various bases, bigger and bigger each time.
  • Late 2010 – Atheist festival announced
  • 2011 – 0 Rock the Forts
  • 2012 – 0 Rock the Forts

We simply do not believe in god. We don’t ‘hate’ god or Christians. Most of us used to be Christians, so we really understand your culture very well. Perhaps some exposure to our culture would de-stigmatize us. You’d probably like us. In fact, you probably are already friends with some of us… Unlike their membership drive event, we have indeed included a disclaimer that says “No DoD endorsement implied.” So your request for clarification is already handled. But I’m not sure of where we advertized the jumpers as being atheists. I’ll change it if you point it out (call me).

With that being said, thank you for your service. Thank you for jumping at our event. Your position on this event does indeed weigh heavily on our hearts. Every military police officer, every soldier in the large set-up crew, every worker at the MWR office, all of them are going to be there for the atheist event… just like the Christian event. We get it, and we appreciate it. I’m not the one who owes you an apology, but I’ll offer one anyway.

Call me if you want to talk.

Very respectfully,

Justin Griffith

Military Director – American Atheists, Inc.

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  • James

    Fuckin’ A, Justin. Good response.

  • hockeybob

    Damn it, anyway! I’m so sick and tired of your well-reasoned, rational, level-headed responses! It’s maddening!


    Wait – that’s actually exactly what we need here, and you’ve done it (yet) again. Thanks, Justin!

  • Randomfactor

    Very well said.

  • hitchens2965

    Hockeybob is right on. He shoots-He SCORES!!!!

  • fastlane

    I would ask if this GK made a similar complaint at the previous events….

    Nahhh, I bet I know the answer.

  • Justin Griffith

    @fastlane #5

    Good eye. You are correct. In fact they jumped through a lot of hoops just to make it to that other event, at the last minute. But I wanted to focus on the human conversation here, so I omitted that part.

    This guy is not a ‘whiner’ or anything like that. He’s got valid concerns. And look at him, he’s running right at the source. I’d probably get along with him.

    “We run towards the sounds of gunfire.”

  • beerslayer

    Great response, Justin!

    Just out of curiosity, did the atheist jumper at the RtF event file any sort of complaint at the time?

  • Robert

    Wow Justin. That’s one fine response.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    I was tempted to say something along the lines of “you’ve got to be crazy to jump out of perfectly good airplanes”* but that would be tacky. Good response, Justin.

    *I do know about that variety of crazy. I used to go to sea in a ship designed to sink.

  • Great response Justin:

    “The problem is the solution.”


    I salute you for risking your career and even personal safety for taking this stand for all us so-called “atheists in foxholes.”


    Your selfless commitment toward inclusiveness of all members of the US armed forces regardless of one’s religious or non-religious orientation exemplifies not only the highest traditions of the US military — integrity, courage, honor – but also personifies our most fundamental military duty: protecting and defending the US Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.


    History demonstrates that many black Americans, a constitutionally protected civil rights minority, were denied official military recognition until our country would ease such bigotry to finally bestow, for at least a few surviving heroes, such deserved acknowledgement.


    I imagine that for you, as an atheist and a constitutionally protected civil rights minority in your own right, such official recognition will not be forthcoming until, as well, our country moves beyond the ubiquitous religious intolerance, which plagues both civilian and military society today.


    I hope that I am wrong and that such recognition will be forthcoming sooner rather than later.


    Your resolve and commitment is greatly appreciated.


    John Kieffer


    US Army, MOS: 1542

    Platoon Leader, 1/61 INF (Mech), 5th INF DIV, Vietnam 12/69-12/70

    JFK CTR, FT BRAGG, 12/70-5/72

    US Army Reserves 5/72-1/1990




  • “I’m 100% legally allowed to get up there on stage with a gas powered leaf blower and de-baptize 5,000 people.”


  • Jason


    You are 100% class.

  • F

    Kudos to Justin and the GK. Let everyone take a lesson from their exchange.

  • gridlore


    Funny, in my day it was called “Cheerful and willing obedience in carrying out a lawful order.” If anyone in the GK demonstration team has a problem jumping out of an airplane on command; wherever and whenever required, I’m sure the Army could find them a less stressful posting.

