Fort Bragg Patch reporter, Kelly Twedell, has a nice write-up about how the U.S. Air Force Academy undermined a planned speaking engagement from Richard Dawkins at the last minute.
Via Fort Bragg Patch
…The U.S. Air Force Academy has pulled out of their commitment with no concrete reasons to host a previously planned speaking engagement by Richard Dawkins for Monday, Oct. 15, that offered free entry for military families.
Back in March Fort Bragg held the “Rock Beyond Belief ” atheist concert and nearly 9,000 Patch readers responded with a resounding ‘yes’ that they planned to attend the concert- which received more support than expected by Fort Bragg authorities. The event was a big win for the atheist community and they followed up with a large food donation for the homeless at their after hours party.…
Now, Kelly is asking us a fair question.
Should the military host large scale (religious) events?
- Yes, but they can pick and choose what type of event to support
- No, if they cannot support all events equally
Perhaps the answer choices aren’t perfect. Here’s my take:
I’d say ‘no’. Though it can be legal for the government to host these events (look into ‘limited public forum’), it can be costly and divisive. If you host a Christian event, you have to be willing to host a Wiccan event, a Muslim event, and yes – an atheist event.
The concept of equality is all or nothing. You either give *all* to every point of view, or you give *nothing* to every point of view. Either way is legal. ‘Nothing’ is easiest to enforce, and the least expensive.
The problem is, until this March, the only large events being hosted were universally evangelical Christian events. It’s still a huge problem at many bases. Camp Pendleton (a Marine Corps base in California) is regularly hosting massive evangelical events, paid for largely by a end-times obsessed sect that is plagued with sex-abuse scandals. As long as those bases promise to support all groups equally (and actually do), it’s legal. As we found out at Fort Bragg, the Christian groups stop doing their extravagant festivals as soon as the atheists demand equality.
Honestly, I think it’s best to let the chaplains do their thing in the chapels, and keep all these events from multi-million dollar religious groups off post. Tend to the flocks, don’t grow them.
With our atheist event, the problem is the solution. Evangelism has no place in government. No soldiers should be told their current religion is wrong, or needs to be changed. At RBB, I could have walked on stage with a gas-powered leaf blower and de-baptized the whole crowd. But we took the high road. We did not attempt to de-convert a single person, and we scared off the proselytizers at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association at the same time. It would have been easier if the first event from BGEA simply had not happened in the first place.
It’s a complex situation, and it’s hard to answer in an online poll. What are your thoughts?