News Poll: Should the military host large scale (religious) events?

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?

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  • brianwestley

    One problem I see repeated in cases similar to this is the following pattern:

    1) local majority uses some public resource (meeting space, public display space, etc), possibly a large number of times over the years

    2) minority wants to use same resource…

    3) (optional) temporarily fend off with stonewalling

    4) Eventually, the local government controlling the resource says “Oh, we decided to stop doing that”

    The net result is that:

    1) the local majority has gotten to use the resource a number of times

    2) the minority has gotten to use it zero or one times before it was “discontinued”

    3) the minority is vilified as “spoilers” for ending the arrangement

    I think it’s about time that situations like the above (where it’s legal for the government to allow or disallow such usage) that the minority actively sue for the opportunity to use the same resource a comparable number of times before the policy is changed. Otherwise, there is never equal treatment. This would not apply if the original arrangement was e.g. unconstitutional, which can only be halted.

  • Alverant

    For me the big problem is you have to sign up for Patch to answer the poll. Outside of that have the same old problem of christian privilege, that somehow they deserve special treatment and rights that they do not have to share if they don’t want to.

    • Justin Griffith

      You can put a fake email address… you don’t need to click a confirmation.

  • sc_b3852da0511075db84e787440ae4d8ec

    Let me ask you something irrelevant.

    If your NCO, tells you in formation to everybody in the weekend safety brief, “The Army may have repealed Don’t ask, Don’t tell, but I think homosexuality is immoral, so don’t sleep with dudes “.

    I am not a homosexual person, I am very straight person. But I wish I could tell that guy what you are saying is not right, but I will be ridiculed and mocked as gay person in the first place.

    But it is hard to keep my head down hearing this hatred talk.

    So, what should one do ?

    • Justin Griffith

      Correct the bigot, respectfully but firmly. Hands down no question about it. Every time.

      I’ve got a gay friend who survived a few suicide attempts due to continued bullying from his platoon sergeant. Maybe somebody standing right there in that formation will think twice before attempting.