    Doing the palm tree inventory at Fort Richardson, Alaska, comes to mind.

    Yes, I’m a bitchy old NCO. Does it show?

  • Justin Griffith

    Just out of curiosity, did the atheist jumper at the RtF event file any sort of complaint at the time?

    I asked the atheist this today. She and I both seemed to express it like this “If I only knew then what I know now… OF COURSE I would have.”

    We both remembered several instances – as far back as boot camp – where we wish we could have another chance. I’m hoping this is a lesson to anyone reading this now.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – (and I’m not even talking specifically about RBB at all…)

    I stuck my neck out and it was scary. I looked around, but I didn’t see an axe chopping down. Instead, I saw cowards running away – people who knew what they did was wrong.

    And now… I’m coming for them. They only know ‘C.Y.A.’ But I give a shit. And that makes all the difference.

    Out of that atheist closet, my brothers and sisters. Slam the door on the way out.

  • Rike

    If atheists had saints, it would be Saint Justin!

    You’re absolutely out of this world. Thank you so much for everything you do.

  • otrame

    John Kiefer,

    You have put into words exactly how I feel about Justin. I am so proud of him and the people he works with.

    I am the daughter of a Viet Nam vet, the ex-wife of a doctor who spent six months in Croatia during the Kosovo war, and the mother of two army vets, including my younger son who did two tours in Iraq. All of those men are atheists.

  • Interesting e-mail from the unidentified Golden Knight, and an excellent, well-reasoned, and well stated response from you, Justin. Frankly, in my 24 years of Navy service I don’t recall ever being “given the option not to perform” so I’m not surprised it wasn’t offered here. Kudos to the Army, Fort Bragg, and Golden Knights leaders for carrying out their duties in the professional manner they have. I would expect nothing less.

  • beerslayer


    I hope I don’t come across sounding like some sort of groupie, but you are truly an inspiration to me and, I strongly suspect, many other people, both civilian and military. Please keep up the excellent work!

  • How is it constitutional that free-thought, humanist, or atheists aren’t allowed to meet on fort property? What if it were a “social club for realists”?

  • velociraptor

    As a fellow atheist in a foxhole (Iraq x2, Afghanistan x1) though I admit to preferring bunkers as most sensible troops would, I wish you much success with the RBB festival this coming Saturday. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend as I am stationed in Korea at the moment. I had wanted to go to the first RBB that was planned, as I was (and will be again soon) stationed at Bragg, but that got nixed and off to USFK I went.

    Great job on putting it all together, Sergeant.

    SSG P

    Daegu, Korea

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  • Well written. I really think it’s important to consistently stress that government should not favour any religion (or lack thereof) lest the free for all where every delusion must be supported that you warn against actually comes to pass.

  • Charlie Tango

    Members of our local non-theist group from Augusta, GA, are planning on attending RBB. Justin, I can’t adequately express in words my appreciation for what you’re doing! Thank you for your service and for your commitment and courage in correcting this injustice. Hopefully this the first of many more events to come at military installations around the world!!! Looking forward to 31 Mar 12. Sincerely, your fellow atheist, Carol 🙂

  • Yourmomma

    Oh yes you poor atheists are so shunned and you never

    Get your way. Baloney you get your way way too much

    You get to complain about a cross in MY yard like it hurts you though I guess it does. You had prayer taken our of school. And if a kid brings a Bible to school to read in their quiet time it’s taken away and the kid punished. Oh! Now we see who is truly oppressed Christians are. And it’s getting worse everyday. Do you truly believe in religious freedom? If you do you should know us Christians are under orders from Christ to go and tell others the Gosple, and by asking us not to you infringe on our religious freedom AND freedom of speech. There will come a day when even in the US that Christians will be publicly exicuted. Hopefully you will remember this then. You are like a child that plugs up his ears to keep from being told the truth lalalalalalalalalala, so immature.

    • It’s executed, not EXICUTED!!!

      Did you stop for one minute to THINK about the FACT that if you took time in school to LEARN instead of praying or reading the same passages of the bible over and over you might have learned to spell?